Whole Ukrainian families, including children, grandmothers and even pets, travel in summer not just on foot, by car, bicycle or regular canoe, but take to some rather extreme vehicles, too. Inflatable sailing catamaran is a case in point. Its extreme-loving romantic users log thousands of kilometers sailing across the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, at times competing with each other in the art of sailing. For instance, the week-long tourist catamaran racing championship of Ukraine that had started in the village of Orlovka near Sevastopol finished at Cape Tarkhankut near the village of Olenivka on August 11.
When dozens of colorful sails had approached the wild beach, everybody who happened to be at this shore came to look at the fantastic spectacle. “All these catamarans are Cossack vessels, for Ukraine is a Cossack nation,” Petro Rybak from Luhansk declared before the competition’s start. He has built Korsar, his catamaran, with his own hands, typically for this class of sailing vessels. It is a true Cossack horse, just rigged with sails. Rybak sports a fine oseledets (traditional Cossack haircut), likes to tell tall tales of every kind and enjoys greatly his first chance to participate in a real sailing competition. Young Ivan Bovkun from a village near Uman sports a similar haircut and is Korsar’s crewmember, too. The young sailor has been at sea since July 9 with his father Roman Bovkun, whose more mundane job is farming. The Bovkuns sailed out of the Sea of Azov into the Black Sea via the Kerch Strait and joined the championship on August 5 at Sevastopol.
The 13-year-old Bovkun Jr. sees the sea voyage with his father as the greatest adventure of his life. “I did not know whether I would survive even a week at sea! Because I had never seen the sea, still less a catamaran. Now, we have sailed from the Sea of Azov along the southern coast of the Crimea to Sevastopol, visiting every bay there... My mother came to bring me home, but I was already unwilling to go home by the time, and my older brother joined us instead. We sailed during the day, entered various bays for the night, were in a real storm three times, even cooked onboard! My friends post online about their parent-supervised holidaying on a Crimean beach – I laugh as I see their stories! Because we have experienced real trials and adventures, incomparably more exciting…”
The competition’s organizer was the NGO Federation of Sport Tourism of Ukraine. The championship’s sister event was the Kolomoiets Cup, held at the same time and giving its winner the title of Cup Defender and assignment to organize the next championship. All support for the movement comes from its participants’ enthusiasm and their personal expenses. “It needs not just enthusiasm and passion, but a lot of work, too!” the arbiter and co-organizers of the competition Olha Zaloznova said. “Moreover, sailing catamarans are a philosophy in themselves!” Sailors came here not only from Luhansk, but also from Simferopol, Kramatorsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, and Zaporizhia, with total of 19 catamarans finishing at Cape Tarkhankut after sailing 30 kilometers a day on average along a predetermined route. The race began on a stormy day to the sound of thunder and had to confront headwinds throughout, requiring ceaseless tacking. “Two catamarans went ashore in a thunderstorm and began breaking down,” Trikster’s captain Vlad said. “Their crews had been close to quitting the race, but we worked together to repair the masts and replace broken inserts on the sails, and the race went on.” Seawater temperature was another unfortunate circumstance, as the sea was surprisingly cold this August both near Simferopol and at Cape Tarkhankut where the temperature fluctuated around 16 degrees Celsius, making the participants shiver terribly at the end.
Incidentally, Trikster’s crew is organized along the lines of the classical novel Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog). Shpylka the dog stands confidently on the catamaran’s bow, being an experienced sailor and favorite of all participants. When his owner Olha Dmytruk had failed to bring him to a race, the dog, despite his lifelong quiet nature, became really angry and tore into pieces the tent where he had been tied. Nobody dared to question the dog’s place in the competition afterwards. Dmytruk covers her sailing adventures on her personal website which is highly popular with sailing tourists.
Here, the crew of Odissei is a family from Donetsk – father, mother, and two daughters. This family team has won the competition twice. A couple from Dnipropetrovsk has won a prize, too, sailing their catamaran Svitanok. “You know, they feel bored at home, so they have taken to wandering the world on a sailboat!” their comrades, equally restless travelers, joke.
The initiation rite for beginners who went to sea for the first time this year is conducted in the light of the setting sun. More experienced comrades tap them with a paddle on the lower back, and then treat to strong drinks, as the “old hands” roar with laughter. “Despite all, a beard is what makes a sailor!” a participant from Luhansk maintains. We would add to the list of true sailor’s attributes the age-old desire to sail with a free wind, as the Cossacks like, do not they?