Interview: owner of a High Spirit racing sailboat about the intricacies of building a dream boat from scratch.
Theory and practice

Interview: owner of a High Spirit racing sailboat about the intricacies of building a dream boat from scratch.

Igor Katalevsky tells us what problems he had to face when he started building a dream boat from scratch: from finding a designer and builder to the reception.

In 2015 Igor Katalevsky completed the construction of a unique 65-foot High Spirit racing boat. Igor and his team plan to sail around the world on it, taking part in the most famous sailing competitions.

This plan is already underway: while you are reading this interview, High Spirit is racing in Italy at the Mediterranean Giraglia Rolex Cup.

- Igor, tell me how your passion for sailing started.

- I've always been quite critical about sails. My comrade Kirill Sakhartsev, who has known sailing since childhood, many times persuaded me to try it, but I had other interests. I designed a motorized expedition vessel with the idea to go around the world on it. And then one day Kirill suggested playing golf in Croatia, moving along the courses by sea on his yacht. Perhaps golf was the only reason I agreed. Surprisingly, out of seven days, six days the wind didn't blow at all and we were walking under the engine. And it wasn't until the seventh day that a light breeze appeared. Kirill put me behind the wheel, and at that moment the wind intensified, which caused me a storm of incredible emotions, and I got sick.

I've been in sports my whole life, all the time in competitions, all the time on adrenaline. Before we got back to Moscow, I asked him: «What are the sailing races?»

We decided to take part in a regular charter regatta in Croatia. We gathered our friends - all the same athletes - rowers, champions of Russia, world champions, still participating in the competition. We went and won the first time. It turned out to be even more. And already then we gathered for a more serious Copa del Rey regatta. There, of course, we did not have a special result, but we were not the last either. While chasing a charter boat, we realized that it is better to have a permanent one, which you can train on, which you will know well enough. Not even a year has passed since we decided to buy ours. And on it we have been competing, training, racing for 2.5 years.

- Where is she now?

- In the summer of 2015, we sold it to the Russian guys, they continue to successfully participate in competitions.

- What is yachting for you? How would you define for yourself what you like it?

- The first one is probably an incredible feeling of freedom combined with a unique focus, especially when you have the sea around you and nothing else. When you're in a boat, you're constantly in control, in the process of calculation. This state does not allow you to relax for a moment, but at the same time you think about the sails, what is happening now, what will happen in a minute or in a day. You're completely distracted from work and home problems.

And the second important moment for me is team sport. I like to communicate with friends, grow up together, participate in regattas together, get a serious adrenaline rush together. In recent years I have been mainly engaged in adrenalin sports, such as freeride snowboarding from a helicopter - I traveled all the mountains: the Alps, Alaska, Kamchatka.

- When you got carried away with yachting, did you have time for all this?

- Honestly, there's no time left. The first year I kept the same rhythm - five or six times in the winter I flew somewhere. In the second year, it was three trips to the mountains. The year before last - one, not one in the past. The sail has completely absorbed me, even in winter there are a lot of competitions in which you can participate.

- Is that a minus or a plus?

- As far as I'm concerned, that's a plus. The family doesn't really agree with me. I counted the total, in fact, of almost three months of my absence this year. Training, preparation for the competition, the competition itself.

- The family hasn't gotten carried away with sailing yet?

- Not yet. My son tried PROyachting once at the Water Stadium anyway, he loved it, but then again, work-work. It takes time, and he's hard to find.

- At what point did you realize that you wanted to build a boat from scratch?

- Probably in the second year of owning a used boat, when I already gained some experience. The boat is old, it had to be maintained, improved, optimized all the time. A lot of work was put into it. I realized that I want a boat built from scratch, just under the goals that we set for ourselves as a team.

- What year was it?

- It was the year 2013. At the end of the year, in October, I started designing.

- By what criteria was the design office chosen?

- Initially, I chose a project that would meet our goals - to go around the world, participating in all regattas. The boat should be suitable for ocean racing, not only for short day races.

I reviewed all of the world's top designers, sent them requests and held an unofficial 60 to 70 foot boat tender. I didn't want any less.

Especially with fighters like ours, a small boat is tight. I realized that a bigger size just can not pull financially, with each additional meter the price flies up with great speed.

As a result, it was an accident in Malta, in front of the Middle Sea Race, that I came across a newly built boat. It was an entirely custom project by Botin Partners. I was able to try it out, thank you very much to the owner - he gave me the opportunity to feel the boat, to stand behind the steering wheel. I realized that I liked it and I want to build on it.

Another important factor for me worked - I never wanted the boat to be the very first. I wanted it to be the second or third hull, because there are always mistakes that you can take into account when redesigning it further.

There were mistakes anyway, even on the second hull. Right there in Malta, in 2013, we hit the hands of Botin Partners. And without even signing the contract, they started designing the boat.

- How actively did you take part in the development of the project?

- More than. I attended the design, several times I went to the company office in Santander. But all the blueprints, wishes, wanted, in fact, changed a lot. In two years, the boat has changed, if not drastically, very seriously.

- Why?

- Because the Cruiser-Racer and I started when I thought I was going out with my family in between. And it ended up being practically a pure racing boat, with two exceptions.

Teak deck - I couldn't give up the tree, I didn't want to sit on carbon for 24 hours, sorry, ass.

And the second, probably, is that I tried to create some interior even with the usual folding carbon bunks. Carbon, but quite ennobled, artistic.

In everything else, the whole boat has changed compared to her big sister. Sailing weapons are more powerful, navigation weapons more powerful, satellite weapons more powerful. The whole boat is basically hydraulic. At the same time, I demanded that all major operations were still on winches, so that the hands could feel each rope during the race. So the winch works hydraulically, but you still have the rope in your hands, while the big sister is almost all on buttons. A slightly different effect in terms of reaction rate and fine tuning.

And it came out 1.5 times more expensive than what was originally planned.

- I don't think there's ever been anybody else who decided to build a boat himself.

- A hundred percent.

- Besides the model mentioned, did you have any other guidelines when you built the boat?

- I watched quite actively on the Internet «live» boats of the same class, already built and those built in parallel, to understand and take into account with whom I would have to compete in the future. I know that people have also been watching my boat.

- Really do it over the Internet?

- Yes, it's real. Some information sails away or specially gets to mass media from designers. Length, weight, characteristics, size of sails. Again, Sea Horse magazine annually makes a publication about all the projects that are under construction.

- And how was the decision made, where to build the boat?

- A tender has already been held here. Shipyards that know how to truly work with the latest technology, such as Nomex cellular filler, have been selected. There were six shipyards: in New Zealand, Australia, China, Germany (where the older sister was built), Spain and America. The most interesting prices, understandably, were offered by the Chinese. And there were no doubts in terms of quality, because they work as a subsidiary of Australian McConaghy.

It stopped me from doing one thing. I planned to be on the boat regularly and continuously, to personally control the construction process, and I figured I wouldn't fly into China.

The second most interesting offer came from the Spanish King Marine from Valencia. We decided to stop at them. At least once a month, and actually every two weeks I visited Valencia.

- When did the construction start?

- Construction began on April 25, 2014. We designed from October to early March. In March, we sent out the tender documents. We decided quickly enough with King Marine, and I negotiated with them for a month, from the end of March to the end of April. In April, we already started the construction.

They started to finish the boat by April 1, 15. But it turned out to be such an April first joke - they were delayed by six months.

I took the boat only in early November. Well, there were objective reasons, in fact, because some things were changing already in the course of construction, and had to redesign something, something to add. As I said before, the boat actually changed from a Cruiser-Racer to a Racer-Cruiser. There were also subjective reasons. King Marine is a fairly well-known, serious shipyard, but they didn't calculate their strength. They built boats for both the «America»'s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, but they were always empty racing boats, without everything. When it came to creating the interior, and the carbon interior, they got really stuck.

Plus, on top of that, the Italian designer, whom we chose for the interior design, let us down. He couldn't offer anything interesting, but delayed us by three months.

In the end we had to take our Russian designer, Stas Tratsevsky. He never did marine design, but I really liked how we worked together and how he did everything with the boat.

- Who was involved in the selection of technological systems?

- The leading position in the development of this project was taken by the project manager, who I invited specially - Italian racer Demis Alcaras, a man advanced and immersed in all technical innovations. Much thanks to him, the project was changing before his eyes.

He said: «Why do you want it like this and not want it like this?» I said, «Demis, I never heard»of it. That's really what happened. Well, what's my experience?

As a matter of fact, three years on charter boats, used and old. Where, in principle, modern technology hasn't been used. Thanks to Demis, there's a lot on the boat.

Great support was provided by another famous Italian racer: Lorenzo Mazza - participant of the «America»'s Cup. He made many interesting proposals on sails, on the system. Serious help on sails, on running rigging was rendered by our Vladimir Kulinichenko, more than known person, the sailing master himself. If I were alone, the boat would have turned out completely different.

- Tell me how the reception went. Were there any comments, how did the shipyard take them?

- There was my representative, an employee of a brokerage company, who initially helped us with the signing of the contract. Unfortunately, he did not put many things into the contract, which greatly prevented us from getting the shipyard up to date.

The sea trials took three days, during which we were not allowed to touch the boat, but we were present. Everything was checked by representatives of the shipyard and its subcontractors, including representatives of the Botin Partners design company. Before the boat was handed over, they were fully responsible for any damage and their insurance covered any risks.

But then again, because of omissions in the contract, the test, frankly speaking, was incomplete. The sails didn't go very well, the keel was lowered once, raised once - well, like, everything works, here you go.

After that I was obliged to sign the acceptance report, and we were able to load the boat, the sail, and immediately began to come out the flaws. I see, you can't get away from them, the boat is custom-made, assembled all over the world. Geek from New Zealand, mast from South Africa, winches, deck equipment from America, Italian hydraulics, sails from Australia, Spain, Italy. There were quite a few mistakes, flaws, but all of them were corrected under the warranty, which is not better than when the boat is not yet delivered.

When we drove the boat to catch the RORC Transatlantic, there were additional problems - with the lifting keel, with autopilot, with the desalter, which seemed to work, but the water did not flow into the tank.

A critical mass of mistakes accumulated, after which my Italian colleagues told me: «Igor, brake. Crossing the Atlantic now is not the same as it was 500 years ago, but it's still the Atlantic.

It's better to bring the boat to your mind, to set it up, to disperse it (and you have to disperse the boat, you didn't have time to do it), and then make a decision». The decision to stay and bring the boat to mind was hard. In fact, that's what I'm doing in Valencia now.

- If you had the opportunity to go back with all this experience, what would you change? What would you have done differently?

- Nothing, I'm afraid. If I started building now, it would end up exactly the same because I really like the boat. I haven't had much time to go sailing on it. When we went into the ferry, there was either no wind or it blew in the forehead and we were in a hurry and so we went under the engine. But the two or three hours I spent at the helm left an unforgettable impression. The boat turned out to be very good, I hope it will show itself in the competition.

I'm the one who's hurting myself that jumped over a step. We need an intermediate stage in terms of growth and professionalism. That's the only thing I'd like to change.

Neither I nor the majority of the team members have enough experience in managing such a reactive pelagic pelagic, and this is exactly how it turned out. This boat needs the hands of professional athletes who have devoted their entire lives to yachting, who have competed since childhood and who can smell the wind and understand the slightest settings that we do not feel.

- In general, how does having a boat of your own affect the perception of sails?

- Firstly, the attitude is completely different, secondly, the feelings are different, and thirdly, you understand that everything is done under you.

Every rope, every button, every winch - everything is made so that you can reach. And everything looks just the way you want it to look.

Color, appearance - the boat turned out to be beautiful.

- You have a completely Russian crew?

- Yeah, totally Russian crew. All these years we've been practicing together and growing together. When we wanted to show serious results in serious competitions, we invited a coach. Vladimir Kulinichenko - great thanks to him - has been coaching us for two years. Plus, we additionally attract professional racers. I have a good relationship with the Italian racing diaspora. There are 8-10 people with whom we are no longer just racing, but made friends. It is always possible to warn two or four people in advance and take them to the regatta, both to help and study.

- Please, share your nearest season plans and global plans.

- As I said before, there is an idea to go around the world participating in the most interesting, most famous races. There are not many of them, but it will take at least 2-3 years. Let's try to catch everything - you don't know when you'll get to Australia with your boat on Sydney Hobart or Transpac in the United States.

The original article on the PROYachting website

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