by Henry Robson
In the 2012 Nord Stream Race, Team Russia, skippered by Vladimir Liubomirov, Commodore of Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg, and sponsored by Gazprom have taken the title and €100,000 ‘winner takes all’ prize fund.
Celebrations on Team Russia after winning the Nord Stream Race 2012
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, bringing together participants from more than 15 European countries.
Team Russia certainly set the bar high when they finished first in Leg One; they became the team to beat for the rest of the race. In Leg Two Team Holland raised their game to cross the line first, followed by Team Europe pushing the Russian Team to third place. The overall points standing after Leg Two meant Team Holland were leading, but only by 1.5 points. The competition was still wide open going into the final leg between the top three players, resulting in the boat to win Leg Three taking the inaugural title.
Team Russia set their sights on just that. prior to the start of the Nord Stream Race Tommaso Chieffi, 17 times world champion and America’s Cup sailor, recognised his new crew, teamed with the pick of Italian professionals including tactician Alberto Barovier and navigator Francesco Mongelli, with confidence as they helped him through the Baltic waters.
Chieffi remained calm and collected on the dock prior to starting Leg Three: 'We want to conclude this race on a high, there are still points to be won and we are going for them. Tactics are to sail as fast possible as the opposition are strong as we have seen this week – we are looking forward to the challenge ahead.'
Team Russia were not in for an easy leg however, with an interesting downwind start, Team Russia decided to stay course side, enabling them to approach the line prior to the start on starboard sailing close-hauled. This gave them their optimum position over Team Europe.
The Russian boat took the lead early on in the Leg, with Team Germany and Team Holland pushing them hard. Even by 1600 with only 50 nautical miles to race, the fleet were still within three nautical miles of each other, by which time Team Europe were hot on their heels. Wind speeds had increased throughout the day to a steady 25 knots of breeze, with the teams averaging 10-12 knots of boat speed.
Team Russia, after winning the Nord Stream Race 2012
The official finish time was 21.31 when Team Russia took the Nord Stream Title. Vladimir Liubomirov, proud skipper of Team Russia on arriving into Karlskrona commented: 'It was a good leg, the water was flat as we were inshore and sheltered - we even had some sun! Everyone is really pleased to have won, but we are very cold! We will most likely split the prize fund between the team; they all worked extremely hard to bring this home for Team Russia.'
Tommaso Chieffi also reflected on the race: 'It feels great, we are excited to have won, it has been a fantastic event and we have thoroughly enjoyed racing the Swan 60. The conditions were actually really good, but the decision to stay inshore was a good one and made for good racing'
The decision to change the finish point of Leg Three to Karlskrona situated on the South East coast of Sweden; was due to deteriorating weather conditions following careful consideration of the Organising Authority and the Principle Race Officer. The reason for this decision was such that that the safety of the fleet had to be taken into consideration with the pending forecast.
This new route, enabled teams to stay closer to Sweden’s coast line, sheltering them from what would have been a potentially dangerous passage to Greifswald, as they crossed the Baltic Sea.
Nord Stream Race Principal Race Officer, Jack Edwards reflected on the race: 'In a brand new high performance class like the Gazprom Swan 60 Class, the teams in the Nord Stream Race have been very successful in getting great speed in at times through some difficult weather conditions. The experience of the Russian team has borne fruit in a great result, but that is not to take away from the outstanding performances of the other teams.
The combination of long distance racing in difficult conditions with an excellent day of match racing has shown off the capability of the Swan 60 and its design to great effect. The outstanding performance of Team Russia is a great credit to them and demonstration of how their work up season in the Mediterranean has paid off in this exciting new event.'
The crews will deliver the boats to Greifswald in Germany overnight on Friday 26th the official end port of the race, to arrive on Saturday 27th October for the official Nord Stream Race prize giving, and the handing over of the €100,000 prize cheque.
Nord Stream Race website