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Across three oceans under the tricolor

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Across three oceans under the tricolor


Sergey Vinogradov

Igor Zaretsky, the legend of Russian and world yachting has celebrated birthdays and anniversaries in the open ocean time and again. The yachtsman from Yaroslavl admits that he may celebrate his 70th birthday in the Golden Globe Race, a single-handed round-the-world regatta. A year and a half ago, Zaretsky became the only Russian participant of the famous race, which was followed by the whole world. The tricolor has been flying over the yacht of the native of Yaroslavl in all oceans, except the Arctic one.

Igor Zaretsky told the Russkiy Mir about happy moments and challenges of single-handed passages that lasted many months and international brotherhood of circumnavigators, who are always welcomed as heroes in the world ports.

Some dude from river side”

I came to yachting in the 1960s. Before that I had been engaged in all-around marine competition for many years, and one of the disciplines there was sailing, he says. - Marine all-around competition is a hard sport. It includes five events, and you must be a professional in each of them. But I was always interested in sailing, and in the 1970s, when I managed to get Polish yachts, I decided to focus on it.

Igor Zaretsky Photo credit:

Zaretsky gained his first international fame in the late 1980s and during the 1990s taking part in a series of international regattas in the USSR and Russia, when the world's top yachtsmen came to the country. Back then the national yachting was largely unknown, but Zaretsky and his colleagues proved that there are those in Russia who are able to sail.

True global triumph reached Igor Zaretsky in 2010 after he had won Jester Challenge 2010, the transatlantic single-handed sailing regatta. Back then, three Russian yachts came to the start, and they all reached the finish line. Nine out of twenty three yachts completed the regatta. The victory by the native of Yaroslavl surprised a lot of people. УI remember the Americans said that Уsome Russian dude from river sideФ popped out,Ф he shares.

Igor Zaretsky did not take it as offense - they told it as a joke, with unveiled admiration. Ethnic conflicts are totally out of favour among yachtsmen. Who, if not them, should know that the globe is small and compact, and there is no need to quarrel with neighbors.

- How do they treat Russians? I never felt any difference in attitude to myself and to participants from other countries, he says. - We, participants of such races, are like relatives, like members of a large family for each other. I made friends with guys from the USA, Turkey, Australia, India, and Palestine. We have relatives around the world. How do we communicate? I speak Russian and some English, plus we have international terminology. That is enough for a long and meaningful communication.

Stars and Sun

Igor Zaretsky has a hoarse loud voice of a true old sea dog and a suntan, which is never lost. Listening to his stories about storms, encounters with sharks and whales, one cannot believe that he is a dreamer in his heart. Meanwhile, his outstanding sports tour was born out of a dream. УI read about the Golden Globe Race in my school years, and my interest in it has been lifelong,Ф he says about the unique regatta that took place in 2018. УI got an idea to participate in it in the 1990s. I wanted to take a journey under conditions where marine art is manifested at its best, that is, through astronavigation

The map of Golden Globe Race Photo credit:

Let us say a few words about history of the regatta. In 1968, the British organized the Golden Globe Race, a round-the-world non-stop race. Only one out of nine participants reached the finish line. Half a century later, a similar regatta was organized under the same name. The organizers of the Golden Globe Race, to their credit, restored it on the conditions that the regatta participants had had in 1968. The sailing instruction had forty-odd pages. There was no electronics, no GPS or other modern equipment; there were only stars and the Sun at the participants' disposal. Even a calculator was forbidden on board. There should be ropes and canvas, just as during the previous race .

Why did they do that? To have a kind of fair competition with the participants of 1968. The vessels were also of the same design as back then. The organizers published a list of 22 types of boats that were allowed to start; yachts made of modern materials were not considered; any alterations of the structure were prohibited. Igor Zaretsky went to the ocean in a boat of 1980. Only those participants, who traveled at least eight thousand miles across the ocean and at least two thousand of them in a single-handed mode, were allowed to the race. УThere were two satellite phones on board, but I was able to call only the organizers, the doctor and the manager,Ф he says. УI could also request location and weather information from the mainland.Ф

The race started and finished in the French city of Les Sables-d'Olonne. УYou should see how people in Le Sables d'Olonne welcome the regatta,Ф he says. УYou walk along the pier, around the town - everyone greets you, comes up, asks questions. Grandmothers with stilts come to cheer us up. The regatta start is a very colorful event - the yachts skirt along the canal one after another, and probably the entire population of the town and its suburbs gathers on the high granite shores. They come with ladders to watch the parade of yachts. While you skirt through the fairway, you wave with your hand, and manage the rudder with your belly. Ф

Participants of the regatta in Les Sables-d'Olonne. Photo credit:

According to the native of Yaroslavl, he felt like he was a real star in Le Sables d’Olonne. And not only there. Admiration of a person who is able to go sailing around the world and find the way by stars is inevitable in the modern world of virtual journeys and heroes.

At the head of the mast

Igor Zaretsky does not like to complain and does not know how to do that. So the Russkiy Mir reporter had to make a lot of efforts to find out about challenges of the 163-day passage.

Ц Sea can be different Ц sometimes itТs wonderful, you sail and admire the water and stars. But it can be terrifying as well, when everything blows and rumbles, he says. - For me, the toughest moment was when I had to repair the broken jackstay. For four hours I was twitching at the top of the mast Ц a hell of adrenaline. I fell down about seven times. I was turned around the mast at a height of 15 meters. I would never want to experience that again. After completing the repair, I used to lie down for 3 to 4 days; my fingers were two times thicker than before. The whole body was hurting even there was no a single bruise. I could not lift my hands - in order to bring a cigarette to my mouth, I had to use my knees like a lever. We happened to get into a gale, sometimes several boats at once. Some boats turned over, and they were forced to give distress signals. But I managed to get through without any incident.

On another occasion, the seafarer hooked a beacon in the Atlantic Ocean and dragged it for several hours. УI noticed that my speed dropped to three knots, though the wind was blowing well,Ф he says. УI took a closer look and noticed a huge beacon in the distance, which I dragged along with me. I had to unwind and cut ropes for several hours

Igor Zaretsky aboard the Esmeralda. Photo credit: €рославльновости.рф

For months, the only living companions of Igor Zaretsky were whales and sharks. УNear Australia, I was accompanied by whales for two hours Ц there were seven of them with small ones,Ф he recalls with a smile, as if he was talking about meeting his good friends. УFirst, they dived under the yacht, and then they lined up in a row and swam alongside. The same thing happened in Australia - I felt a push, I looked and saw a shark poking the rudder. "

The ocean sent for Igor Zaretsky not only sharks. Shoals of flying fish provided him with fresh delicacies. Fresh fish was a pleasant variety to his diet, which consisted mainly of Swiss sublimates (dry meals, which only require some boiling water to be added) and Russian canned stewed meat. Just like Robinson Crusoe, Igor Zaretsky really missed bread, so he learned to make it himself in a pan. He was able to talk to his wife only once in 163 days - the organizers presented him a short video-communication session for birthday.

Ц What did I do? I worked, there are always a lot of things to do, he says. Ц You have to constantly change something, repair. When there was a chance, I slept. At first I used to set the timer for an hour, later I began to get up without an alarm clock. For the entire journey, the longest sleep I had was four hours at a time, right after my experience at the top of the mast.

Soon after completing the regatta, Igor Zaretsky got another craving for fish jumping on the table, interrupted sleep, sublimates, bread from a pan and a view of the world from the top of the mast. The yachtsman is preparing for the 2022 Golden Globe Race. УWe have already had an agreement with the organizers,Ф he says. УThey promised to find me a place at the start


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