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Nord Stream Race - New non-stop challenge for Gazprom Swan 60 Class

by Emma Upton on 30 Sep 2013
Team Great Britain take the lead ©onEdition
In the Nord Stream Race, the Gazprom Swan 60 Class took on a new challenge of racing the full length of the Baltic Sea in the second edition. The non-stop 800 nautical mile offshore race is organised by the Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg (SPBYC) and the Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (NRV) and this year celebrated the completion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which now allows gas to flow the full length of the Baltic Sea.

Five Swan 60 yachts entered the second edition of the offshore race, which this year started in Flensburg, Germany and concluded in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Swan 60 teams competing were Team Russia, Team Germany, Team Europe and newcomers Team Great Britain and Team Turkey. Crews crossed the waters of Germany, Poland, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden and Finland before finally coming to the finish in Saint-Petersburg, Russia after five days of non-stop racing.

From the start, all eyes were on winners of the Nord Stream Race 2012; Gazprom Swan 60 Class Circuit 2013 winners and inaugural World Champions, Team Russia. Tommaso Chieffi from Team Russia commented; 'The Nord Stream Race has gone up a notch in terms of competitiveness; people are now familiar with the Swan 60 and they know how to race her competitively. The quality of the teams has also increased and a number of world class sailors are participating this year. The fleet is now very evenly matched, as shown in the World Championship during the summer.'

After a nail biting race, which saw the Swan 60 fleet change race positions a number of times throughout the 800 nautical mile and five days of action, Team Great Britain were finally victorious, crossing the finish line with the dawn light. The team had managed to hold onto their first place position for the final 100 nautical miles of the race and beat previous race winners, Team Russia by just 26 seconds. A fantastic finish to the Nord Stream Race which saw Team Great Britain and Team Russia battle it out right to the end, crossing the finish line with less than a boat length between them. Over a race, even further in distance than the Rolex Fastnet Race, this is an exceptional finishing situation. The final few miles were dramatic to watch with the 60ft Nautor’s Swan yachts tacking and fighting hard for the first place position.

Speaking dockside as the winning Team Great Britain crew celebrated, Skipper Adrian Stead who has also represented GBR at the Olympics commented; 'The whole race was very close, the fleet stuck together the whole way. Earlier on we managed to get quite a good lead but then Team Russia and Team Germany sailed up to us again, we then got away again and in the last 100 miles we were trying so hard to keep Team Russia behind us, for most of that time there was only a 2-3 mile gap between us. We had a fantastic team who have all been brilliant; they all put in 110%. We were all up on deck for the last 16 hours of the race, hiking it out and making sure every boat length worked. We pushed the boat incredibly hard and it all paid off for us, what brilliant results.'

One of the most revered navigators in top level yacht racing, Jules Salter, Navigator onboard Team GBR and a previous Volvo Ocean Race victor spoke about the Swan 60; 'I hadn’t sailed on a Swan 60 prior to the Nord Stream Race. It is very quiet down below and the fleet are all even in speed; it was great to race with the other four one-design Swans.'

British sailor Simon Fisher of winning Team GBR commented; 'We had a great close race, it was good fun, we had much closer racing than I think we were expecting. Sailing the Swan 60 was good, it was great as it is a one-design Class and everyone was really equal in speed and it made for a great race. It really was competitive right to the end, two boats finishing just 26 seconds apart shows that, it made it a lot of fun for the sailors.'

In third place came Team Germany, who this year won the Nord Stream Inshore trophy following two fleet races in Flensburg, Germany in the lead up to the Nord Stream Race start. They were followed by Team Turkey in fourth and Team Europe in fifth place. With only five hours between the first and fifth boat finishing, this has highlighted just how competitive the one-design Swan 60 Class has become, a Class which challenges sailors on their sailing ability, experience and knowledge. Over the 800 nautical miles each Swan 60 had taken the lead position at some point, a fact which kept race followers guessing until the final moments and boats fighting it out the whole way.

The race this year attracted an array of high profile international sailors from all over the globe such as Jules Salter (GBR), Simon Fisher (GBR), Adrian Stead (GBR), Michael Muller (GER), Tim Kroger (GER), Magnus Woxén (SWE), Christian Scherrer (SWI), Marc Lagesse (FRA), Eberhard Magg (GER), Robert Stanjek (GER), Tomasso Chieffi (ITA), Pietro Mantovani (ITA), Francesco Mongelli (ITA), Lorenzo Mazza (ITA), Enrico Zennaro (ITA), Alexander Shalagin (RUS), Cenk Tekkaya (TUR) and Cagdas Artu (TUR).

America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veterans sailed alongside up-and-coming youth sailors of tomorrow, creating a brilliant atmosphere onboard each boat. A third of the crews were America’s Cup sailors, 20% of the Gazprom Swan 60 fleet competitors have completed Volvo Ocean Races, nearly 10% of the Swan 60 sailors this year have represented their country at the Olympics and 20 racers have a World Championship title under their belts.

Newcomers to the race Team Turkey, sponsored by Bosphorus Gas Corporation took the opportunity to utilise the Nord Stream Race as a corporate team building exercise, with Managing Director of Bosphorus Gas Joachim Conrad commenting; 'We choose sailing as our company’s team building project as I thought if we put a team together on a boat it becomes a matter of survival, and by being a matter of survival it allows us to achieve a completely new level of bonding and cooperation between our team.'

The only crew to consist of both female and male sailors, Team Turkey’s Chief Helmsman Robert Klein was impressed with the team’s results; 'We all celebrated at the gala dinner after the race; the whole team are extremely happy and very proud of their achievement. The race was a fantastic team effort and once we realised we were in with a chance and knew that we could be competitive, the whole spirit and determination of the team changed, we decided we wanted to race for a position and fight for it. We all had a great time learning to sail and race the Swan 60. We will now take this experience and new team dynamic back to the office; we definitely achieved more than we expected.'

Team Europe, who took second place in the 2012 edition, may have taken fifth place this year but all is not lost as Skipper Tim Kroger pointed out; 'To begin with we had a good start, we were happy, we were well placed and we could keep up with everyone else, at that point we were very much in the race. However, when we came to the second transition zone, between two weather systems, we just dropped out of it. But that is yacht racing, it is part of the game, you win some, you lose some. The other teams all sailed very well and congratulations go to Team Great Britain on their win.'

A dazzling gala dinner at the Taleon Imperial Hotel greeted the euphoric sailors in Saint-Petersburg and guests were treated to an evening of fine dining and traditional Russian entertainment in the surrounds of a beautiful former palace. The Nord Stream Race was rounded off perfectly with a final prize giving ceremony which took place in the Saint-Petersburg’s Maritime Museum, a fitting venue for such an event.

The Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg is proud to have hosted such an event; 'We are getting extremely positive feedback from participants and they are eager to take part in the next edition which is the best result for us. Organising an offshore event differs greatly from inshore events; we have to be prepared for all kinds of surprises and eventualities.

There were two major highlights of the Nord Stream Race for us, one was ORC boat Outsider beating the speed record and other was the two Swan 60s finishing the race in such a spectacular style. The social programmes in both Flensburg and Saint-Petersburg were also fantastic. We would now like the race to become really attractive to sailors, offering them a valuable challenge and opening the race up to different kinds of yachts and yachtsmen.'

The 2014 edition of the Nord Stream Race is set reverse again, and with a route similar to the inaugural race in 2012 teams will race from Saint-Petersburg, Russia to Rostock / Warnemunde in Germany, via a stopover in Helsinki, Finland. The race will also be brought forward next year and is scheduled for the end of May 2014.The long term aim of the Nord Stream Race is for it to sit alongside the other iconic ocean races such as the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

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