FROM OLD TRADITIONS TO NEW VICTORIES
As a sea nation, Ukrainians were good seafarers for centuries. Sailing down the Dnipro river from ancient Kyiv to the Black Sea and further was a regular practice long before the Middle Ages. The emergence of sailing as a leisure and sports activity can be traced to the XIX century, with the first yacht clubs popping up in central and southern Ukraine along with shipbuilding industry development.
In the XX century, Ukrainian sailors achieved fantastic results in Olympic sailing as members of the USSR team. This culminated in a phenomenal performance of Ukrainian-born Valentin Mankin (1938-2014). He won three Olympic gold and one silver medal in three yacht classes (Finn, Tempest, and Star) – a record that no one has managed to beat.
Also, Ukrainians are participants of the Whitbread Round the World Race as members of the famous Fazisi campaign (USSR, 1989-1990) and later, under the Ukrainian flag with two yachts in the 1993-94 season.
The 1991-2004 period was very successful for the Ukrainian national sailing team. In the 470 class, Ukrainians won gold in Atlanta by Braslavets/Matvienko male crew and two bronze medals (Atlanta and Sydney) by the crew of Taran/Pacholchik. In the 2004 Athens Olympics, Ruslana Taran went on to win silver in the Yngling class. Also, in 2004 Ukrainian crew Luka/Leonchuk took silver in the 49er class.
The generations gap started to affect the Ukrainian Olympic performance during that period. While seasoned crews continued to perform well on the international scene in classes like Soling, Star, and Dragon, the lack of trained young sailors made it impossible to achieve excellent results in the Olympics.
Therefore, youth development became the focus of the national sailing authority. It took more than 10 years to achieve the first decent results in Optimist and Cadet classes. But the process went on culminating recently in several world championship titles in Cadet and a world team racing championship silver medal for the Ukrainian team.