Far away from shore

I wanted to get some inspiration and recommendations from a professional, so I spoke to a wonderful experienced yachtsman Valentin Zubkov.

Valentin, how did you come to sailing, and what do you do now?

I was lucky: from early childhood, the world of sails was around me. From the age of three, I remember the adventurous lake and river trips with my father on kayaks with a homemade mast. We went to Crimea and the Caucasus, lived in tents and made models of sailing ships. Both of my grandfathers are front-line naval officers: one was in the military near Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula, the second — in Sevastopol. The stories about the sea, photographs of warships posted on the walls, orders and medals on the jacket back, a dagger — all these influenced my future.

My father brought me to the CSK Navy sailing club even before I started school. From the age of six, I already sailed in the Optimist. We practiced a lot, repaired the yacht ourselves, raced, went to training camps even in winter. I knew Tallinn, Sevastopol, Anapa, Taganrog, and Nikopol, as well as I knew Moscow. If there were some periods without water, then they were short — only a couple of months. Thanks to the coaches, I received unique knowledge on how to feel waves and wind and got psychological and physical training in one of the best sailing schools in the USSR. Studying, lessons, practice — that was my childhood, and I don’t regret it. As far as the achievements: I was on the national team of Moscow and Russia in the Olympic class 470, I went sailing on cruising yachts and participated in offshore racing and became a master of sports of the international class.

Now I manage sports and cruise projects of mini and maxi yachts (from 60 feet), and I work with sports teams. I either do skipper’s work, or a skipper plus a manager, or a coach. I participate in many offshore races. These are long-distance competitions, round-the-clock watch keeping, and no land before the finish line. Forty-five years of experience at sea and more than one hundred thousand nautical miles — I have something to share with others. Other areas of my activity are pre-sale inspection and evaluation of wooden, fiberglass, aluminum and carbon yachts, repair and maintenance, sea crossings, storage, and refit.

You have a lot of experience in offshore regattas. Tell me more about these races. How can a yachtsman participate?

The most popular high-level offshore regattas are four 600-mile races:
Rolex Sydney to Hobart in Australia
Fastnet Race in England
Rolex Middle Sea Race in Malta
RORC Caribbean 600 in the Caribbean

Rolex Sydney Hobart and Fastnet are at the top of the rating because they involve a high risk to life. They take place in cold, windy conditions, and are famous for their storms. The regattas start and finish at different locations. My favorites are Rolex Middle Sea Race and Caribbean 600. These races are held in warmer seas, although they are stormy, they are more affordable and easier for beginners.

Rolex Middle Sea Race

The advantage of this regatta is that it starts and finishes in the same place, allowing yachtsmen to bring family and friends who can support the team. This is a powerful psychological help and support. The race itself is complex and amazingly beautiful. The warm African current and the cold air masses of Mistral provoke lightning — this is a real test for a night watch. Calm zones near Mount Etna for many hours can stop part of the fleet. Unpredictable course in the Strait of Messina, a turning point at the impressive active volcano Stromboli — all this makes the regatta unique and helps the team to unite.

RORC Caribbean 600

The Caribbean is, first and foremost, a unique opportunity to spend our Russian winter under the sun in warm places and bring summer tan to the office by the end of winter. This is a terrific region for sailing in February. The air temperature is +27; the water temperature is +25; you’re in shorts — sounds like a fairy tale. You can go out into the sea and get a dose of the trade wind, sail along the islands such as San Marten, Barbuda, Antigua, Guadeloupe — the distance of the race is across almost the entire Caribbean from the Virgin Islands to the Dominican Republic. It includes 11 turning points.

There are also interesting regattas of the next, simpler level, for example, Giraglia — Saint-Tropez — Genoa or Palermo — Monte Carlo. That is why sailing is good because almost every country has exciting local competitions. Yachting unites fans of sails with different desires, ambitions, and experience. Some people prefer longer trips and expeditions, someone else — coastal racing, yet others — offshore regattas. For each sailing experience, you can choose the appropriate yacht. And I consult yachtsmen on this as well. When people come without experience, but with desire, there is a list of questions that I can help answer. I have answers to those questions that they did not even think about, which allows them to choose a more correct type of sailing. Often this may not be a sport. It is enough to answer the question: how many days a year you are ready to set aside for sailing...

Speaker: Valentin Zubkov; Interview prepared by Julia Kochina