The 44Cup has always been popular with Russian teams, the high performance owner-driver one design class attracting their nation’s top sailors. However Evgeny Neugodnikov and Tavatuy Sailing Team’s owner Pavel Kuznetsov are exceptional as they both live far from the ocean in Yekaterinburg. Just east of the Urals, this is some 1000km from the Caspian Sea to the southwest and even further from the Barents Sea to the northwest.
Having taken it up when he was 10, sailing was in Neugodnikov’s blood. Talented, he represented Russia in the Optimist in Palma in 1996 and the following year at the Europeans in Slovenia. Later he subsequently graduated up to the Laser. However thanks to his club’s Yava Trophy, the lure of its 50,000 Euros prize money and his exposure to sailing titans like Baird and Jimmy Spithill, plus the Soviet Union’s performance match racing in the Soling, Neugodnikov’s focus lay in match racing and ultimately the America’s Cup. This he took up in the late 1990s, turning pro in 2002. He recalls: “We thought that if we went match racing, we’d get better and better and could come to the America’s Cup - but we were very young! However it did give us the motivation to get better, to find the money and the time to practice. It gave us a platform.”