On the 4th of September 1999, i.e. 15 years ago, a unique sailing ship, frigate Shtandart, built by enthusiasts was launched in Saint-Petersburg
The Shtandart is the biggest wooden sailing ship built in Russia. More than 10 years she sails along European coasts and makes long ocean voyages leaving hundred thousand nautical miles and several hundreds of ports behind the stern. Meanwhile, Captain and the crew are still full of energy, and now running a new sailing ship replica project.
Since the middle of XIX century, when the development of new weapons and steam engines made wooden ships and sails a matter of the glorious past, nothing resembling the Shtandart was launched from the Russian shipyards. After a while sailing ships got back on the scene for educational purposes, it turned out that to steer tons of steel in the ocean`s waves seafarers still need the unique experience they can get only on tall ships.
And we all know, this very special excitement that sends shiver down the spine when you see the sails belly out with the wind and ship racing on the waves of sea, like on the rough surface of Time. And that is one more reason why a vast crowd of Saint-Petersburg citizens (more than 40 000) was staying at the pier on 4th of September in 1999 reverently waiting for a miracle to happen. It was the day when Shtandart`s keel touched cold waters of Neva river for the first time. Many officials, among them city governor, came to greet Captain, the crew, and all those who participated in the construction.
The prince of Great Britain, Andrew, duke of York, supported recreation of the Shtandart.
Yuri Alexandrov recorded six years of construction on black-white film to cut an amazing movie called “The Sail of Hope”(rus).
Vladimir Martus, the main constructor and Captain of the Shtandart said:
“The first idea of how to launch the ship was, as in the olden times, to chop the strong rope attaching the ship to stocks and look how she elegantly slides down the slip-way straight to Neva.
During the years of construction, the new pier was built so we got to use a crane.
The port gave us one, but there we faced another problem: the right depth for it was pretty far from the bank. When a wide pontoon was installed and everything was already set for launching, it turned out that even that far we still need more space under the bottom of crane for safe work, crane operator didn`t want to run hazards…
But, you know, it was too late to retreat, so I said: “Don`t worry, we`ll find a way!”
And the day before launching the stormy wind came and water level rising gave us desired depth. Perfect!
The launching started, hoisting slings ready and it`s time to lift the ship. Just imagine: I`m on the scene in front of the audience, the ambassadors and the governor delivering the speech… and the crane operator`s voice from walkie-talkie is reaching my ears: “The wind is 17 m/s, I have no right to work in such weather conditions. 15 m/s is the limit.” I answered: “Let`s wait for 20 minutes, everything will be alright”. While finishing the orations, the wind abated a little.
- All set? – I wondered.
- 14.5, ready to start!
Everything went as planned; the Shtandart was launched at 17.20, September 4, 1999.
Next winter passed in work: the crew was rigging the ship with masts and sails, some modern equipment was also set.
In June of 2000, for the first time the Shtandart set sails for its first long trip with young, mostly volunteer crew. The route was the same as one made by Grand Embassy more than 300 years ago through countries and ports visited by Peter the Great during his diplomatic mission.
Over 15 years, the Shtandart left more than 110 000 nautical miles astern being the reputable representative of Russia in hundreds of foreign harbours. Every summer she takes part in famous regatta “The Tall Ship Races” together with the well-known Russian tall ships “Mir” and “Sedov”. Some historical movies, including documentaries, were shot onboard of the Shtandart and many people saw her on festivals of historical boats, mostly in the ports on Baltic and Northern sea coasts.
The Shtandart also proved herself to be reliable in long sea and ocean voyages. In winter 2010, we sailed to the Nord Cape in freezing sea along the coast of Norway. And last winter, the Shtandart sailed to the South, through Atlantic to Islas Canarias, visiting ports of Spain, Portugal, Madeira and Morocco on the way.
“We sailed to Canary Islands, it was the first ocean experience for the ship. Gran Canaria Island was on the lowest latitude. The most remote point on the west was somewhere in the Atlantics, close to Azores. The longest non-stop way at sea lasted for 10 days and covered 1200 nautical miles. You know, we always were eager to try it! Four hundred miles to the land, it`s quite a long distance. No rescue helicopters, only ocean waves around. You should rely on yourself only. Sounds encouraging, isn`t it? And there the challenges found us, of course. Two episodes of strong gale, really tough weather; one for 24 hours, and another caught us for couple of days.”
During this ocean voyage, the Shtandart performed perfect in spite of her considerable age for a wooden ship. And so did the crew! Traditionally there are mostly young people in the crew and many of them have no previous sailing experience. And in a few hours at sea you can evidence how our newcomers turn to seamen, set sails, steer the ship, and climb up to the yards just as experienced crew members. Couple of days at sea make a solid, harmonized crew from a motley group. That`s a unique feature of the Shtandart project.
RT (Russia Today) journalists were with us in the hard challenges of Ocean Raid. Here is the result, an amazing movie “Ocean`s Eighteen”.
The main idea of the Shtandart project is to raise a new generation of young people in terms of love and interest to naval history of our Motherland, rear them as efficient leaders responsible for what they say and do. The Captain and the crew who are running the ship all these years at a stretch long ago were just novices. The essential issue of practice is managing of more and more complex problems. Over 15 years, the crew was constantly changing, so several thousands of young people came through our “sailing school of life”. Many of them come onboard every year to experience this challenge once again, to overcome their fears and spend couple of weeks in the atmosphere of solid friendship one can find at sea.
Unfortunately, during the last 5 years we have no chance to see the Russian frigate of Tsar Peter the Great in home waters. The Shtandart is a welcome guest in many European ports, still every morning at 8 o`clock the Russian flag is proudly raised over the stern. Sad to say, in Russia we have no legal regulations for this kind of historical wooden vessels. Captain and the crew many times tried to improve the situation, asked the government for a protection with no result. Nowadays, the exiled ship is sailing in European seas with international crew, but with mostly Russian youth.
The interest to the Shtandart in her home country is still very high. To be substantive, in 2014 we collected money for new sails in a few days using crowd funding project – more than 300 people made donations to the ship!
Every year many people come onboard Shtandart as trainees or volunteers or to visit us in foreign ports.
There is a funny cut about sail training aboard Shtandart (rus).
Success of the project brings courage to our hearts for more initiatives, inspires us to dream and implement new projects. In 2014, Shtandart`s crew on European Maritime Heritage Congress presented a new daring and challenging project: the construction of the tea clipper Cutty Sark replica.
“The new tall ship in twice bigger than the Shtandart, which makes real long-distance voyages. We are planning to sail to China for tea, to Australia for wool, for a coffee to Brazil. The ship will transport cargo under sails, it`s less expensive, but honest and ecological! Future professional seafarers and amateurs will be able to sail with us onboard of new Cutty Sark. Sailing practice is the best education and very useful experience for those who are going to be skippers, mates and masters.
Now the Shtandart fundraise for Cutty Sark project documentation and negotiation. The site of future construction is still under consideration.
Meanwhile, the crew is working on the summer 2015 sailing schedule. What is waiting for us next season? The tall ship races in Norway, old cities and small historical towns of coastal Germany, Denmark and Sweden, good seamanship and a lot of interesting coastal events are waiting the Shtandart crew. Join us in spring and summer 2015! Here you can fill out the application form.