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Around the world in seven months – Aalto student Anton Eklund prepares for demanding sailing competition

Eklund, a student of electrical engineering and automation, has put the lessons he has learned at Aalto to the test as he has renovated his team’s sailboat.
Sailing team at the sea, picture: Tapio Lehtinen Sailing
The team prepares for the demanding sailing competition in different ways. Photo: Tapio Lehtinen Sailing.

Anton Eklund wants to complete his courses by the summer, after which only his master’s thesis will remain. However, it will have to be put on hold, as Eklund will be heading for a seven-month sea voyage in August.

Eklund is part of the Tapio Lehtinen Sailing team, which will participate in the Ocean Globe Race yacht racing competition. Veteran sailor Tapio Lehtinen has put together a 12-person team, consisting mainly of promising young Finnish sailors. In addition to Eklund, the team includes another Aalto student, Lassi Liimatainen, who studies construction engineering. Student of mechanical engineering Aaro Immonen will race with another Finnish team participating in the competition, the Spirit of Helsinki, which is captained by Jussi Paavoseppä

Eklund was born into a family of competitive sailors. Following in his parents' footsteps, Eklund has sailed from a very young age. When Lehtinen announced that he was looking for sailors for his team, Eklund did not hesitate to apply, as he had been dreaming of an opportunity to sail across the ocean.

‘When you’re out at sea for longer periods of time, you learn to appreciate the small things that you usually take for granted,’ he says.

Student Anton Eklund.
Anton Eklund.

Celebrating the anniversary year by going old-school

The Tapio Lehtinen Sailing team will participate in the Ocean Globe Race, which will be held in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Whitbread Round the World race. The competition is meant to resemble the race held in 1973, which is why the participating teams will compete on older boats and will not be allowed to use any modern technologies, such as GPS. However, for safety reasons, competitors will still be allowed to bring these on their boats. The demanding race will last for around seven months. 

‘We can expect a small break when we stop at the intermediate ports in Cape Town, Auckland and Punta del Este, which will be around every 6–7 weeks,’ says Eklund.

The team has prepared for the race in different ways, and it has been working hard to renovate its boat, the Galiana. Eklund has been able to put what he has learned to the test, as he has been tasked with the boat’s electric wiring and electronics. The race boat was built in 1970, and most of its wiring and electronics were original. 

'Humidity and electricity aren’t a great match, so the boat’s equipment was in pretty poor shape. For example, we've updated all of its wiring, access and room lights, wind sensors, and radios. I’ve helped our electrician in the installation process to get a feel for the boat, in case I need to act while we’re out at sea,’ Eklund explains.

In addition to a multitude of repairs, the Galiana has also been fitted with new equipment to allow the team to cope better in its travels. These include, for example, a hydro and wind generator for electricity production, a few heaters, and a device that converts seawater into drinkable water. 

Flexible university studies allow students to participate in their passions

In addition to renovating the boat and sharpening their sailing skills, the team has also prepared its ability to cope at sea and handle any social challenges. According to Eklund, being out at sea for weeks on end is bound to result in fatigue, homesickness and the odd quarrel.

‘We’ve practised working together a lot, which has helped us grow closer as a group,’ says Eklund.

According to Eklund, preparing for the project has taken a surprising amount of time. In addition to renovating the boat, the team has also participated in safety and first aid drills and organised corporate sailing trips and press conferences for its sponsors. 

‘The project’s workload varies a lot from week to week, which is why it’s great that Aalto gives its students so much freedom in how they arrange and look after their studies. I’m able to participate in the project’s events when we have them, and otherwise I can dedicate my time to my studies. I've been able to combine my studies with preparing for the race, even though my study pace is a little slower than what the university would prefer,’ says Eklund.

After a hectic daily schedule filled with studies and preparation, being on the ocean for seven months will represent a veritable change in Eklund’s life, and he has hardly any plans for the period after that.

‘I’m looking forward to coming back home and starting from a clean slate,’ he muses.

Would you like to follow the Tapio Lehtinen Sailing team’s preparations and journey? Follow them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram

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