The great adventure of Markus Mustelin and John “Jolle” Blässar begins in just over three months. They take part in a race to row across the Atlantic. It takes well over a month to exceed the time limit.
Finns Markus Mustelin and John “Jolle” Blässar have been rowing along the Gulf of Finland with their space shuttle-like boat all summer long. The pile has 260 hours of rowing and a distance of over a thousand miles (over 500 nautical miles).
Training is needed, as the duo will take part in the Atlantic Challenge in just over three months. It starts on December 12 and is scheduled to row across the Atlantic.
The starting point is La Gomera in the Canary Islands and Antigua in the Caribbean. The journey takes almost 5,000 kilometers and takes about 30-60 days.
“40-50 days is a realistic goal,” says Blässar, 56.
“The rules require us to have food for 65 days,” Mustelin, 60, adds.
Route runs initially towards Cape Verde. According to Blässar, it will take about a week and a half. After that, the journey continues towards Antigua.
“We need to make two strategic decisions. At what angle do we go rowing south and how much southwest. Secondly, it must be decided at what point there is sufficient and certainly trade winds. After that, we go straight west, ”Mustelin says.
According to the duo, there should be 95% certainty of a northeast passage throughout the rest of the trip. What if that is not the case?
“The north can become some low pressure. If there is a strong headwind, drive the anchor out and wait. If it is windy [vastaan], this does not move forward, ”says Blässar.
However, when rowing, there is no need to steer the boat, as it is taken care of by the autopilot. If there is a storm and the boat goes around, according to the duo, it straightens on its own.
Sound thus a relaxed but long-lasting endeavor. The truth, of course, is everything else. The journey proceeds in two-hour shifts, meaning one rows and the other eats and sleeps. This is done around the clock and for well over a month.
“The challenge is getting to the rhythm, sleeping and eating. The first day is the most difficult, ”Mustelin estimates.
“15–20 minutes goes to washing and eating, 75–90 minutes to sleep,” Blässar says.
And that food: for both, there is a daily dose packed in bags. The food is mainly freeze-dried and developed by Fazer’s nutrition experts. The idea is also that the food doesn’t weigh very much.
“Every pound has to be rowed across the Atlantic,” Mustelin points out.
“And every day is a candy day. 15-20 percent of the diet is sweets and chocolate. In addition, one cup of coffee is considered daily. ”
One bigger problem with the duo is still to be solved, and the problem is the same as Tapio Lehtinen was in his sailing around the world. Barnacles, or goose-necked crustaceans, stick to the bottom of the boat.
“We still have to figure out how to clean the bottom. Every four or five days you have to go swimming to swim. Or the boat goes very much slower, ”Blässar inches.
Instead shipping is not necessarily as frequent in the Atlantic as in the Gulf of Finland.
“When we went to Tallinn, the ships arrived at a speed of 20 knots. We moved 2.5 knots. Saying ‘row faster’ doesn’t help terribly, ”Blässar laughs.
In the Atlantic, however, you may encounter a tanker.
“They have a pretty small crew, and in what condition it is. Are they even awake when moving on autopilot, ”Blässar ponders.
There have been other kinds of encounters: because the boat looks quite special, it catches the attention of passers-by.
“The archipelago shouted: Good guys!” Blässar laughs.
“There was quite a rum on Mariehamn beach. The crowd came to see what it was all about. Ships are also always welcomed, ”says Mustelin.
According to Blässar, many are also already aware of what their rowing project is all about.
“Sulkava didn’t really know where the Atlantic was, but that’s another matter then. ‘By the time you’re going,’ they asked, ”Blässar says and may not be quite serious.
My own case was a parking lot in Lahti when the boat was behind a car in a trailer.
“We came to ask what that is,” Blässar says.
Rowing training in addition, the duo have an otherwise strict training program. Six times a week there is some training with a British coach specializing in ocean rowing Gus Bartonin under.
“Terrible talk,” Mustelin sighs.
Overall, the competition organizers are careful that the rules are followed. Before the race, there must be 120 hours of rowing practice (260 hours for the Finnish duo), the equipment is precisely defined, and there is still a week of training in England in September.
One important factor is safety.
“The most important closet is seat belts. They are always on. They help you stay on board, ”says Blässar.
“If the belts aren’t fastened, we’re discarded,” Mustelin adds.
“This is not a nutty hustle and bustle. The rules are strict. ”
In addition, safety boats constantly monitor competitors, who are asked about their well-being, among other things.
“How many green thugs are now visible,” Blässar speculates about what kind of questions will be asked.
When the duo signed up for the race, the organizers of the race had two questions: have they been at sea before and do they know each other. The answer to the first is that they have sailed several times in the oceans. Another was easy to answer.
“We did the dune together for 12 years. Yes, we know each other. Jokes have been heard sometimes before, ”says Mustelin.
“Here’s the good side of one rowing and the other sleeping. You don’t see that guy other than every other hour for 15 minutes during a meal, ”Blässar notes and laughs.
According to Blässar, two hours of rowing is surprisingly fast.
“They also go free,” Mustelin points out.
“Well, they’re going even faster. They could be longer, ”Blässar replies.
What the duo got to do like that? It is not really the case that it is, for example, the first Finnish Finn to row across the Atlantic. One Finn has done it: Julia Immonen was in 2012 in a team of five women who participated in the same competition. The other competitors in the crew were British.
In 2017 Sam Öhman participated as a single rower in the Atlantic Challenge, but had to be suspended due to seasickness.
The original idea was for Mustelin, but what led to it?
“We’re some kind of adventurer or at least we were younger. We have sailed races around the world. In a way, this is a boyish adventure, ”Mustelin says.
“Another aspect is also that it is a little wiser now than at the age of 25. We are trying to focus our attention on the protection of the Baltic Sea. We raise funds through the John Nurminen Foundation and Keep the Archipelago Tidy. The target is EUR 100 000. “
Blässar has his own point of view.
“I’ve always liked long-distance stuff, crumbs [murtomaahiihtoa] and sailing adventures. From a race that doesn’t end right away. This is also a test of what you can actually do, ”says Blässar.
“After sitting in the office for 30 years, now you could do more than just drive the kids to workouts.”
Outside of rowing, Blässar works as the country manager for Marinetek, a manufacturer of piers, in Sweden. Mustelin has focused on the rowing project for the past year, but he has been the CEO of Oceanvolt and Erenred, among others.
The duo the boat will be transported as early as October to England, from where the boats participating in the race will later be taken to the starting point. After the race, the boat will also return to England.
“It would be a little difficult there [Antigualla] to say that in order to start rowing lust, ”Blässar cleaves.
In other words, before the race, the duo is a couple of months without a boat. In Finland towards the end of the year, rowing would be quite a cold activity.
“The last two months are indoor rowing,” Mustelin says.
After the race, the boat will no longer return to Finland, but a boat priced at 60,000 euros will be sold.
“In fact, it’s already on sale,” Blässar says.
38 crews in the Atlantic Challenge
The Atlantic Challenge begins on December 12th. There are 38 crews involved, ten of which are two-person teams like the Finnish duo.
The budget of Markus Mustelin and John “Jolle” Blässar is about 100,000 euros, of which the participation fee is just over 20,000 euros.
The Finnish boat weighs 250 kilos and in full racing equipment 900 kilos.
Designed for ocean rowing, the boat includes a navigation device, satellite phone, laptop and berths for two. Power is provided by solar panels that charge the batteries.
Read more: Funding for Markus Mustelin’s and John Blässar’s fierce project is piling up: a boat looking like a space shuttle paddles across the Atlantic
Read more: Jasmine Harrison, 21, was the youngest woman to row across the Atlantic alone: “A lot of peanut butter was consumed, I almost ran into a drilling rig”
Read more: Two years of work wasted – Sam Öhman’s rowing across the Atlantic was dramatically interrupted by the “washing machine” in the Canary Islands: “I vomited at least a couple of times an hour”