Siberia

A week off. A vital time of digital detoxification and re-connection with family and sport, free of normality whilst doing the extreme in the high mountains of the French Alps. Returning to Geneva yesterday afternoon and the much-delayed flight home, the world had changed. Geneva was stuffed with diplomats. Missions were flying in for hastily convened meetings. Convoys of blacked-out Mercedes with police out-riders blocked the roads. The border guards were muscular and menacing with weaponry on display and not a hint of generosity. The mood was darker than I have ever seen. Europe, with the abhorrent spectre of war, is on tenterhooks. The kleptocratic class of the former Soviet Union has resorted to its mean and the world scrambles for an effective response.


©Tim Wright / Photoaction

Sport is grappling with its morals, desperate to find and strike the right tone. Some, like Judo and Formula 1 acted relatively timely. The murky, dire world of soccer still doesn’t know whether to turn left or right and would rather not make a decision. FIFA is a tainted shambles. UEFA is only slightly better but more on the front foot. National bodies deign to do the right thing and make statements aimed at appeasing their followers whilst supporting the desperate Ukrainian situation.

As the newsflow horrifies, shocks and abhors, the simple unpalatable fact arises that Russia and its sportspeople, whose name this war is not in, are not welcome on the world stage for the foreseeable future and sponsorship riches of millions of roubles are to be denied with contracts summarily annulled right across sport.



Sailing, at the grand prix end (and I’m acutely aware that there’s far more to our sport than just this flavour) has its part to play too but this is not a moment for grandstanding. The great clubs of the world – the likes of the New York Yacht Club, The Royal Yacht Squadron, The Royal Ocean Racing Club, Yacht Club de Monaco, Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Yacht Club Costa Smeralda plus a host of others need to collectively decide, decisively and meaningfully, that they will no longer lend the respectability of their great races, or even their local races, to Russian participation. A polite: ‘thank you but no thank you’ at the point of entry is the very least we can expect.


RORC CEO Jeremy Wilton presents Dmitry Rybolovlev with line honours trophy at RORC Caribbean 600 ©Photo by Arthur Daniel

It won’t happen. It should happen. But this weekend the Yacht Club de Monaco plays host to its Monaco Sportsboat Winter Series and Primo Cup and if you look at the current standings HERE you will see a whole host of Russian teams dominating the standings going into this final ‘Act’. The Monegasque are unlikely to upset their be-monied participants and residents – what a signal it would send if they did though.

But so entrenched are the Russians in Monaco, and so star-struck is its ambitious club that a blind-eye will almost certainly be shown. The YCM need to think carefully in the coming days about what allowing participation means. The eyes of the sailing world and the clubs that they so long to emulate, are watching.


©Yacht Club de Monaco

And looking at the recently concluded Caribbean 600 where Dmitry Rybolovlev’s extraordinary ‘Skorpios’ took line honours, well hopefully that’s the last we’ll see of that boat in competition for a while – sad as it is.

Would RORC lend its fabulous, grand name, hard won over generations of doing the absolute right thing, to hosting a Russian entity in its glamour races going forward? I have high hopes and much expectation that they will not. It’s over. It should be over. And I don’t think there can be much complaint. The Oligarchs aren’t stupid. And neither is RORC. Wise, cool heads will, I have no doubt, prevail and it needs no statement. Sailing is a great sport, largely insignificant but we can do our bit under the radar with an iron fist. It will hurt more than an acre of print or a hurried press release will ever do – and it could and should last for decades.


Team Skorpios at Caribbean 600 ©Arthur Daniel/RORC

Casting a nation adrift to the equivalent of sporting Siberia is harsh for those it will affect but necessary in the geo-political times we live in. Grand prix yachting is a privilege, not a right, and as a response to atrocity it’s imperative that we exclude as a signal to that nation that invasion of sovereign territory comes with far-reaching consequences. The thumbscrews are on financially and socially, and pariah state status is real. Very real.

Sailing must respond in its most clinical fashion.


8 thoughts on “Siberia

  1. The IOC was quick to make its position clear but the silence from World Sailing is deafening . . . when can we expect World Sailing to clarify its position

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think there is anyone who disagrees. After the Olympics and the disgraceful demonstration by the figure skating fiasco, the Russians have shown that they have no place in sports. No more chances to embarrass themselves or spoil sports competition for others.

    I only wish that we all could express ourselves as eloquently as you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Spot on again Magnus. Monaco and the Med. Russian money. Awash with it. Laundered daily. Morals and money do not swim well together.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lucky you, away from the computer for the past ten days! First I was worried about the future of SailGP being jeopardized by their boss’s recent disgraceful behavior, now I’m just hoping there still IS a Chicago come June…

    World Sailing should absolutely ban these oligarchs, it would send a clear message given their overrepresentation in the Grand Prix circuits. Have you considered creating a petition or open letter? I’d sign it in a heartbeat.

    Of course, why stop there? As the Ukrainian superyacht crewman in Mallorca recently demonstrated, taking direct action against their yachts is also a possibility…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Also need to get the Russian owned maxis out of the sport (amongst others Skorpios and Commanche from the regatta circuit) and the superyachts sent back to St Petersburg. They should be excluded from all Mediterranean and Caribbean ports.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, when I tell people I watch sailing, they always say it would be more interesting with cannons, boarding parties and cutlasses. Why don’t we let the other maxi crews who lost to them do pirate raids on Comanche and Skorpios and call it privateering? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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