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Nord Stream Race - Reflecting on a hard fought Baltic victory

by Philippa Holloway on 30 Oct 2012
Team Russia (sponsored by Gazprom), skippered by Vladimir Liubomirav, leaving Saint-Petersburg, at the start of the first leg of the Nord Stream Race 2012. onEdition © http://www.onEdition.com
In the 2012 Nord Stream Race, Team Russia, coached by Tommaso Chieffi, claimed the victory and picked up the trophy in Greifswald, Germany. The inaugural Nord Stream Race hosted five very talented and competitive crews, in a challenging 750 nautical mile contest over three legs, following the route of the Nord Stream pipeline through the Baltic Sea, crossing the waters of Russia, Finland, Sweden and Germany.

Chieffi took time out before flying home to Italy and reflected on his experience over the last two weeks: 'We are extremely pleased with our result, we never felt like we were invincible and with the pressure on we had to be well prepared. The team have been training together since April and we had a good season, winning the Maxi Class at the Rolex Swan Cup in Sardinia. We knew the competition would be tough though, Team Holland won Leg Two and Team Germany won the Match Racing, so we never felt we were necessarily going to win overall.'

Team Russia won the final leg to claim the overall title, Chieffi describes it was not all plain sailing:

'We didn’t have a great start on the final leg as we were pinned up by Team EU but we managed to do a very good downwind leg to pull it back. We had to finish ahead of Germany and Holland and did, but it was close. After all, it has been a big team effort; Vladimir Liubomirov (Commodore of the Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg, the organising committee) is a fantastic sponsor and now, a very good sailor. He understands the dynamics of big boat racing and was a huge help in driving us to our full potential. It may look an easy win on the score board, but it really was never that easy.'

Whilst the race through the Baltic Sea was a first for many crews taking part, Chieffi was aware that conditions can change quickly: 'I’ve sailed in the Baltic in the past and it is a difficult sea, resembling a lake with huge wind shifts sometimes as much as 40 degrees. The sea state is also different; the short small chop is difficult to sail in. You need to be used to it, as it is absolutely one of the most challenging waters in sailing, but the rewards are great.

The future of the race looks bright in Chieffi’s opinion: 'I have no doubt this race with grow and grow, at the start of the campaign it was invitational but next year there will be more crews, more boats, and the teams will be better prepared, and I personally am hoping more Swan 60s are on the line to keep this one design class competing against equal boats. The race is also due to move forward by a month as the end of October was tough with the conditions.'

What characterises the Nord Stream Race is camaraderie between the crews, everyone is part of the same family but we are all competitors and we all want to win. Onshore we are all great friends and the competition element unites us. Everyone shared in the celebrations and there were some good memories made which I am sure will mean everyone will be back next Nord Stream Race website

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