The Russians are coming
The first formal challenge was received in April from an unexpected direction. Following its participation via the European Team in 2004, Russia has gone one step further by making a full challenge for the 2006 Rolex Commodores’ Cup. This entry by a fully-fledged east European nation state is a first for the event that has been running since 1992. Over that time this offshore team based regatta has seen entries from as far a field as Argentina, Australia, Hong Kong and the USA. More recently though teams have been confined to Western Europe.
Misha Mouratov heads the Russian team and is delighted to be taking part, but cautious about their chances, “I am very happy to be part of the first Russian team. The goal for the team is not to be the last. We are really the underdog for this event. Really just three bands of amateurs!” However, as Mouratov points out you have to begin somewhere and this is a significant step forward from 2004 when Serguei Kotsiouba was the big boat in Team Europe, “in Russia we say that the main thing is to start. I hope the first Russian Rolex Commodores’ Cup team will help to grow more interest to sailing in Russia. And from other side perhaps our team shows that this interest is growing.”
The team comprises, Mouratov’s Swan 45 Murka, Sergey Bryuzga’s Sinergia 40, Juga, and an HOD35 Zarafa skippered by Vladimir Loginov, a respected yachtsman at home and one who is actively involved in developing the sport in his role as president of the St Petersburg branch of the Russian Sailing Federation
Since April, the challenges have flooded in. The Irish have lodged their challenge confirming that three teams are entered. The British have announced more recently four teams, including one representing Scotland. The French, winners in 2002, will mount another strong assault with three teams lined up.
Elsewhere, the Dutch (fourth placed team in 2004) have put together a competitive challenge comprising Robertjan Zonneveld’s Swan 45, Fatboy, with Gideon Messink a Whitbread Race veteran in the crew; the Grand Soleil 43 Roark, owned and skippered by Kees Kahn, and, the Grand Soleil 37 Swisslife, skippered by Ralph Berkmans. The Dutch have a long association with the Solent and have raced in every Admiral’s Cup since it began. They have only missed one Rolex Commodores’ Cup, the one held in 2000.
The Belgians have settled one team featuring stalwart challengers Francois Goubau and Axel de Cock and, with the rules allowing the Royal Ocean Racing Club to accept late challenges, there remains a strong possibility of a second team.
Currently, the RORC anticipate 14 teams, with 13 so far confirmed from Great Britain (4), France (3), Ireland (3), Russia (1), Belgium (1) and The Netherlands (1).