Nine Russian yachtsmen competing in the 57th CYCA Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will have their first sail on Sydney Harbour this afternoon, less than 24 hours before the start of the 630 nautical mile ocean at 13:00 tomorrow, Boxing Day.
The Russians, all experienced professional sailors, have chartered the Sydney 38, Next Prosail, for their first Sydney Hobart, but have been delayed several days in their flights out of Moscow.
Two of them, Andrew Arbuzov and Jouri Firsov, arrived in Sydney a couple of days ago, but the remaining seven flew in this morning via Singapore.
Arbuzov, who will be skipper, is one of Russia's leading professional sailors and was runner-up to represent Russia in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in the Soling class. He currently skippers ocean racing boats for their owners.
Arbuzov is from Moscow but Firsvov, his regular crew in such racing programs, comes from the Russian mountains where the temperature is currently 30 degrees below!
"They will come aboard the yacht early this afternoon and we expect to go for a familiarisation sail on the Harbour," said Australian Olympic Soling skipper Neville Wittey, a regular visitor to Russian for sailing regattas, who organised the Russian charter.
"This will also be my first Sydney Hobart ocean race," added Wittey who, with owner Craig Malouf and Richard Holstein, will make up the Australian part of the crew of Next Prosail.
Wittey said the overseas sailing experience of the Russians, together with that of Malouf and Holstein, made up the CYCA requirement that 50% of the crew of each yacht in the Sydney Hobart Race have had ocean racing experience.
A fleet of 75 yachts will line up for the 57th CYCA Sydney Hobart Race at 1pm tomorrow, including the eight Volvo Ocean 60s competing in their round the world race, with the Sydney Hobart Race being part of their third leg from Sydney to Auckland.