On a Belt of Foaming Seas is an absorbing account of one solo skipper's lonely and inspiring voyage during the 2018 Golden Globe Race

On a Belt of Foaming Seas
Tapio Lehtinen, Paul Trammell, Ari Pusa, Barry Pickthall
Amazon, £12.34

Tapio Lehtinen describes himself as the ‘Eddie Edwards of the 2018 Golden Globe Race‘; others consider him the new Bernard Moitessier. This absorbing account of his participation in the 2018 Golden Globe, together with some additional biographical material, confirms that neither designation is accurate.

Lehtinen is a talented and experienced sailor, used to racing in the highest company since childhood. 

He and his yacht Asteria, a Benello Gaia 36, could reasonably have expected to be in contention for a place on the Golden Globe Race 2018 podium. Instead, they finished almost four months after the winner, Jean-Luc Van den Heede, missing the presentation ceremony by a month. 

An extraordinary mistake with the type of antifouling applied at home in Finland meant that Asteria dragged a profusion of gooseneck barnacles around the world, dramatically reducing her speed and windward ability. Yet she finished, when 12 of the 18 Golden Globe Race entrants did not.

Neither was she ever knocked down, unlike any other entrant — including the winner. Tapio’s reflection on the likely reasons for this and his descriptions of his helming technique in heavy weather make a useful contribution to this perennially debated subject. 

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Circumstances forced Lehtinen to adjust his goals from competing to completing – the opposite of Moitessier’s re-evaluation of his priorities. Both men reflect eloquently on the beauty and spirituality of the ocean rhythms and describe a particular state of mind which takes the solo sailor completely away from his or her normal preoccupations. 

Lehtinen, however, retains a sense of humour and an imaginative empathy with his fellow-travellers, the fish and birds, which gives his writing a quite different flavour to Moitessier’s self-absorbed intensity.

It’s impossible to imagine Moitessier setting up a social media April Fool, even if the opportunity had been available to him. Lehtinen is also quite clear on the enduring importance of human domestic relationships even when fully open to the beauty of solitude and the splendour of ocean landmarks, Cape Horn above all. 

No doubt there were moments of anger and anguish, tears and self-doubt, as the Golden Globe Race chairman, Don McIntrye mentions in his Foreword, yet the overall impression is of a man who learns to be at ease with himself and to accept the vicissitudes of fortune and impermanence of experience.

As Lehtinen passes Cape Home he reflects, ‘The powerful emotions of awe and humility gradually change to a glorious, joyous jubilation of big surfs, brilliant sunshine, toasts, albatross, and the huge rock being left behind. One cannot stay here in this cathedral of the sea.’

Tapio Lehtinen read great books and listened to sublime music on his 322 days of voyage.

As he prepares for the new challenge of 2022 Golden Globe Race, I would recommend his book as a travelling companion for others.    

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