Today we have interviewed Olga Rogaleva — a real yacht lady, skipper and owner of the open 800 class sailing yacht Alaska in St. Petersburg.
About my first time
When I was a student, while traveling around Crimea, I watched a yacht in the sea. At that moment, I first got a desire to get on a yacht. After returning to St. Petersburg, I learned that my university had a sailing section. I didn’t really like it there, mostly there were classic wooden yachts of the L6 type, but I attended a course of lectures. I came to the Central Yacht Club looking for professionals and got on the project of sports yachts elf640 (they can be very remotely compared with the J70). I liked the fact that on a small sports yacht you can clearly see how everything works, setting the sails, weight distribution and more. My first sailing was in a gusty wind, and it turned out to be very emotional and memorable. We were flooded with waves all the time, I went ashore completely wet, and overwhelmed with emotions.
Later I went to Marmaris, Turkey for an amateur regatta, and the competition on a cruise yacht seemed to me very slow and boring. In that team, I became friends with Irina Gracheva. I complained to her that I wanted more sports, and she showed me where to find it — in the Open 800 class. The next few years I raced mainly in the Russian Cup and local competitions in St. Petersburg. My first offshore 100 miles were in St. Petersburg. Then I still did not have good equipment, and in June in St. Petersburg at that time it was very cold. When I was completely frozen, I wrapped myself in a gennaker and managed to have some rest. There was almost no room in the yacht for proper sleep, but after that I had a desire to overcome.
Now it’s already the 9th year of sailing
I like the very process of the competition, that you need to constantly improve yourself, as well as work on adjusting the sails so that the yacht goes at least one knot faster. It always amazed me that you get only a centimeter of the sheet, and the speed changes. I raced for several years on the tank, then I sat on the mainsail and gradually became a skipper.
In races, I have always been involved in the process and I was offered to become a partner of Alaska. Every year the yacht needs to be repaired, some kind of sail needs to be bought in order to be competitive. We take part in all stages of the Russian Cup in the waters of the Black Sea, Ladoga, Onega, the Gorky reservoir (Nizhny Novgorod), the «Moscow Seas» and, of course, the Baltic — local St. Petersburg stages, as well as races in Estonia.
Sailing is constant learning. This also attracts me — you may be 80 years old, but you can still race and win. Of course, you will not compete at the Olympic Games, but in other regattas you can do it all your life, and the fact that you are a woman does not matter at all. For example, my yacht has no winches and it can be difficult to pull the mainsail. I have a male colleague and it is also hard for him, since he does not train all the time. If you want to show results, you need to go to the gym and keep yourself in good physical shape. A sailing dinghy requires more serious physical training than a cruising yacht. And if you do not train, then you will surely be a little bit short of the result. Only a tactician doesn’t need to be in good physical shape on a yacht.
About «women on board»
Generally speaking, the prejudice towards you as a woman in sailing can arise if you have not been doing it since childhood. For athletes who have been doing this since childhood, there is no such question. And since I’m new to sports, I need to train more and work with my mind, my own motivation and self-esteem.
The amount of experience depends not only on the age, but also on the intensity. Last year I went sailing 3-4 times a week to train + work. When I bought the boat, I began to participate in all stages.
There are really many men in sailing and you have to overcome not only the fact that you have little experience, but also the prejudice that you are a girl. But first of all, you need to overcome your doubts. It is clear that you will not immediately show results. This is the kind of sport where there is always something to develop in: tactics, meteorology, sail tuning. I am currently taking a Harvard free course in meteorology. I like the American approach — they tell all the information with simple examples from life, so it is much easier to understand. Meteorology is really needed for both racing and cruising. Right now I am playing the Vendee Globe, and in order to understand where the cyclone will go, I need this knowledge. It really trains the brain. Offshore racing is a different tactic, with more emphasis on forecasting and routing. In short races, much less attention is paid to this, although, of course, entries / exits are also tracked, but on a much smaller scale. It is more important to take the start and not to miss the opponent.
I don’t have much experience with motors. We have a Suzuki outboard motor on our yacht. There was a situation when I went out alone with newbies, and my engine stalled — I had to figure out for myself what might be wrong. As a last resort, in St. Petersburg I can get by with sails or ask to be rescued by a motor boat. In Turkey, I can call the charter company. In this case, you should always have a charged phone. But I try to figure it out myself first. Once a rope untied from the motor, but I somehow solved this problem, started up and sailed on. Once I found that I had not opened the choke regulator, and none of the crew could understand what was happening. I understand that I may not be able to cope with some difficult problems with a large diesel engine, but I can always call someone. If it becomes necessary to learn this, I will go and learn. And if I have already done this once, then it will remain as a physical memory. I do not have such an approach that if this is a «man’s» job, I will not do it, but if there is a person on board who understands better, then I will, of course, ask him.
I like sailing because I don’t have to try to do everything right now, I can do it at any age. Look at Jean Le Cam and the youth. It seems to me that girls have a problem — until you do something absolutely perfect, you cannot call yourself a professional. Men don’t have this. We are limited only by our internal attitudes. You just need to keep getting more experience. The pandemic stimulated me — there was less money in the office, and I began to conduct trainings, organize trips, corporate parties and was surprised that, in fact, I can do anything.
When I went to charter companies and offered my services, I was told that a good female skipper is not so common, and it is more a matter of psychology. People outside of «yachting» do not understand how much knowledge you need to become a skipper, and many think that this is an easy job and a dream job. Here the question is rather not in the ability and skills, but in the girl herself, how she will protect herself and recommend herself. For example, preparing dinner for the crew being a skipper is not entirely correct from a professional point of view, since this is not my job. I am responsible for ensuring that everyone goes safely from one place to another, so that the anchor does not «crawl» in the marina.
In the middle of my sailing career, I needed to look for a job and I worked for TRYSAIL for many years. I trained myself on all the products that I sold, attended all the courses more than once, participated in organizing regattas, quests, and this became my profession. I wanted more sea, more work in the yachting field, so this year I will pay more attention to this and work as a skipper in Turkey.
Speaker: Olga Rogaleva. Interview prepared by: Yulia Kochina.