Russia guns for the America's Cup

Paul Todd /
For a fledging team, the Karol Jablonski-steered Synergy is far from being an also ran.
Back in 1992, at a not-dissimilar phase to where we now lie in the America’s Cup cycle, one of the most torrid episodes in the build-up to the Louis Vuitton Cup that year was the mud-slinging between two Russian teams, Age of Russia and Red Star ’92, both desperately trying to become the first from their country to campaign a challenger for the America’s Cup. Neither succeeded. 18 years on and Russia is a very different place with Russian sailors making their presence felt in many classes in sailing, notably the Dragons. The Audi MedCup in recent years has seen two Russian boats – known in the fleet as the ‘black Russians’ (Valars) and the ‘white Russians’ (Synergy). While they haven’t won, neither have they been also-rans, with both teams acquiring highly competitive 2008 generation boats – Valars picked up Mean Machine when Peter de Ridder walked away from the circuit, while in a similar style Synergy purchased the BMW Oracle Racing boat after it had been sailed for just one regatta. Valars have stood down from the Audi MedCup for this season, but Synergy remain as buoyant as ever. Bolstered by the team’s five Moscow-based owners, - Pavel Gorelov, Vladimir Senko, Vladimir Smyshlyaev, Mikhail Tuzov and Valentin Zavadnikov - Synergy is lining itself up to achieve what their forebears didn’t in 1992: to become the first fully fledged Russian challenger for the America’s Cup. Since last summer their helmsman has been Polish former Match Racing World Champion, Karol Jablonski, who holds a unique advantage over his match racing peers in this instance as he speaks Russian. The crew racing at the Louis Vuitton Trophy in La Maddalena is an even mix of Russian sailors and international pros including tactician Rod Dawson, Chris Main on main sheet (of course!), Zachery Hurst on downwind