Ekaterina Skudina: “Yachting is a sport, a recreation and a romance”

By the effort of a 19-year-old athlete from Yeysk Stefania Yelfutina the Russian Sailing team won bronze in the RS:X at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. For  Russian athletes this Olympic medal became the first in the sport since 1996! In an interview with the ROC Information Service Ekaterina Skudina, member of the Russian Sailing Federation Presidium, world champion, two-time European champion and participant of three Olympic Games (2004, 2008, 2012),  spoke about the future prospects of the development of Sailing.

– The interest in Sailing in Russia has grown significantly over the past 10-15 years. In 2004, when I was looking for sponsors for my preparation for the Athens Olympic Games, I was asked, what a yacht looked like. Four years later, people have already asked the following: “A yacht? Where you can sit?” And finally, in the next Olympic cycle I heard the long-awaited question: “A yacht? I know! I rented a yacht when I was in Montenegro.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to win an Olympic medal, however in London I was very close to it. But the foundation for future success has already been laid then. And today I am very happy for Stefania Yelfutina! Her Olympic bronze is,  first of all, a great personal achievement, and secondly the result of work of many people: members of the national team and of the Yachting federation.

– What exactly has been done by the Russian Yachting federation?

– A special program to support promising young athletes has been developed. And I think that our focus on young people  proved to be very successful. For the first time in 20 years we won a medal.

– What is going on in the other Olympic classes?

– In the men’s 470 class we counted on  successful performance of the  last year’s World Cup bronze medalists Pavel Sozykin and Denis Gribanov. Everything was going alright, the guys were preparing, but unfortunately, shortly before the Olympic Games Pasha was found to be involved in the doping scandal. At the cost of great effort, we managed to abolish unfair disqualification, but the preparation was disrupted. As a result we took 13th place. Nevertheless, our expectations are connected with this crew, in the next four-year cycle. A group of young, talented  windsurfers grew up. Juniors Andrey Zagaynov, Alexander Askerov and  Yevgeniy Ayvazyan have already occupied all the top places at the Championship of Russia. In the Laser Radial class, I would like to highlight Yekaterina Zyuzina and Yekaterina Morgun –  young sailors, who will probably soon become worthy opponents to the world champions.

– And how do you see the future of Stefania Yelfutina?

-Stefania is a goal-oriented and an all-around  athlete. We can expect new victories and medals from her. The key is to forget about everything that happened in Rio and focus on work. From the point of view of motivation it’s even better that Stefania was only third at her debut Games. If she won Gold, it would have been more difficult for her to find a new goal. While now everything is clear: we are getting ready for the Tokyo 2020 Games!

– What changes can happen in Sailing by the time of the next Games?

-In November, the vote on the Olympic classes will be held. With high probability, Nacra 17 will be on foils. Also kiteboarding may be included in the Olympic program. Kiteboarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and gymnastics into one extreme sport. A kiteboarder harnesses the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water on a kiteboard similar to a wakeboard or a small surfboard, with or without footstraps or bindings. Now much is being done in the world to make Sailing more dynamic and exciting.  However, in Russia  speed yachts are not developing as well as we would have liked because of the high cost of the equipment. We will gradually  catch up to the world level.

– In which regions Sailing is given due attention?

– Much attention is still given to it in Moscow. In the capital, there are sports schools, which are based on reservoirs – Klyazma, Pirogov, Khimki, etc. And the Russian Sailing has wide geography: St. Petersburg, Sochi, Gelendzhik, Anapa, Volgograd, Togliatti, Vladivostok. Even in the Urals there are several cities that regularly deliver candidates for national teams of Russia: Nizhnevartovsk,  Yekaterinburg, and Chelyabinsk.

– How can your sport attract healthy lifestyle lovers?

– Yachting is a sport, a recreation and a romance. It requires reasonable physical activity analytical skills, knowledge in physics, meteorology, psychology, and, of course, fresh air. Therefore, a person engaged in Sailing, solves several problems: strengthens health, receives  positive emotions and develops as a person. I think it’s great!

– But how can we combat stereotypes? Many people think that Sailing is a pastime for the wealthy?

– It is a myth that I am trying to debunk with the use of my PROyachting project. On the Water Stadium there is a wonderful place called the Royal Yacht Club. Our  modern fleet of 10 French boats and a Sailing school are located there. We organize corporate regattas, as well as the night  regattas for everyone. For example,  Wednesday Night Race regatta      traditionally attracts the attention of people who want to take up Sailing as a hobby. In   terms of   cost it can be associated with a visit to an average restaurant, but you get much more impressions.

– The project is aimed at the adult audience?

– Mostly yes. Any company can hold a teambuilding event for employees or a loyalty event for its customers. Those attracted by Sailing start to visit our Sailing school. And later if they want they can even receivethe international Sailing license. With the children, everything is simple: we attract mothers and fathers to amateur yachting, and then they take their children to sports schools to take up Sailing professionally.

– How did you get the idea to do something, which  no one did before?

-This idea came before the Olympic Games in London, but then I had no time to implement the project. When my sports career ended, I plunged into the  PROyachting project. And now I can say without false modesty that my project is of great interest not only for Moscow and Sochi residents (in Sochi, we also have 10 yachts in the port of Imereti), but also for foreign Sailing fans.