Murka's Antigua Sailing Week debut could mark the beginning of more Russian participation at big boat regattas. Sue Pelling chatted to Mikhail Mouraton about the prospects

Among the 211 entries at this year’s Antigua Sailing Week is, for the first time ever, a Russian boat – Murka, a Swan 48 owned and helmed by Mikhail Mouraton from Moscow.

In the hands of its current owner and his partner Olga White, this boat has had a successful four years completing two ARCs, including a win last year with an entirely Russian crew.

However, despite being Russian-owned with several Russians in the team, Mouraton keeps the boat in the UK, based on the Hamble, and has selected some key players from the UK including the likes of Mike Broughton the navigator, Dom Mee (mastman) and Andy Mclelland (tactician). The Russians, which make up half the crew, are flown in on a regular basis to the UK from Moscow for training and race practice.

Speaking after the first race of the regatta yesterday Mouraton who, when he’s not sailing installs automatic fare collection systems for public transport on the metro and buses in Russia said: “We’ve been racing in the Solent for some time now and everything seems to work well. I have a good Anglo-Russian crew who I am very proud of. It’s the only way we can get a good international crew. Putting together an experienced Russian crew for that sized boat is very difficult.”

According to Mouraton the situation in Russia for sailing is fairly poor. Most are opting for motorboats or motor cruisers rather than yachts and what little sailing there is, is mainly in St Petersburg on lakes and rivers. Mouraton added: “The only real racing is in 20-30 year-old Polish one-designs which provides good racing but are really too dated.

“The problem is that up to now there’s been no real programme to bring young people into sailing. It’s now starting to happen and there’s talk about getting various small one-design classes and racing them probably from St Petersburg which is Russia’s largest and most active yacht club. Interestingly however, the sailors from Moscow tend to have more money and they’re the ones who are more likely to pick up sponsorship than the sailors from St Petersburg.”

By making the enormous effort to put a team together and turn up at their first ever Caribbean race week, Mouraton and his team have already made a statement that will hopefully lead to a more active involvement from the Russians at future sailing events and help establish an improved sailing programme to encourage more people into the sport.