Finnish solo sailor Ari Känsäkoski has sailed into Durban, South Africa, 25 days after dismasting in the remote Indian Ocean and covering 1,200 miles under jury rig

Finnish solo sailor Ari Känsäkoski has safely reached Durban, South Africa, 25 days after dismasting in the remote Indian Ocean and sailing 1,200 miles under jury rig.

Känsäkoski, who is competing in the Global Solo Challenge – a single-handed ‘pursuit’ style non-stop around the world race – was dismasted on his Class 40 Fuji on the night of 21 December in the Roaring Forties.

The aftermath of Fuji’s dismasting in the Indian Ocean, December 2023

He was sailing in a remote area of the Indian Ocean at a latitude of over 41 degrees south, when the D1 lower diagonal shroud failed after shearing off at the tip-cup.

Känsäkoski took down all sails, hoping to secure the mast at first light by rigging a Dyneema replacement D1 or similar, but in 20 knot winds the boat’s violent rolling of under bare poles caused the deck-stepped mast to buckle in half, breaking just above the first set of spreaders, and collapsing partially on deck and overboard in the middle of the night.

Fortunately Ari was not injured and there was no damage to Fuji’s hull. He was able to secure the mast against the boat during the night to ensure it could not damage the hull in the rolling waves.

Building a jury rig

Känsäkoski was approximately 1000 nautical miles south of Madagascar, 1,200 miles from continental Africa and 1400 miles from Cape Town at the time. The nearest land was Iles Crozet, some 300 miles away, but these remote Islands had no facilities that could have assisted a repair.

Känsäkoski location in the remote Indian Ocean shortly after the dismasting

At daylight the following morning Känsäkoski assessed the situation and determined that he did not require assistance. He deemed that neither he nor the boat were under immediate danger and that, thanks to having secured all the sections of the mast and the boom, he was able to build a jury rig.

MRCC Finland (the boat is Finnish flagged) and MRCC Reunion were kept informed and remained in constant contact with the skipper since.

After waiting for a suitable weather window Känsäkoski was able to retrieve the top section onto the deck, using deck winches and an outrigger to create a crane to lift the mast aboard. He then built a jury rig which allowed him to hoist his storm sails with the outrigger, while the broken mast remained lashed to the deck.

The jury rig combined storm sails and an outrigger, though was hampered by the broken rig still on deck

Fuel transfers

Due to challenging weather conditions, and being in the full flow of an easterly-flowing eddie of the Agulhas Current, the Finnish skipper charted a northerly course in consultation with his routing team to quickly get out of the Roaring Forties.

However, this rapidly depleted Känsäkoski’s already limited fuel resources, and on Christmas Day 2023 MRCC Reunion broadcast a message to any nearby vessels requesting refuelling assistance.

The following day, the Japanese fishing vessel Tomi Maru No.58, captained by Sachio Hagiya, responded. Despite challenging sea conditions, they successfully transferred 300 litres of fuel and other essential supplies.

“They had good clear floating lines and buoys even with lights when it was getting dark. We were passing canisters back and forth,” explained Känsäkoski at the time.

Challenging sea conditions for the fuel transfer from the Toni Maru No58 fishing vessel

After a first transfer the operation was suspended for the night and resumed the following morning, “Until all of mine [jerry cans] were full and they had sent all they had. Being a a fishing boat it was easy for them to fish the canisters back for a next round. And they were super friendly and helpful.”

The fishing vessel was able to transfer 300 litres of Marine Gas Oil, 10 litres of engine oil and 10 litres each of Kerosene and Light Oil, which Känsäkoski mixed to decrease the viscosity of the fuel used by high sea vessels.

However, with around 400 miles to go, Känsäkoski required a second fuel transfer and rendezvoused with a new Finnish RO-PAX vessel, the MS Finncanopus, on its maiden voyage from China to the Baltic Sea which had diverted from its initial Red Sea route due to the political situation in the area.

Welcome freshly baked treats from the crew of the Finncanopus after 800 miles alone under jury rig

Finncanopus Captain Jyrki Repo was able to position the 65,000 tonne ship to allow Känsäkoski to approach in his disabled yacht. The Finncanopus crew then transferred additional clean diesel other supplies – even including freshly baked bread and pancakes! – using a throwing line and floating cans.

Arrival in Durban

Känsäkoski was initially scheduled to arrive in Durban at first light on January 15, but the engine V-belt broke less than 10 miles from port. A local rescue boat was able assist by towing Fuji into port in Durban, South Africa.

Kansakoski photographed by the crew of the Finncanopus

The Global Solo Challenge organisers reported that they, Ari Känsäkoski and his shore team wished to “extend their deepest gratitude to MRCC Reunion, Captain Hagiya, the crew of Tomi Maru No. 58, Captain Jyrki Repo, the crew of Finncanopus, Finnlines, NSRI Durban, Durban Marina, Vince Nel – Point Yacht Club Rear-Commodore and all those who were involved in any other aspect of the operation and all those who have contributed to Ari’s fundraiser.”