Russians in Korea: RC44 racing in Asia

The RC44 racing yachts are yachts, made especially for the high-level day racing. Despite the impressive size, these boats can easily be transported between marinas for match and fleet racing. One of the RC44 yachts was provided by team Synergy and transported to Korea for the development of professional sailing in Asia. This yacht is helmed by Nikolay Korolev, the yachtsman from Vladivostok.

We talked about RC44 in the Far East region for quite a while already – says Nikolay Korolev. – The point of it all is to let sailors from this region try their hand in the high-class boats closer to home and at the same time for sailors from the eastern part of Russia to explore the new region. Asia is extremely interesting for sailing. Their sailing calendar is unified for several countries; it is vast and quite comfortable. For instance, the races are scheduled in Hong Kong, then on the Philippines, then Singapore, Malaysia, and Phuket. After the round is complete, it all just starts again in the opposite direction, and they do it all year round.

One of the distinguishing features of the RC44 is its ease of transportation: compared to other boats of the same size it is very light. With all the equipment the weight of the yacht is 3 700 kilos, with the transportation platform it’s around 10 000kg. The yachts’ size doesn’t exceed the limits of a transportation platform of a 40ft container. So it can easily be delivered almost anywhere.

Our team tried their hands in the Busan regatta, Busan Super Cup 2017, in the beginning of May for the first time. The team included both experienced sailor and beginners.

Busan Super Cup is a South Korean regatta, started in 2005. Russians participate in it every year since 2012. The traditional timing for this competition is May; there are several short races in the harbor of Busan. The regattas practically started as a small competition between Korean teams and teams from Primorye region. Right now it is a regatta of international scale with participants from Japan, New Zealand, China, and France. Sometimes there are up to 60 yachts racing in ORC and Open Classes. In Racing class such rivals gather as First 40.7, GP 42, Soto, Ker40.

Somebody was excited to train on the racing yacht, others agreed to just support this project of the RC44 in Korea, - says Nikolay, - Busan is a comfortable city for both yacht parking and racing preparations and training. It’s a huge, expanding metropolis. However Asian region can seem complicated and it takes time to get used to, especially for beginners. RC44 was given to me for helming so I could gather a team and make it so that everyone enjoys the racing. We are prepared even for simple gatherings, not only for regattas. Not everyone needs races, some people just want the new experience and to train, and Korea is quite comfortable for it.

The preparations for the Busan Super Cup for Korolev and his team started with assembling the boat itself.

We spent 5 days on this boat while putting it together. Many thanks to the guys, who separated all the bolts and winches and put them in different boxes, while preparing the yacht from transportation from Italy to Korea. If you speed up, you can assemble an RC44 in four days with two people. However, we did it the first time ever, as well as putting the keel into its place, so we counted on more days and people. Overall we spent six days with four people on it, but virtually it was much more than that. Many people helped us distantly; we called everyone and asked them same questions, then compared the answers. When we were setting the keel into its place, we firstly did it, and then asked ‘how should we do it’. Got the answers and realized we did it right. Neither crew members, nor our friends, who visited the boat, could believe it. It’s 2.7 meters wide; the cockpit is a huge working area, wide and long. The first thing all visitors did was to turn the mill! Even during the night! You do everything with hands on the RC44, no place for electronics. Our first training was during the rain and wind of 15 knots. The boat itself is black and quite warm; we were sitting on it like on the radiator. It’s made wisely and with great competence. The first time we trained with 8 people, it’s a normal amount of teammates for such a boat. When we were already on the water we realized that we need more people. Even when we did it with nine people, we missed one anyway. It’s hard in the beginning on this boat; you can put two crew members to every spot and they all will be busy. But that’s the point, nobody comes on a racing boat to just sit around, it’s not fun and not interesting.

We trained for three days before the regatta, 5 times on the water including the training route during strong wind. We prepared for regatta well, the crew worked really well together and each member knew their roles precisely.

We participated in the Busan Super Cup. Three days of training with Quantum GT team, before us no one trained in Korea. Now all teams understand that preparation and training for the regatta is one of the major parts of it. After these 5-6 races, some of which were during strong winds, our crew worked well. The first start was with the wind of 6-8 knots and the yacht surprised us. I guess RC44 was racing the first time accordingly ORC system, before that it was only in monohull races. When we approached the starting line, I had a feeling I was driving a Ferrari, the back wheels are slipping, and other boats were just standing still. But our crew is new and we didn’t want any troubles, so we did our starts a bit further from everyone else. But we needed like 30 seconds to outrun everyone, after one minute we had already a gap of 50 meters in front of others. During the 8 knot wind we reached the first mark with a large margin, sadly, the race was canceled.

Nikolai points out that the race itself is not that easy on the RC44. When the wind is 18-20 knots rivals started approaching them during tacking.

In ORC-1 group fast boats like Soto 40 or Ker 40 raced with us. During tacking the speed became equal, we were sharper to the wind but it was not an advantage. It was a regular sports fight; everyone has a good race with strong winds. But strong downwind is amazing! It gives you the immediate speed-up. The first day we had the maximum speed of 18.2 knots, no one believed it. For almost all our teammates it was a speed record, though someone managed to get the phone out and make a video. You cannot see the speed of the RC44 on the waves, it is extremely steady and doesn’t toss easily. It behaves equally good with weak or strong winds.

The whole team was so excited and so pleased after the first day.

I was told by some people “I’ve never strained so much”. There is a sensor on the yacht that shows the pressure on the rod. Professionals get there 6 bars, when one of us made 5 he was so happy. Each crew member had his own small victories that day. For example when we learned to get the gennaker into the boat with the niral. Six people participated in it, and when such a crowd does something, they are just happy because it’s working out. No one ever tried it before. After the recalculations on the first day, we were fifth, twice. The team was upset at first, but then we realized that it was our first time! On the RC44! And we didn’t break anything, neither on the yacht nor on ourselves. We ended up as a whole team, with nothing broken, set the speed record and were in the fifth place! Much later we realized the boats next to us were shredding and drowning their sails. Next day we finished third, after the recalculations. There were 7 boats in our group, we had the highest coefficient.

The second day of the regatta was windy, 25 knots, two races were held. The yachts were getting ruined on the marks. Korean SONIC got a hole in their aft after a collision with a mark. Korean VIKIRA tore apart their spinnaker. And our Quantum GT had a speed of 20,2 knots downwind on the RC44!

We have the best and most up-to-date sails from Quantum – says Korolev – It’s exclusive and tailor made. The set of options we have in our sails is one of its kind. Everything is made for the speed and fast work with sails. The boat itself is amazingly fast, the sails are made at the same level.

It became clear after the RC44 regatta in Korea that this boat is interesting for those, who are tired of cruise yachting. For those who would like to understand, what makes professionals who they are, and why dilettantes stay dilettantes despite their experience.


Interview by Alena Stepanova
Translation by Anna Pankrashova