It was a just over a year ago that Vladimir Liubomirov, Commodore of The Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg had a dream to set up a one design race having recently finalised his own Swan 60 - Bronenosec. The Yacht Club was only established in 2010 and Liubomirov was keen to revive the traditions that once existed in the famous city where the world's first ever yacht club was founded by Peter the Great.
He came up with an idea to organize a race across the Baltic Sea bridging Russia and Europe through a competitive sailing race - The Nord Stream Race.
The Nord Stream Race was an invitational event for Swan 60s from with five competing crews composing of teams from Europe, France, Germany, Holland and Russia. The race started from Saint Petersburg, stopped at Helsinki, Gotland (Sweden) and finished at Karlskrona (Sweden). Due to high winds the boats then motor sailed to Greifswald (Germany) to complete the 750 nautical mile race following the newly opened Nord Stream pipeline's route into northern Germany.
The five competing Teams were:
• Team Europe skippered by Tim Kröger, sponsored by Nord Stream AG.
• Team France skippered by Jacques Pelletier, sponsored by Stroygazconsulting and represented the Yacht Club de France.
• Team Germany skippered by Thomas Jungblut sponsored by Stroygazmontazh and represented the Norddeutscher Regatta Verein.
• Team Holland skippered by Pieter Keijzer, sponsored by Gazprom International and represented the Royal Netherlands Yacht Club.
• Team Russia skippered by Vladimir Liubomirov representing the Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg, sponsored by Gazprom.
The serious offshore style of this event dictated the type of yacht that can sustain such extremes and leading luxury yacht builder, Nautor's Swan measures up to these criteria. Nautor's Swan is a world leader in luxury sailing yachts exquisitely crafted in Finland, with more than 40 years of experience. The SwanLine range of yachts combines prestige and elegance, with performance and unrivalled build quality.
In 2009 Nautor's Swan launched the Swan 60 to meet the growing demand for a high performance cruiser yacht in this popular size. The design of the yacht has transcended the bridge between classic luxury into modern stunning sophistication and race endurance.
Anders Bertlin, Nautor's Swan Project Manager, summarised the Swan 60 design: 'In terms of the product, it consists of the newest technology, with style and a lightweight construction these are the best materials you can find, in regard to laminates, electrical systems and masts. This is very exciting, the whole race consists of so many factors, people and the passion of boat building is visible in this project and I know the sailors will appreciate the heightened performance that a fully carbon yacht provides.'
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, from Saint-Petersburg to Helsinki. - onEdition © Click Here to view large photo
The Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg, as the organising authority, chose the Swan 60 yacht for the inaugural race as this model will offer the crews extraordinary performance within a safe, reliable and proven international race boat. The newly named 'Gazprom Swan 60 Class' yachts were all built at the Nautor's Swan Finnish yard.
Sailors need to unwind in between races and the Nord Stream Race was no different with 80 crew members taking part in the race's first edition, many of whom had not met each other before they sailed the Swan 60s from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg.
Skippers and a few members from each of their crew were invited on a mornings sightseeing in this beautiful city to secure some pre-race photography and interviews. Obvious highlights were The Hermitage and The Church of our Saviour which even in the grey lit up the photographs and our tourists faces.
The organizing authority Saint-Petersburg Yacht Club put on a lavish welcome dinner for all involved with the race the night before the race start. Crews from the different countries were able to mix and meet each other, exchange stories and wish each other luck for the race ahead. Skippers exchanged gifts and guests were treated to a live band whilst enjoying a three course meal and of course an obligatory vodka or two.
Leg One Saint-Petersburg to Helsinki
On Thursday October 18 the boats departed their berths in Saint Petersburg city centre and headed to the mouth of the River Neva for the hugely anticipated start. The fleet were shadowed by a flotilla of media, spectator and sponsors boats as well as two helicopters hovering unnervingly low over the start line to secure the best imagery. Team Russia and then Team Europe were the first two over the line at 15.50 and held their position all the way to the finish outside Helsinki 18 hours later in winds of up to 30 knots.
Team Russia skipper, Vladimir Liubomirov commented on the first victory: 'I am very happy with this result, we have a great crew and have put a lot of effort into team building -everyone knows each other and their roles during the race. It was tough to keep pulling out a lead in front of Team Europe as they were tight on us off the start line but we sailed a great first leg to win it.'
Results Leg One:
Team Russia 5 points
Team Europe 4 points
Team Holland 3 points
Team France 2 points
Team Germany 2 points (Redress Given)
There was no rest for the crews in Helsinki as Match Racing was organized for Saturday 20 in the scenic surroundings of the harbour. In light winds this proved to be hugely popular with all the Teams. For the more inexperienced crews they were able to hone their skills with sail changes, spinnaker drops and plenty of tacking practice. For Team Germany with match racing expert Jesper Radich onboard, this was their chance to show off their skills and they won a closely fought final - edging out Team Russia with Tommaso Chieffi at the helm for the day in the fading light 2-1.
Thomas Jungblut, skipper of Team Germany commented; 'I was hoping we were going to have a good day but I didn't expect to win. It's been a very technical day, involving good starts and quick decisions. We now have a day off tomorrow so my crew deserve a drink tonight. We are delighted to win today's match racing.'
Results Match Racing:
Team Germany first place
Team Russia second place
Team Holland third place
Team Europe fourth place
Team France fifth place
With a long day of Match Racing on the Saturday completed and the first leg finished the day before, Sunday was a welcome lay day for all involved with the Nord Stream Race. The race organisers secured space in the popular Teatre Bar for Saturday night where the crews let their hair down and were shown how to party Finnish style. Judging by the low turnout at the crew photograph on Sunday morning a good night was had by all.
Leg Two Helsinki to Gotland, Sweden
The boats left Helsinki forming a neat procession out of the harbour and then headed to the start in glorious sunshine. Team Germany took the lead around the first buoy and Team France took advantage of Team Europe and Team Holland having a tussle and overtook them as the boats headed into the setting sun. The fading light provided some of the best photography conditions of the trip for onEdition who chased the fleet for over an hour before the boats disappeared into the Baltic night. The conclusion to this Leg was the most closely fought of the whole race with Team Holland surprising everyone and after 30 hours of racing, pipped Team Europe to the line with Tim Kroger's boat finishing one minute and 46 seconds behind in second place.
Team Holland (sponsored by Gazprom International), skippered by Pieter Keijzer, cross the finish line in first place, for the second leg of the Nord Stream Race 2012, from Helsinki to Gotland. - onEdition © Click Here to view large photo
With many amateur sailors on board Pieter Keijzer was understandably delighted on their arrival into Visby harbour: 'It was such a fantastic race, we made some right decisions in the tactical department, Kalle Coster did a great job for us. The boat moved fast, everyone was working hard and the three of us, with Team Europe and Team Russia were so close together. Between five and 10 miles before the finish Team Europe announced over the radio the gap was only 20 metres, but we managed to pull away when it mattered and it was great to cross the finish line first.'
Results Leg 2 Overall points
Team Holland 12.5 points 15.5
Team Europe 10 points 14
Team Russia 7.5 points 12.5
Team Germany 5 points 7
Team France 2.5 points 4.5
With the weather forecast predicting foul weather the small harbor of Visby was welcome shelter for the boats as were the crew dinners in Hotel Clarion. The Swedish party isle was quiet off season so the hotels and bar were more than happy to accommodate the crews. Team Holland led the charge after their second leg triumph and kept the bar open whilst most others headed for a welcome night's sleep.
Leg Three Gotland to Karlskrona, Sweden
The Organising Authority met at great length ahead of the third and final leg as the weather forecasts predicted severely deteriorating conditions for the third and final leg. The decision was taken with the safety of the boats and their crew to change the finish point of Leg Three to Karlskrona situated on the South East coast of Sweden. 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.
With Teams Russia, Europe and Holland all in with a chance to claim the Nord Stream Race Trophy before this leg got underway. Tension was high as the boats left Visby in calm conditions knowing that the wind would increase throughout the day.
The whole fleet were within three nautical miles of each other with only 50 nm before the finish line, but Vladimir Liubomirov was not going to let anyone pass him on board Team Russia and they took the Leg ahead of Team Germany and therefore the trophy and prize fund of 100,000 Euros.
A delighted Liubomirov hailed, 'We sailed a great leg, the water was flat as we were inshore and sheltered - everyone is really pleased to have won. We will most likely split the prize fund between the team as they all worked extremely hard to bring this home for Team Russia, it has been a fantastic race.'
Vladimir Liubomirov, proud skipper of Team Russia 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'
Results Leg 3
Team Russia 15 points
Team Germany 12 points
Team Europe 9 points
Team Holland 6 points
Team France 3 points
Team Russia 27.5 points
Team Europe 23 points
Team Holland 21.5 points
Team Germany 19 points
Team France 7.5 points
With the boats finishing late in the night, Karlskrona as the penultimate stop was a rest up at the Scandic Hotel before heading to Greifswald for the race conclusion.
The north German town welcomed the boats early on Saturday 27th with Champagne, hot chocolate and a hearty brunch at Hotel Utkiek. The boats then paraded single file up the River to their berths. Prize-giving took place that evening in the town centre at Poro restaurant where Team Russia collected the winner's trophy and cheque. The Crews, VIPs, sponsors and organisers were then able to let their hair down in each others company knowing that the last two weeks had been a resounding success enjoyed by all and started to look forward to the 2013 Nord Stream Race.
Nord Stream Race website
by Henry Robson
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4:30 PM Thu 22 Nov 2012GMT
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