RCYC Dragon Sailors visit Moscow 7 Oct 2006
The airport was about an hour’s drive from the centre of Moscow which gave us an opportunity to see the surrounding countryside and outskirts of the city before arriving at Red Square. This called for a photo session in front of the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church buildings.
As dusk fell we were transferred to the Five-Oceans Restaurant where we met Alexey Grigoriev with his wife, and had our first Russian meal. Various hors-d’oeuvres (including horse) were laid out on the table for us to help ourselves followed by fish or lamb, and coffee. The novelty of this restaurant is that Beer on Tap is available next to almost every seat. It is metered and charged accordingly at the end of the meal. Our hotel was a further hour’s drive NE of Moscow on the Pirogovo Lake where we were to be sailing. The hotel had just been built and finished to a high standard with very modern en-suite bathroom and comfortable furnishing.
After breakfast at 9.30 a very substantial Rib with 2 x 275hp Mercury Outboards arrived to take the 19 of us directly across the lake to the Pirogovo Dragon clubhouse just over a mile away on the opposite bank. The clubhouse and adjoining restaurant have been built during the last couple of years, predominantly of natural wood and well-finished in every respect. We found the first floor changing rooms overheated and a bit like a sauna, but the weather at 10 – 15 C was warmer than we might well have expected at this time of the year. Piped music welcomed us onto the pontoon as well as in the clubhouse.
After exploring our surroundings and checking out the Dragons which had been allocated to us, there was a friendly and formal Opening Ceremony with welcoming speeches from Alexey Grigoriev and the team Captains, Boris Budnikov and Poul Ricard, followed by Flag Raising, which included 3 verses of the British National Anthem as well as the Russian. Boris and Poul had sailed against each other on previous occasions in Olympic events, which Poul won.
Around 11.00 we were towed out to the Race Course. The proposal was to have a beat, to the windward mark complete with Spreader followed by a Run, to the bottom Gate, a beat, and a final Run to the Finish. We completed two races during the afternoon of about an hour each. The winds were light and very variable. Windshifts of 30 to 40ï¿½ were not uncommon as well as variations in strength. A very competent race team was provided for the event, with a main Committee boat, several Ribs and on-the-water Race Judge. A Grandbanks motor yacht was provided for the spectators.
After a short delay (due to lack of wind) and after 2 general recalls, the first race was won by Poul Richard (RUS 2), crewed by Tim Tavinor and Nigel Musto, with Boris Stasya (RUS 6) in 2nd place and Mark Wade (RUS 49), crewed by Mandy Wade and John Davies in 3rd place. There was just time for a sandwich before the start of the 2nd race, which was also sailed in very light airs. Sergey Maslov (RUS 3) won this race with Inna Shternberg, (RUS 77 Diamond) in 2nd place and Boris in 3rd. Our team Martin Makey, Mike Holmes and Rob Campbell were 4, 5 and 6. The 3rd race was won by Mikhail Senatorov (RUS 34 Russo-Orient Express), with Poul Richard 2nd and Rob Campbell (RUS 25), crewed by Jonathan Hill and David Hall 3rd.
Apparently the winds on the Pirogovo Lake are usually around 5 – 10 knots as they were during our visit. The lake is approximately 4 – 5 miles long, and a mile or so wide, surrounded by plenty of woodland. There are no mountains or hills close by. Certainly a very pretty area although we did not see it at it’s finest as it was sometimes quite misty and at the end of the Autumn period just going into winter. The maximum depth of the lake was about 40 metres. By some of the mooring pontoons, it was still 10 metres.
Some of our Russian hosts had 40 – 60 ft motor yachts on the lake and we were surprised to learn that they had been able to bring them through the European Canals from Marbella in Spain.
We came ashore about 17.30 and without changing our clothes were invited over to the restaurant for informal dinner. The food was excellent, with the same hors-d’oeuvres arrangement as the evening before followed by fish or meat and first class French wines. Our waitresses were dressed in Russian style of Blue with Red shoulder Wraps, and sashes round their waists. There was a long balcony with views over the clubhouse and lake. Inside there were several large paintings; one was of a topless young lady with dark flowing hair, looking into the distance.
At dinner we mixed and mingled with our hosts, not all of whom spoke English although they all made a very big effort. One member of the Olympic Training Team was a giant of a man, and sat opposite me. I noticed he was staring and realised he was putting some English phrases together, from time to time, he would call out across the table “David!” followed by a question, or statement about the racing. Often my answer had to be translated by his companion. We greatly appreciated his effort to get to know us. We discovered that our Dragon hosts who owned the boats normally brought in hired hands for their racing, many of whom were Olympic coaches and trainers. We certainly had a tough job to win on our hands.
After dinner, we split into 2 groups; some were taken over to the golf range, and others onto Arnold’s 46ft motor yacht, which sped us along the lake at 25 knots for some 15 minutes, to his house. There he reversed into his covered and floodlit dock, and we walked through the grounds up to the house where we were generously entertained in his extensive wine cellar, with brandy afterwards in the Orangery, which was well heated with exotic plants and a water-fall. Later, we were taken back to our hotel in his motor yacht where we joined up with the rest of our party and spent some time in the lounge sampling several glasses of Russian vodka.
The next morning, we came to breakfast all still very much feeling the effects of the vodka. No headaches, but a little unsteady. The high speed rib collected us from the hotel at 9.45. The weather was a little cloudy and had been raining heavily earlier, but the sun came out as we sailed out to the Course. The wind direction had changed, but the courses were similar to the day before and we managed to complete three races.
The fourth race of the series was won by Boris, with Martin Makey (RUS 37), crewed by Simon Cash and Rene Nel in 2nd place, with Inna Shternberg in 3rd place. The fifth race of the series was won by Rob Campbell with Arnold Shternberg RUS 1 (The Godfather) in 2nd place, Martin Makey 3rd, next best British boat Poul Richard, 5th, Mike Holmes 6th Mark Wade 8th. The final race of the series was won by Boris, with Inna Shternberg 2nd and Martin Makey 3rd.
We came ashore about 16.30 and were taken straight back to the hotel in the RIB to change for the more formal dinner and we were back in the restaurant by 17.45. Our hosts provided a most magnificent dinner, which included Russian Red and Black caviar, Salmon, Soups, Pork, Sturgeon and Goose. All served with Vodka, Chateau Neuf du Pape, and Pouilly Fume. Guests of Honour included the British deputy Ambassador and the Vice Chairman of the Russian Central Bank. There were friendly speeches from our hosts, and Rob Campbell who had organised the UK side of the event. Medals were given to the best British Dragon (Rob Campbell crewed by Jonathan Hill and David Hall, who were 3rd overall). Martin Makey was also on 20 points but on countback was in 4th position. Every British sailor was presented with a framed photograph of themselves during the racing. A new trophy was presented to the Winners – who were the Russians, by some margin. RCYC presented a photograph of our clubhouse in Burnham to their Commodore, and “A gentlemen’s Relish” to all the Russian competitors.
The official regatta came to an end that evening. The following morning, Ekaterina and Anastasia arrived at the hotel with the Taxi-bus to take us into Moscow for a tour of the Kremlin. This included a whirlwind tour of the “Armoury” which houses Russian treasures of several hundred years, gifts of gold, silver, pewter tableware from Poland, Germany, France and England to Russian Tsars, dresses and uniforms worn by the Tsars and Tsarinas and horse drawn coaches, several hundred years old. Most spectacular was probably the Diamond House with uncut diamonds up to 380 karats, as well as brooches, rings, necklaces, and tiaras worn by the Russian royal family.
We moved on to visit a couple of Russian churches, which amazed us with the paintings of icons from ceiling to floor and on all the columns. Always in 5-rows; the top two depicting the Old Testament, and the bottom two the Life of Christ with disciples and the crucifixion. We saw there was no seating in the church and were surprised to learn that it is forbidden to sit in the church – standing only – and some services last 4 or 5 hours!
It rained hard that afternoon, and we spent it over a long lunch with Ekaterina and Anastasia at no 1, Red Square. A change of plan at the last minute as they found a concert at the institute of Science and Technology, which we very much enjoyed. “Goodbyes” were said, and the Taxi-bus took us back to the hotel.
Our last morning was spent on a visit to a printing works, which Rob Campbell had organised. This was owned by Mikhail Senatorov, whose father Vassily had liaised with Rob Campbell and contributed so much to the organisation of the event, but had been taken to hospital with gall stones just before the weekend. The printing-works is housed in one of a number of very old unimposing buildings in what had been a Textile complex, with a lot of security because it was near the centre of Moscow and the Kremlin. Inside it had been completely refurbished and modernised. After a short tour, our hosts provided lunch in their in-house restaurant where they normally provide lunch for all their staff Free of Charge. We were amused to see the four Russian ladies in the kitchen, peering around the corner of the door to ensure that we were enjoying their food preparations – which indeed we were – Borsch, hors-d’oeuvres, Cheese and Coffee.
Our Taxi-bus returned us to Domodedovo in time for our flight home at 17.05. A wonderful and memorable visit with good sailing which the RCYC Dragon sailors will treasure. During all the regatta our hosts generously provided the taxis and buses, water transport, dinners, and packed lunches on the boat as well as two charming Guides to look after us.