Fresh from a victory in the World Match Racing Tour, the ‘million dollar man’ himself, Phil Robertson, will head up the Extreme Sailing Series™ comeback for Gazprom Team Russia.
The team will return to the waters of the Neva River as the wildcard entry for Act five, St Petersburg, presented by SAP, from 1 – 4 September 2016.
With a crew of familiar faces, Robertson is joined by his World Match Racing Tour teammate, and former GAC Pindar Extreme 40 skipper, Will Tiller. Shane Diviney, who competed onboard CHINA One for three Acts of the 2016 season, and accomplished Russian RC44 sailors Alex Kulakov and Victor Serezhkin, will also join the team.
The crew, who are supported by the St Petersburg Yacht Club and join the Series as it launches into the second half of the season, have all competed in the Extreme Sailing Series™ in the past and are no strangers to the uniquely tight and tactical Stadium racecourses.
But a new challenge will be taming the hydro-foiling GC32, which replaced the older Extreme 40 catamaran at the start of the season.
“We are shaking in our boots!” laughed Robertson. “All the teams have quite a few races under their belts but hopefully we get some puff and can get up on the get away sticks, and teach the old dogs of the Extreme Sailing Series some new tricks!”
In an interesting shift in dynamic Robertson and Tiller now become rivals with Oman Air’s James Wierzbowski and Red Bull Sailing Team’s Stewart Dodson, having just last month stood on the World Match Racing Tour podium as their teammates. A confident Robertson remains unfazed by this however, with plans to use it to his advantage.
“They are both great guys and really fun to sail with. I have raced against both of them in the past so nothing really changes there,” said Robertson. “I now know their weaknesses though and hopefully they didn’t pick up on mine.”
With Kiwis, Russians and an Irishman onboard, Robertson emphasised the importance of communication.
“With a multi-cultural and multi-language boat, communication is the key to success. This Series is all about communication and teamwork so a big emphasis is put on this.”
“It is an added challenge for us, some of the crew have very strong accents, but we are working on it!” added Kulakov.
Kulakov, who raced alongside Robertson onboard Gazprom Team Russia in the 2015 Series, hopes that the home water advantage will work in their favour.
“As a Russian-flagged team we will have the support of the crowds and we know the racecourse very well,” said Kulakov. “It will make our lives easier, but this year it is a different story; we are new to foiling, we have a new crew and it is our first event of the season, we will see what happens on the first day of racing!”
The action in St Petersburg will begin on 1 September with the free-to-enter Race Village, located in front of the Peter and Paul Fortress, providing the perfect spot to view the high-speed Stadium Racing action and cheer on the home team, as they take on the fleet of world-class sailors.
Gazprom Team Russia (RUS)
Skipper/Helm: Phil Robertson (NZL)
Mainsail Trimmer: Will Tiller (NZL)
Headsail Trimmer: Shane Diviney (IRL)
Floater: Victor Serezhkin (RUS)
Bowman: Alex Kulakov (RUS)
by Extreme Sailing Series™