Xtra Stærk Ocean Racing Society is a yacht club founded in 2018 by its current Commodore Arto Linnervuo based in Espoo, Finland. The club’s teams primarily race offshore races, but also participate in the Finnish Sailing League, a track sailing championship between Finnish yacht clubs on smaller keel boats (J70). The club offers a wide range of racing and development opportunities for sailors with diverse skills and experience. The yacht club has currently a little bit less than one hundred members.
“We are primarily a sail racing club whose members compete in different classes in both inshore and offshore races. We are united by our strong desire to develop and become better sailors. In addition, the members of our club, who don’t often even own a boat, can access the benefits and activities of Finnish Sailing and Boating Association including education, for example”, Linnervuo says.
Xtra Stærk Ocean Racing team has about 30 sailors, and more than 20 of them have already gained experience in demanding offshore races organized by RORC. In addition to the newest reinforcements, the Tulikettu Racing team members sailing the Infiniti 52R yacht will be selected from this group to race in Rolex Middle Sea Race, in Malta on October 23, 2021.
“In addition to our coach Stu Bannatyne, we have 2 more experienced mentors in our crew from Finland, such as Finnish sailing legend Kenneth “Kentsu” Thelen and Thomas “Tompe” Johanson, Finnish Olympic gold medalist from Sydney 2000 with two Volvo Ocean Races on his belt, in order to steepen the learning curve and show full performance potential of the yacht fastly”, Linnervuo says.
Our second yacht XP-44 Xtra Stærk, used in the 2018 and 2019 RORC series including winning Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race, will compete in the most important offshore races in the Baltic Sea from season 2021 onwards.
“These races bring our crews together after a long COVID-19 break and also help us to prepare for the first race of Tulikettu in October 2021. Doing well with the XP-44 is important for us even after the launch of Tulikettu”, Linnervuo continues.
In addition to Tulikettu, Xtra Stærk Ocean Racing Society will be strengthened by third offshore boat in 2021, when Jens Krogell’s JPK 10.30 AlmaVida joins the club’s fleet providing versatile racing opportunities for the whole club. She will be used primarily for double handed and solo racing in the beginning.
“Jens has great plans for his boat, which we will tell more about later”, Linnervuo promises.
In addition to this, the Xtra Stærk Ocean Racing Society will continue ambitiously by sending two J70 crews to the Finnish Sailing League.
“It’s a bit like the Finnish Hockey Championship, competition between clubs on track in which we have one bronze medal from the year 2019”, Linnervuo, also known as an enthusiastic ice hockey man, describes.
Xtra Stærk Ocean Racing Society also wants to contribute to the Finnish offshore racing in the long term. Therefore, in the future, the club will try to attract more young talented Olympic class sailors to join its offshore racing team, who are keen to continue their career in offshore racing. Two younger track sailors aiming for Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 have already joined our team.
“The better we support younger talent, the more we will see new “Tompes” in the future who will participate first in the Olympics, and then possibly move to offshore sailing and become professional sailors – we provide a clear path for this”, Linnervuo says, referring to the 49er Olympic winner Thomas Johanson, who has competed twice in Volvo Ocean Race. “I’m also excited that finally offshore sailing will become an Olympic sailing class in Paris Olympic Games in 2024, which is great for the sport”, he concludes.
It all begun in the year 2015
The story of the young yacht club begins from 2015, when Arto Linnervuo, who had sailed his whole life, searched for new direction and wanted to focus on offshore racing with a boat that provides a real possibility to do well.
“I decided to show everyone what we really can achieve. I bought myself a performance boat in 2016, XP-44 by X-Yachts, which had done well in races. In 2018 I founded an association to be used as platform for the first RORC project. In 2019 the association was transformed into a real yacht club when we joined SPV (Finnish Sailing and Boating Association). By now the club has close to one hundred members”.
“All this has happened in only 2-3 years, and our members think that the club is more like a phenomenon than a traditional yacht club. And those 7 friends who originally followed me to Denmark to deliver the yacht to Finland, are still club members and very much involved. This has already been a great trip, under one flag, as one team”, Linnervuo says.
Linnervuo calls the first years of the Xtra Stærk Ocean Racing Society “episode one”.
“One of the goals of the first episode between 2016-2020 was on one hand to give Finnish offshore racing even higher international visibility, and on the other hand make RORC and its amazing races better known in Finland to attract more Finnish boats and offshore crews to RORC races. According to our own judgement, this goal was achieved by the team”.
“We wanted to see what is the required level of performance out there, what kind of boats are doing well and what these races require from the crews. Episode one was sort of our first “Olympiad”, and now we want to win the gold medal”.
“The second goal of episode one was related to supporting John Nurminen Foundation’s Clean Baltic Sea project (which logo can be seen in XP-44 mainsail). The objective of the project is to improve the status of the Baltic Sea with concrete measures that reduce the nutrient load and environmental risks faced by the sea. Our team wanted to help the foundation to raise funds for the project, and give international visibility for it, because it means a lot to us as well having learned to sail on its waves. It is difficult to assess whether we achieved our goals, but for sure a lot of work remains to be done for the beautiful Baltic Sea, and such work is never finished.”
During 2019, Linnervuo was convinced that the XP-44, as good a boat as it is and despite winning a smaller RORC race in Ireland, she cannot provide a realistic possibility to win any of the bigger RORC races. Finishing 4th in RORC Season’s Points Championship in 2019 in our class did nothing else but added fuel to the flames.
He contacted foil driven racing boat designer Infiniti Yachts and asked if they could offer help with this challenge and build a future proof racing yacht. The end is history, and now a truly competitive Infiniti 52R yacht is being built for the team.
“From 2021, episode two begins and it is the era of Tulikettu. But the XP-44 and exciting races in the Baltic Seas, Jens’ new JPK 10.30 boat, Finnish Sailing League and other great activities of our club are still important to us. This is a great community, the importance of which is only growing all the time and we are clearly getting all the time more attention”, Commodore says proudly.
Spotify single and own beer
“There are two matters in the history of our club, which possibly make us to stand out from the other clubs. First, we have a Spotify single Olen Suomalainen (meaning in English “I’m Finnish”; original version Toto Cutugno’s L’italiano) produced by a Helsinki-based music studio Tempo Music and mastered by world famous mastering expert Mr. Svante Forsbäck, who works with frontline artists and international bands like Rammstein. And Xtra Stærk. The vocalist is our bow/pitman Tuomas Honkinen”, Linnervuo says.
Linnervuo’s voice can also be heard in chorus apart from whispering the words about “forbidden love”.
“Another interesting detail is that a fast-growing hot Finnish craft brewery, Fat Lizard Brewing Company, launched popular Gose style beer “Salty Beach” together with our club with hints of Norwegian sea salt to balance the taste of citrus. The beer, dedicated especially to sailors and other seafarers, is still widely sold in supermarkets and pubs in Finland. For every sold can, the brewery donates 5 cents to the protection of the Baltic Sea. Xtra Stærk Ocean Racing team’s name is in cans’ label”, Linnervuo says.