I was born and live in St. Petersburg, a city near the water, but all my experience of sailing for many years was limited to seasonal rides on the Neva river and ferry trips to the Baltic. That would probably have continued to this day if a couple of years ago, my friends had not offered me an incredible adventure — to go on a sailing regatta to Greece!

Since at that time I had never been on a yacht, I had a lot of questions. Do I need special training? What if I have seasickness? How will all this look like? However, it quickly became clear that my ideas about sailing that I got from watching Soviet cartoons about Captain Vrungel and videos from the Volvo Ocean Race on YouTube are far from reality. Even an absolute beginner can participate, no specialized training is required, and all the essential safety information on board will be explained on the first day. I considered two options: spending a week in an office in a gloomy and damp November Petersburg or going on a sailing adventure in sunny Greece. And I bought the plane tickets and went towards the unknown.

The AFR regatta was initially created for amateur skippers that have sailing licenses and need additional practice at sea. Eventually, it has grown into an impressive community of yachting enthusiasts: for example, in the fall of 2017, about 200 participants took part in 20 boats, and by 2019 these numbers had more than doubled — about 500 participants and 50 boats. Participants come from Russia, Cyprus, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, the USA, and other countries. The average age is 30-45 years. The diversity of participants is impressive: from business owners to bloggers, from IT specialists to copywriters. And I was pleasantly surprised that at least a third were women, including several skippers! The plan for the week of the regatta was the following: by Saturday everyone arrives in Athens and gathers in Alimos marina, on Sunday there is a test exit to the sea so that the team learns how to manage the yacht and interact with each other, then there are racing days from Monday to Friday, and it all ends with a joint party with the award ceremony. And this week will be like a whole different life full of emotions and vivid impressions!

I must say that I didn’t know any of the crew members until we met on the yacht, and this made me worried a lot: there will be 10 of us, and almost everyone sees each other for the first time — will we get along or will there be conflicts? Our team consisted of men, mostly, and I was pleasantly surprised that everyone quickly found a common language. We distributed both household duties and positions during the races. This, of course, is mostly thanks to our captain, a friendly and cheerful person who knows how to establish discipline on board. During the week spent at sea, probably, each team forms their own slang and jokes that only they understand — this was the case at my first regatta, and it also happened at the next regatta with another team. After all that we went through together at sea, these people who we didn’t know a week ago become a real team — a team of those who are obsessed with the wind, sails, and adventures just as you are! And this is not just a bonus of the regatta, but one of the reasons people come here — to have this feeling of togetherness and «your own pack.»

Of course, I should also talk about the structure of the yacht, that as a beginner, I was also anxious about: how is everything on the yacht? Are there any showers on board? How will we sleep, and where will I keep my stuff? We sailed on the Bavaria Cruiser 51, which has five cabins for ten people. It is equipped with a galley kitchen with a fridge and stove, a large common cabin that can accommodate all crew members at the same time, as well as two toilets with showers. A yacht is a real house on the water, where you can comfortably spend more than a week if you replenish food and water supplies from time to time.

Remembering the regatta, it would be strange not to mention the races. Usually, the morning begins not only with breakfast but also with a skippers’ briefing, where they are told about the race of the day: the coordinates of the start and finish, as well as control points — islands, rocks or buoys which you need to pass on the starboard side or on port. At about 11 or 12 a. m. there is a start — a separate one for each division of yachts. Depending on the route and weather conditions, the race lasts from 3 to 8 hours. In my two regattas, I sailed through the storm, and through a thunderstorm with a truly tropical downpour, and our boat went aground. I cannot tell now when I had more adrenaline! The skipper’s skills and the coordinated work of the whole team help to safely get out of such difficult situations both technically and psychologically, and of course, a bit of luck. In Greece, you remember the sea god Poseidon, the god of winemaking Dionysos, and the goddess of fortune Fortuna. If you have never sailed before, I would recommend starting your acquaintance with yachting not from several days regattas, but from training in sailing clubs — this will help you get some necessary skills and prepare for the upcoming adventures.

Now, as I am writing this, it is April 2020, the whole world is fighting the COVID-19 epidemic, flights are canceled, state borders and doors of our houses are closed. Memories of regattas are like dreams in which we were together in another life. At the same time, these memories give strength: one day, when all this is over, we will again rush for freedom — where there is the wind, snow-white sails, and the endless blue sea.