Igor Simcic, Esimit Europa: «Our goal is to win, not to portray romantics.»

Igor Simcic, Esimit Europa: «Our goal is to win, not to portray romantics.»

An interview with a yacht owner who never loses.
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Igor Simcic is the founder of the Esimit Europa sailing project. His mission is to unite European countries and, by the way, this is the only boat that sails under the flag of Europe. His crew consists only of the best yachtsmen, and the yacht itself (now Esimit Europa 2) is a real work of art, one of the most technologically advanced racing boats today. It is no wonder that in all the regattas in which she participates she takes the Line Honours prize, the first one to cross the finish line without the handicap. So, in her piggy bank there are five "first finishes" in the famous Giraglia Rolex Cup race, including this season.

Igor Simcic told itBoat about how he came to yachting, how the idea of Esimit Europa came about, his love for technological "sails", his relationship with Gazprom and the fact that the European project may become Asian.

- Where did your passion for sailing begin?

- It happened many years ago. When I was a student, I had the opportunity to spend the summer in Saint-Tropez, where I found myself on the Helisara yacht of the famous Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan, on which my uncle worked as a skipper. It was the first time I was on board a sailing boat and I understood what this sport is.

- Do you race as part of Esimit Europa yourself?

- Yes, I am on par with our crew of the best yachtsmen from 11 countries in almost every race. Our helmsman is the legendary German athlete Jochen Schumann, two-time winner of the «America»'s Cup and three-time» Olympic «gold medallist. He enjoys the well-deserved respect of the team, I have full confidence in him in making all decisions in racing, I really enjoy being part of this crew.

- What do you do and are you passionate about besides yachts?

- In the past I spent more time skiing, I even have an instructor license. But when I went to Helisara with my uncle, I fell in love with sailing and started sharing my free time between the sea and the mountains.

- How did the idea for the Esimit Europa sailing project come about?

- The idea came to mind exactly 20 years ago. I lived in Nova Gorica in Slovenia and worked in Italy, in Gorizia. I had to cross the border several times a day. I just wanted to unite these cities, even symbolically. With the help of both mayors we managed to create a team, put the names of cities united by traditional European stars on the yacht and formed a crew of Slovenian and Italian yachtsmen.

So the project was born, which then grew into more than just a sailing crew.

Then new territories were added to the project and we eventually achieved that Esimit represents the entire European continent.

- Why was the «sail» chosen as the unifying element between European countries? Why not balloon flight or sports car racing, for example.

- Sailing is a very special sport. It is not only a sports team, but also the highest level of technology with many factors to consider. Also, the boat is a better symbol of a united continent.

- Tell us about the first Esimit Europa yacht - what was the principle behind your choice and why did you decide to replace it with another?

- The previous boats of the project were smaller and lower class, but I always tried to choose the fastest ones. This allowed me to create a platform for progress and development of the project. For every new step we had a new yacht. The first was Nova Gorica-Gorizia, the second was Friuli-Venezia Giulia, then Esimit Europa I, right after we were allowed to perform under the European flag. Finally, we received the current Esimit Europa 2, one of the fastest and most technically advanced yachts in the world.

- Esimit Europa 2 is based on «Alfa Romeo». How much has it been refined and what exactly has been improved?

- We always improve our yachts with the strongest technical team and suppliers. We optimize all aspects. The latest refinement is the new mast, which has added to our speed.

- How much did it cost to improve this yacht?

- Everything for this yacht is custom-made, so the prices are not low. It's like Formula 1, but instead of wheels and engines, it has sails.

- Personally, which yachts are you closer to - technologically advanced or those that have to do everything by hand in the old way?

- If we represent all of Europe at the regatta, it is of course very important to have not only a sophisticated yacht, but also a technically advanced one, which can compete with the best of the best. Although manual handling is of course very romantic, it is almost impossible to drive a boat of our size by hand alone. But our goal is to win, not to portray romantics.

- Tell us more about the crew. Are there only Europeans in this team?

- It represents 11 different European nations. We have yachtsmen from Slovenia, Italy, Germany, France, Denmark, Spain, Russia, Croatia, Monaco, United Kingdom, Ireland. Esimit Europa's team demonstrates how people of different nationalities, cultures, speaking different languages can work together and win the most prestigious regattas. Our team brings together the best yachtsmen in the world. They have won the Volvo Ocean Race, the «America»'s Cup, the Olympics and many other titles. They are the best in their business, unique professionals. Of course, such qualities are expensive to pay for.

- In which races will Esimit Europa be racing this season?

- In 2015, we have fewer races than the year before. This year we started with a victory in the Volcano race, organized by the International Maxi Association from Gaeta to the Aeolian Islands and back. Then we won the San Remo - Saint-Tropez and three coastal races in Saint-Tropez, followed by a successful performance in the Giraglia Rolex Cup just a few days ago. Ahead of that was the Palermo - Monte Carlo race in August.

- How did «Gazprom» become the main sponsor of the project?

- I met the head «of Gazprom,» Alexey Miller, in Portoroz in 2006 and invited him to the first Esimit Europa yacht. Before going out to sea, he asked why the yacht was flying the European flag. I explained what the project was all about and Mr. Miller was very impressed with it. That's how our communication began. And then three years later we met again to sign the agreement. In 2010, «Gazprom» officially became the main sponsor of Esimit Europa.

- It was the partnership with «Gazprom» that led to an unpleasant incident when Greenpeace activists staged a protest against the company's actions in the Arctic during the Barcolana regatta. How did this incident affect the image of Esimit Europa?

- Everyone has the right to express their opinion, but we are athletes, not politicians. I can only say that it is not good when such actions are organized at sporting events, because athletes devote their lives to their work and spend a lot of time in training and preparation for races.

- The Esimit Europa project is turning 20 this year. Don't you think it's time for a change?

- We have many opportunities and ways to develop the project in the future. I never stop. Over the last few years, we have represented Europe very well. Perhaps it's time we went to other continents. At the beginning of 2015, I met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who praised our mission and expressed support for the potential development of the project in Asia.

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