Thousand miles of Sea of Japan: The Peter the Great Gulf Cup’s anniversary

One of the most famous Russian regattas is having the anniversary this year: it has been thirty years since the preparatory regatta for Olympic sailors became this huge and complex sailing competition. Every year the Peter the Great Gulf Cup gathers many sailors from both all parts of Russia and all over the world. What exactly attracts them the most in the Sea of Japan, why the distance of the racecourse is 500 miles, and how many times during thirty years participants were lucky with the weather – read about all of that in the interview with Michail Ermakov, the Commodore of the yacht club Seven Feet, the president of the Sailing Federation of the Primorsky region, and the vice president of the Russian Yachting Federation. The interview was conducted by the yacht club Seven Feet.

Michail, 30 years is quite a lot for a regional sailing event. During this time more than 10 000 sailors from all across the country participated in it. When and under which circumstances you had the idea for this regatta?

The Peter the Great Gulf Cup was first held in 1986 and 1987. The Olympics of 1988 in Korea were upcoming, and the supervisor of the Sailing Federation of the Primorsky region Genrikh Schegolev and an international judge Georgy Dragilev decided to hold a regatta for Olympic sailing boats in Vladivostok. Russian Yachting Federation and regional sport committee supported the idea and the regatta was organized. In addition to Olympic sailors, the sailors of Primorsky region also participated in it. The boats were not quite on the Olympic level and there was very few participants, but it was a great sailing practice!

Everyone liked it, so starting 1988 this regatta became annual and opened for all sailors. In different years of the regatta from 20 to 70 boats participated in the Peter the Great Gulf Cup. In the past government sponsored the Cup, the food for sailors was provided and overall level of the event was quite high. There were difficult years as well, during 1990s especially; there was no money at all. However the regatta survived and keeps thriving nowadays.

When this legendary five-race regatta format occurred: two short races in Vladivostok and three long ones (Vostok Bay, Gamov Cape, Amur Bay)?

Almost in the very beginning. In different years, we corrected the routs a little bit. Once upon a time there was a 210-mile race: start in Vladivostok, then through Amur Strait, then Vostok Bay and from there, through the whole sea to the Troitsa Bay. The race could last up to three days! Several years ago six yachts broke their masts during a severe typhoon, the boats were scattered all over the sea by the wind. Back then, we did not have all those websites with weather forecast. It was dangerous and serious. Therefore, the presidium decided to make the distances shorter, closer to the shore. Moreover, it’s much more interesting for visiting yachtsmen to sail near our shores and witness the beautiful coast line. Short races in Amur Bay are also quite intriguing: the regular public can see many colorful sails and these are Olympic distances, which are attractive for sailors.

So what makes this regatta unique?

First of all, the unique and the longest race of Conrad-25 Class (aka Peterson-25 – editor’s note) in Russia was held only within the racecourse of the Cup. In the beginning, it was 210 miles, but then shortened to 150 miles, because we didn’t want to tempt fate. Secondly, the length of all five races combined is more than 500 miles. There are no more regattas with the racecourse like that in Russia. Frankly speaking, only our water area makes it possible to race on such distances, it is not possible on neither Black nor Baltic Sea.

What other objectives the regatta had?

Obviously, we wanted to show our unique water area to as many sailors as possible. The Peter the Great Gulf Cup gathers sportsmen from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Ekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, and Krasnoyarsk. This year there are slightly less participants because we moved the regatta to the end of August. Second year in a row we organize the EEF Cup in Platu 25 Class, during the Eastern Economic Forum, in the Ajaks Bay on the Russky Island. This year Aleksander Kotenkov, the former president of the RYF, came from Moscow with his son Maxim, and also sailors from Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Perm’, and other cities on the Far East. There is, of course, a problem with the finances: flight tickets to our region cost a fortune, so people simply choose to fly to places like Cyprus, Montenegro, instead of exploring our coasts. There are some teams, that find sponsorship, but it is rather rare. Nonetheless, the regatta format, five federal districts and 8 regions, we carry out.

In how many regattas you participated yourself?

This year is my 25th, the anniversary year. I sailed in different regattas, both small ad big. First two Cups I missed because I was in the army, last year I could not participate because of health reasons. I missed one more regatta because I missed the application deadline, even though by just 30 minutes. Georgy Dragilev simply did not allow me to participate, even though I was in the organizing committee already back then. He was right, of course, the rules are the same for everyone.

Which regatta do you remember the best?

In 2007 on the yacht Kurazh a shroud burst and we broke a mast in the last race, the short one, in the Amur Bay. We were the first ones in our score group so it was a pity.

Overall, all regattas are interesting. The toughest ones are regattas with no wind. When you spend hours and hours in the sea under the scorching sun and cannot reach the finish line because of the calm wind. However, there were also situations when at two in the morning the serious storm with the wind of 40 knots comes. I remember only one time when we had perfect weather conditions, we raced all eight days with a nice wind, without storms or calms.

How your attitude towards the regatta changes over the years?

I always thought of it as of a serious sports challenge. There was a time when finish of one of the races was in the Troitsa Bay and we spent like 24 hours there before the start of the next race. However, sailors relaxed too much there, so we soon abandoned that idea. Some people, who are not into sailing, could think that it’s boring to race for thirty years same routes. But I am telling you – there were no similar regattas during all thirty years, the wind changes everything.

Does the phenomenon of Primorsky region sailing school exists or are we just boosting our self-esteem?

There are many amazing sailors in Russia. But if we talk about our level of training and level of exams – it’s very serious. Our school was created and maintained by Evgeny Zhukov, Genrikh Schegolev. The exam board consists of professionals from G.I. Nevelskoy Maritime State University. We have very close relationship with that university. We pay quite a lot of attention to the qualification as well. The qualification committee consists of responsible and respectable people. A while ago, it was Evgeny Zhukov, later Gennady Chuev continued for him. These people respect the Sea and realize that you need to be prepared to face it. The accident probability is minimized. I do not mean to brag, but since we live at the seashore, we have a room for practicing and can prepare skilled yachtsmen.

How long do you plan for the Peter the Great Gulf Cup? 50, 100 years?

I’m organizing this regatta for so many years, and I love it, so do other people. We are going to do that as long as possible. There are some problems, especially financial part, but we will try to keep it going for many years. We get help from the Russian Yachting Federation and from regional sport department. This regatta is one of the major sailing events in our region.

What is the secret of the regattas that has been around for so long in your opinion? What lures people to the Peter the Great Gulf Cup, despite all the bad weather conditions, rain and sometimes the absence of sleep?

I think it’s the drive! We all have our own problems, jobs, or business, and the Cup gives you the opportunity to take a break from all that. Every day at the start, we want to win. Even if we have so many trophies that there is no space for them, we participate in the regatta every year. It is simple: we love sea and sailing. The life is sailing!

Thousand miles of Sea of Japan: The Peter the Great Gulf Cup’s anniversary