22 May 2021 – PART 2 – FINALE IN FREMANTLE
The agreement under which Windpilot provided a self-steering unit for the yacht Esmeralda as sponsorship in kind was signed with Boris Senatorov (son of Vasily) at the Paris boat show in December 2017 in the presence of Esmeralda’s skipper Igor Zaretskiy. The boat itself was then at the60a3 Yachts SL in Alicante yard in Alicante, where it was being prepared/modified/refitted ready for the 2018 Golden Globe Race. Russian sailing magazine Yacht Russia and its editor/publisher Vasily Senatorov provided most of the funding for the campaign with a sponsorship budget said to total € 500,000.
Once committed to supporting Igor, it seemed only natural to me that I should do my best for the project and I thus became heavily involved for many months – not least because the Endurance 35’s existing mechanical wheel steering system (including the rudder) looked less than reliable and had to be replaced.
I exchanged a couple of hundred e-mails with the Russians in Alicante and Russia over this period, so clearly we were talking about much more than just transom ornamentation! I feel I have something of an obligation to share what I have learned with people it might help. Naturally I also enjoy being able to assist sailors with their projects, especially if they are receptive and welcome my input. This being the case, when we all gathered some time later in Les Sables d’Olonne it felt like meeting up with old friends (especially once the vodka began to flow).
Like the four other Windpilot sailors on the GGR start line, Igor had a complete spare Pacific unit as well as a large pack of spare parts on board just in case. It was agreed that both would remain my property insofar as they survived the trip unscathed.
The arrangement worked very well, with my only losses being the equipment on Abhilash Tomy’s ill-fated Thuriya. Esmeralda reached the port of Albany in Western Australia in November 2018, at which point the skipper was quickly flown back Moscow and admitted to hospital. Shortly afterwards, Yacht Russia announced that the Esmeralda project had come to an end and Igor Zaretskiy’s Facebook account was deactivated. My agreement with the campaign could have been wrapped up at that point too, had my equipment been returned with similar haste, but it turned out I was not to be so lucky. Now though, 30 months later, the story really has finally come to an end.
There are Windpilot sailors all over the world and my database lists thousands of contacts down under. Once I knew Esmeralda would be in Albany, one e-mail was all it took to open communications with a local connoisseur of my transom ornaments. Darren Russell ofEmu-Point-Shipwrightseven managed to send me photos of Esmeralda coming in on the very day she arrived.
The boat spent 17 months out of the water at Darren’s yard – 17 months during which I strove in vain to raise any kind of meaningful response from Russia. Countless attempts to persuade my opposite number to comply with our agreement came to nothing as who knows how many e-mails on the subject went unanswered. After 13 months I sent an invoice to Moscow. No money appeared, but it was suggested I might expect to receive my equipment back when Esmeralda returned to Europe.
It has now been 30 months since Esmeralda first made landfall in Australia and she is still there. The boat was moved from Albany to the marina in Fremantle in March 2020 and then coronavirus erupted and Canberra raised the drawbridge. The view in Moscow apparently was that this additional delay would have to be my problem, not theirs.
Serendipity then intervened to my advantage when I discovered that Vasily Senatorov had published an unrelated article on the subject of honour and honesty. Entitled “I Have a Dream”, the article presented me with a perfect opportunity to launch an open letter to Vasily and this time I had a response within just a few hours (see Part 1 below)! A few hours is also all it took for my letter to reach the top of Google’s German-language hit list for the search term “Vasily Senatorov”. While all of this was going on I had also started making contact with friendly sailors down under. The response was almost overwhelming and I soon had offers of help from all over the country.
I sent the following e-mail to Moscow on 30 April 2021:
Good Morning Vasily, I am writing to you as a fellow sailor to remind you of the appeal I made on 3 April 2021: please make it possible for us to bring my involvement in the GGR on behalf of Yacht Russia to a satisfactory conclusion.
Please arrange a letter/e-mail confirming that you consent to the transfer/return of the Windpilot equipment per the invoice you have received.
Please send your e-mail to Igor Mironenko, who is in possession of the key to Esmeralda, …. and to the following people at Fremantle Sailing Club … who are authorised to look after the return of the equipment. Photos of the components to be returned are provided in the attachment.
I look forward to receiving your confirmation Friday 7 May 2021
The required authorisation was forthcoming from Russia just a few hours later and the owner’s representative, Igor Mironenko, then quickly handed the equipment over to Bruce Portman (on left with baseball cap in the photo).
Which brings to a close my sponsorship agreement with Yacht Russia.
The story of Windpilot in Australia begins with the extraordinary voyage of my South African friend Geoffrey Hilton Barber, a blind sailor whose singlehanded Southern Ocean passage from Durban to Fremantle in 1997 made the newspapers all over the world and created something of a sensation at the Fremantle Sailing Club.
Geoff’s arrival in Freo turned out to be my market launch in kangaroo country. Not long after, Bruce Portman bought a Pacific Light for his First 210 Piphrontis and set off to explore his local and not-so-local waters properly. Later on Bruce’s focus shifted to family life and the First – together with its transom ornament – was sold.
When Bruce re-acquired his beloved pocket cruiser not long ago the Windpilot was gone, apparently having moved on to a new home.
Just recently I heard from Bruce that ten years previously he had advised his friend Paralympic sailor Jamie Dunross to opt for a Windpilot Pacific – and had subsequently installed the unit when it arrived.
Jamie completed a remarkable solo circumnavigation of Australia with his S&S 34 Spirit of Rockingham in 2010, becoming the first person with quadriplegia to achieve the feat and earning a place in the Fremantle Sailing Club Hall of Fame.
Sometimes, it seems, if we can just start things moving in the right direction, the pieces will eventually fall into place of their own accord. It helps, I think, not always to view everything purely in business terms. The human factors are more important and infinitely more beautiful. They are what makes stories like this possible, what enables me to find a happy ending for an otherwise rather unsatisfactory experience with Russian press barons.
Yesterday Bruce stowed away in his garage a very special Windpilot Pacific, one that sailed all the way to Australia without once leaving its sleeping bag and bunk. No doubt it will have a much busier life once the family’s new boat is ready: with Logan (6), Noah (4) and Phoebe (3 months) on the crew, I imagine Bruce and his wife Sophie will have plenty of use for one more reliable helm (and a silent one at that). Bruce works at Fremantle Sailing Club, just around the corner from home.
How could I ever fail to enjoy my work when it leads to stories like these!
22 May 2021
03.04.2021 PART 1
A MATTER OF HONOUR, I TRUST?
I recently sent the following letter – in German – to Vasily Senatorov:
Dear Vasily Senatorov, I hope you will not mind me writing to you in German but I am aware that you have spent a long time living in Germany and I know that you are comfortable with the language. Continuing the correspondence I have been conducting with you and your son Boris for the last two and a half years or so, I regret to have to remind you that the equipment supplied to you with the invoice dated 10.12.2019 has not been returned to us and that this invoice has not been paid. You did acknowledge your obligation to return the equipment in your e-mail of 26.12.2019 but the goods have still not been delivered to us.
It was quite clear at all times in Paris and Les Sables that YACHT RUSSIA was acting as overall sponsor for the Esmeralda campaign, a fact backed up by correspondence with Michael Snegirev and Alexander Morozov and in Yacht Russia and press reports from around the world. According to my understanding, that means the legal responsibility for the Esmeralda project rests with you and with Yacht Russia, of which you are publisher. This assessment also appears to apply under the law of Switzerland, where you own a home.
That said, I find it difficult to accept that a man prepared to publish, in his own country and through German sailing website SEGELREPORTER a report entitled “I HAVE A DREAM“, a man with the courage to speak frankly about unsavoury situations in the sporting arena and demand improvements, would not stand by his word in relation to an agreement concerning my wholehearted support for the Esmeralda team!
Hence my appeal to you today as a sailor and businessman: I would like to request that you now arrange payment of the outstanding amount so that I am properly recompensed for my commitment to Igor’s GGR adventure. That would be “My dream about a fair cooperation”.
That is a question to which (should the situation arise) you and I would both need to give some serious thought!
Reports have appeared in the Russian media recently stating that Igor Zaretskiy may well be back on the GGR start line in 2022. What are we to do in Les Sables next year if Esmeralda attempts to head out for the race carrying a Windpilot that has still not been paid for after four years?
Best wishes from Hamburg
Vasily Senatorov says:
April 7, 2021 um 12:08 am
You are free to use any channels of communication. If you think that publicity of your blog is so high that it can help us to step on board of Esmeralda In Freemantle and bring she quicker to Europe I even welcome it. But be realistic: unfortunately the pandemic measures of Australian government do not provide any possibility to enter the country. Even the possibilities to leave Europe – as a German citizen you definitely know it better then me – are very limited.
In this Situation I can only repeat what I have written to you almost 10 months ago: as soon as Esmeralda gets back to Europe you will receive the reserve set of your autopilot system.
I have much higher motivation to move the yacht to Europe because every month I pay a fee for docking of the boat in Australia. So please be patient at this force-major situation.
I understand that all of us are tired from current lockdowns and wish you and your family to stay safe.
YACHT Russia magazine
7 April 2021 at 12:10 am
Dear Vasily Senatorov,
Thank you for responding to my open letter and thank you in particular for responding so quickly. This is much better than e-mail (I am still waiting for a reply to the message I e-mailed you on 21.11.2020)!
I am somewhat puzzled by your suggestion that the pandemic has prevented you from complying with an agreement that goes all the way back to 2018. Was the boat not up on the hard standing in Albany between October 2019 and March 2020, before the pandemic had even become an issue in Australia? The equipment could easily have been handed over to Darren Russel/Emu Point Shipwrights at that time.
I don’t think we, as serious businesspeople, can really blame the failure to abide by the terms of the contract on the pandemic, especially given the extent of the support I proved to the campaign, which I am sure went far, far beyond what would ordinarily be expected under a sponsorship deal. Bear in mind I exchanged something like 120 e-mails with Michael Snegirev and also corresponded with Mr Morozow to clarify the details of Esmeralda’s gear and arrangements.
This level of engagement stems from genuine enthusiasm, an enthusiasm I also brought to Les Sables, where I provided considerable additional assistance to Igor. And, let us not forget, I did all of this despite the organiser’s efforts, both before and during the race, to denigrate my brand and ensure the balance of publicity it received from the race was overwhelmingly negative (while all the good press went to my competitor – the one who was paying for the privilege). Start here if you need to refresh your memory:
Or in English, if you prefer:
Mr Senatorov, I carry on my business around the world without any paid advertising, relying on sailors to spread the word for me, and have become the global market leader on that basis. At the age of 73 and after 46 years with Windpilot, I care about the human factors more than ever. Agreements concluded amicably between one sailor and another have in my experience thus far proved to be uniquely reliable. I ask you in the friendliest terms please not to create an exception!
Best wishes from Hamburg,