When the borders were closed and the self-isolation regime announced, which forced many businesses to suspend or even close down, some participants in the yachting market foretold PROyachting difficult times: the main activity of the project was corporate regattas and it was obvious that in this situation it was the corporate and teambuilding costs that would be the first to go under the knife.
In the best traditions of coronavirus time I met with the founders of the project Ekaterina Skudina and Mikhail Kondratyev at an online conference in Zoom. The pandemic caught up with Catherine in France. Like many Russian citizens, she couldn't fly back and has been running her business remotely ever since. But Mikhail Kondratyev is in Moscow and does not seem to suffer from lack of work at all: while we are talking, he simultaneously runs one of the traditional weekly regattas of the project. «I'm sorry, we had an unexpected»blowout here - during the conversation the chief «of PROYachting is distracted» several times by the orders of his subordinates.
It turns out that the octopus phrase about the «crisis is a new opportunity», - not an empty sound in the case of PROyachting. Yes, corporate regattas have sagged, confirms Ekaterina Skudina.
«We've cancelled dozens of regattas. Small businesses aren't ready to carry the extra financial burden now and are cutting back on corporate recreation costs," she explains. - As for large businesses, which have a more stable financial position, they still refrain from holding corporate events for ethical reasons».
But somewhere it has lost and somewhere it has arrived, and Mikhail Kondratyev's busy schedule only confirms it.
«Like everyone else, the season started a month and a half later, but now we are experiencing a real boom of amateur regattas», - says Mikhail.
People have been staying home.
«PROYachting» in Moscow and Moscow region has seven weekly regattas, the most popular of which are Tuesday Warm-up Race and Wednesday Night Race. Seats are now booked in full and in advance, so there are no problems with boat idling at PROyachting, which has the largest monotype fleet of new J/70 yachts in Russia - 20 hulls.
In general, the boom in the amateur regatta sector compensates for the subsidence in the corporate sector, and the company is in a stable financial position.
«People are staying home," said Mikhail Kondratyev, "and now they are catching up».
Although no special protocol on how to safely organize a yachting competition has been developed by the authorities, PROyachting has taken measures to protect both its audience and staff.
«We put sanitary workers everywhere, bought air purifiers in office premises. We are keeping a temperature diary for our skippers and coaches»," he continues.
The weekly PROyachting regattas are designed primarily for those for whom sailing is a hobby after their main job and a way of active recreation. Beginners are accompanied by experienced instructors at the school. But experienced yachtsmen who come to «PROyachting» for many years to compete for ratings and valuable prizes also take part in races.
Speaking of prizes. We managed to persuade our largest corporate partners not to leave the project even despite difficult times. Thus, the manufacturer of luxury watches Ulysse Nardin still provides valuable prizes for the winners of Tuesday Warm-Up Race and Wednesday Night Race this year.
But it's not just the old arrangements that are still in place.
The alternative to European regattas
«With our other long-standing partner, Tenzor Consulting, we have this season launched a unique new series of races for professionals, the Tenzor Cup. This is an alternative to the European series»," says Ekaterina Skudina.
PROyachting and Tenzor have had the idea of such a regatta for two years, remembers Mikhail Kondratyev. The catalyst in this process was the pandemic and the closure of borders.
«Many yachtsmen were deprived of the opportunity to participate in prestigious regattas in Europe, and we offered a decent «home» alternative»," he believes.
«The Tenzor Cup attracted an audience that had never come to us before - professional yachtsmen who, before the closure of borders, preferred to participate in regattas abroad. We organized this regatta at the highest level - we set up real-time judging on water, invited international class»judges, - supports our colleague Ekaterina Skudina.
The first stage of the Tenzor Scr has already taken place and judging by the line-up of participants, everyone who usually races in Europe has really come here.
At some point, we were thinking of cancelling everything...
The most painful blow of the coronavirus was the ambitious international project PROyachting - participation in the «America»'s Cup, the oldest and most prestigious regatta in the world.
Because of the closure of the borders the preparation process was disrupted: the team had to train on winged catamarans in Europe this summer, and in the end had to stay in Russia and pump up the skills of match-racing on single hulls (in our country there is no fleet of catamarans on the foils).
The organizers of the competition changed the rules several times: the start date of the training matches was postponed to November and the stage in China was cancelled. In autumn the Russian team will somehow fly to New Zealand, where the first competitions will take place, and it's still unclear what will happen to the entry permit and visa application.
«At some point we were thinking of cancelling»everything," confesses Ekaterina Skudina. She continued her enthusiasm with no nakedness: «the bar of expectations had to be lowered, of course. If previously we were set up to win, but now the goal - at least to participate in this regatta».
Much will obviously depend on whether the second wave of coronavirus predicted by some experts will happen in the autumn.
If the border closure regime is delayed, the only thing left for the Russian sails will be to develop inside the country.
For «PROYachting» priority will be Sochi, where the company holds the winter stages of its regattas. There is a fleet of Beneteau Platu 25 - these boats, of course, are not as modern and fashionable as «jackets» - but PROyachting is already thinking about transporting for the winter J/70 fleet from Moscow to Sochi, especially since it is planned to hold the final regatta Tenzor Cup in Sochi.
PROyachting also has plans to open new bases in Russia, but the company prefers not to disclose these plans yet, just mentioning that it has proposals and interest from several «promising» regions in terms of yachting development. We bet on the Crimea.