Katy Stickland sails the Swan 55 Galiana in Helsinki and meets the Finnish crew and her skipper, as the boat is prepared for the 2023 Ocean Globe Race
Galiana romps along like a thoroughbred racehorse, her new white hull gleams under the Baltic sunshine as she cuts through the waves cleanly, leaving foaming sea in her wake on our voyage from Kajholmen island back to her home port in Helsinki.
This most classic of Swans is almost spiritual to sail; you are almost overwhelmed by her beauty and performance, especially upwind.
If you were not converted to Swans before, you certainly are after a few hours of sailing in the Gulf of Finland.
Designed by the pen of Olin Stephens, the Swan 55 was first launched in 1969. Galiana was built in 1970.
Initially called Barbarossa, and sporting a red hull, she sailed for two seasons in the UK before being sold.
Her name changed to Asia, and then Golden Aura before the yacht ended up in the United States of America; 23 years ago British sailor Patrick Green bought her and returned her to the UK, where she was renamed Galiana and used for chartering and racing alongside her sistership, Valhalla.
After 322 days alone at sea, he was already thinking about what to do next.
Race chairman Don McIntyre told him about the Ocean Globe Race, a retro Whitbread Round the World race that he was planning for 2023, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread.
Would he be interested in leading a crew in the Adventure Class? If so, there was a Swan 55 for sale.
‘I didn’t need to look at any other alternatives. I have been dreaming of a Swan 55 yawl since my teenage years. I’ve always been a big Olin Stephens fan and this 55 is the classiest and most beautiful Swan Nautor’s has ever built,’ explains the 64-year-old lifelong sailor, who sailed the yacht back to Finland in the autumn of 2019.
Galiana is certainly a head turner. Her blue hull is now white with a golden stripe, her deck has been recaulked and sanded and the king plank, toe rails and hatch coamings have been varnished. The chrome sparkles, polished to perfection.
‘It’s the combination of aesthetics, seaworthiness and speed. Swedish boat designer Olle Enderlein worked at Stephens’ office in his younger years in the 50s. He is quoted as saying: “Beautiful boats sail well’, and I think he learnt the philosophy from Olin Stephens. I totally agree,’ said Lehtinen.
The Swan 55 is firmly from the golden age of yachting and owes more than a passing nod to the International 6 Metre class, Finland’s most popular classic racing yacht.
The original lines of the first of Stephens’ yawls came from Dorade, his breakthrough boat in 1929 which won the 1931 Transatlantic Race and started an era where Stephens’ yawls did very well racing under the Cruising Club of America (CCA) and Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) rules on both sides of the Atlantic.
‘Dorade is actually a scaled up International 6 Metre, and Olin and Rod Stephens learnt to sail onboard an International 6 Metre on Long Island Sound in the 1920s. Dorade was his design number six and among the five first ones, there were two or three 6 Metres already, so he understood the idea of the International boats which are narrow and sleek and go very well upwind. He made that his philosophy for offshore sailing boats which revolutionised the design of offshore sailing boats in the 1930s,’ explained Lehtinen, who sailed the 1936 Tore Holm 6 Metre, May Be IV for 35 years; she is now for sale to fund his racing ambitions.
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A new generation
Much of the hard work to refit Galiana is being done by her Ocean Globe Race team; it is not unknown for them to work into the early hours of the morning during the summer, making most of the light to get projects completed on time, although you will never hear any complaints.
Unlike other race entries which are selling berths on legs, Lehtinen decided to put together a team of young Finnish sailors.
Out of 105 applications, 55 sailors were initially chosen. After a season of sailing in the Gulf of Finland, this was whittled down to 18 sailors and then just 10; their average age is 24.
Lehtinen will also circumnavigate with offshore sailor and youth sailing proponent Pia Grönblom, 49, who is also a certified nurse, and experienced seaman and Six Metre sailor Ville Norra, 50, Galiana’s first mate.
The team spent a week in Lapland in March to prepare for the rigours of the Southern Ocean, skiing during the day to a new location and sleeping under canvas at night. There are also regular gym sessions, as well as sailing.
Viivi Moisio,19, is one of three women on the team, and is the second youngest member.
‘When I started on Galiana I didn’t have much experience of big boats because I started sailing on Optimists, so I’ve learned a lot. We came back a stronger team after Lapland, and being immersed in nature. I feel more prepared for what lies ahead,’ she said.
Mauri De Meulder, 25, is studying environmental economics at Helsinki University, and was one of the first to apply for a place on Galiana’s team.
‘The best part is the team spirit we have. I love sailing of course, whether I do it solo or with others, but it is always special when you have a good team with you,’ he said.
For Lehtinen, the most important criteria for crew selection was ‘attitude, attitude and attitude’.
Only two members of the team have ‘strong racing DNA’, while the others come from Optimist, Sea Scout or other sailing backgrounds.
‘I am a fan of Churchill, who is famous for advising young soldiers on their way to the Front to ‘Never give up, Never give up. Never give up’. I think that’s the most important thing, but it is also important to be social. The Three Musketeers’ principle, ‘One for all, and all for one’ is very central. You have to be loyal and you have to help others to succeed. You need to be a team player,’ he said.
Lehtinen was just 23 and a student when he earned a place as watch captain on the 1981-82 Whitbread boat, Skopbank Finland, a C&C Baltic 51 skippered by Kenneth Gahmberg.
‘The Gahmberg family gave the possibility for a group of young sailors to get into ocean racing and I think now it’s my turn to return the favour to the next generation, and give back to the sport,’ he said. He hopes some of the young crew on Galiana will also do the same in the future.
Fit for fight
While Lehtinen has actively been part of the team’s training, he also allows them to take the initiative.
‘I think the best way to train is to let them sail by themselves, and I only interfere when I feel that it’s needed. They are smart people who are actively developing the way that we sail the boat,’ he said.
Further work on the Swan 55 will include fitting new, stronger masts to make the ‘rig bullet proof’ in a knockdown, the finish of an interior refit designed for Southern Ocean conditions, and a new durable wardrobe of WB Sails.
Under race rules, teams sailing a ketch or yawl are allowed only 13 sails which can’t be changed during stopovers, part of the organisers efforts to make the race as sustainable as possible.
Galiana will sail with three furling headsails in front of the mast and then a fully battened main and mizzen sail.
Lehtinen has already sailed around the world nonstop on his 2018 Golden Globe yacht, the Benello Gaia 36, Asteria. The boat had a fully battened mainsail. He opted to have the same on Galiana due to ‘the durability of these types of sails.’
‘We are having three furling headsails partly for safety, but it’s also to shift gears more easily when the conditions change. Instead of needing to change from one genoa to another, we will just play with the furlers so we won’t be losing time, but we also minimise the risk of losing people, because most of the people who have been lost over the side have been lost from front of the mast changing headsails,’ noted Lehtinen.
During the 2018 Golden Globe Race, Lehtinen couldn’t help noticing how the amount of sealife has diminished during the four decades after his first circumnavigation in the 1981 Whitbread race.
‘There are lot less birds, whales and sea mammals to be seen,’ he noted. This has been caused by fish stocks crashing due to over fishing and the acidification of the seas as a result of climate change; scientists believe there are 40% fewer fish in the oceans today than there were in the 1980s.
Consequently, Lehtinen has decided to team up with companies which are part of the solution in the transition towards a carbon neutral circular economy.
“I fully understand the rage of the young asking our generation why we haven’t acted in time. I see my role as increasing awareness of the solutions. If companies, regardless of their field, are innovative and take responsibility for sustainability, we can tackle the challenges. Another of my favourite UK Prime Ministers of mine was Maggie Thatcher, who used to say: “If there is a will, there is a way!”.
Lehtinen’s main Golden Globe Race sponsor is 3stepIT, which provides life circle IT hardware for companies, putting sustainability into practice.
‘We need and we can take action to save the planet and hand it over to next generations in such a condition that also they can enjoy of sailing and of the oceans,’ said Lehtinen.
He hopes his team will bond with Galiana as much as he has.
‘I feel very familiar sailing Asteria and Galiana, they feel like 6 Metre boats and it is almost a physical enjoyment to feel Galiana move and to steer her through the waves; I feel part of the boat.’
Team Tapio Lehtinen Sailing may not have the fastest boat in the Ocean Globe Race’s Adventure class, but with a team this committed and eager, their progress will be compulsive following when the race starts in September 2023.
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