RACE TO FREEDOM – by VLAD MURNIKOV. Now available in the STORE.
In 1989 I was living a quiet life on Cape Cod, married with a small daughter. With two Whitbread Round the World races behind me I was not looking to do another but had been keeping a close eye on the fleet assembling in England for the race starting that summer. A record 15 maxi boats were scheduled to take the start line, among them an entry from the Soviet Union. I paid particular attention to this boat as my old friend and former skipper, Skip Novak, had found his way on board as co-skipper. He had told me of some of their struggles just to get the boat built and I was sure that with the mountain of financial and technical difficulties they faced that they would not make the start. I was wrong.
A phone call from Skip 48 hours before the Whitbread started was one of those life changing moments. He needed help on the Soviet boat and he needed my help. My wife was away at the time so I left our daughter with her parents, booked a one way flight to London, and showed up the following afternoon on board Fazisi, the 85-foot low slung Russian designed yacht. The crew were still bolting bits of deck hardware down and barely glanced up when I was introduced to them. The following day, on the way out to the start, Skip pulled me aside. “None of these guys have ever sailed a boat bigger than 40 feet,” he said. “We have only had one sail on the boat since it was launched and none of them….” he continued, waving in the general direction of the crew, “none of them speak any english.” Over 7,000 miles of open ocean lay ahead of us…
As you can imagine it was an interesting trip some of which is recounted in my own book, Grabbing Life (formerly The Risk in Being Alive), as well as Skip Novak’s own account called simply Fazisi. The best account, however, was written by Vlad Murnikov, the person responsible for not only designing Fazisi, but for coming up with the idea in the first place, finding the money, and ultimately getting the boat around the world. It’s a remarkable story of having a dream and making it happen. Vlad and his wife Tatiana immigrated to the United States in 1990, lived for a while on board Fazisi, and ultimately came to discover the American Dream.
Race to Freedom is a superbly written book, a personal, heartfelt account of what it was like to create a cutting edge maxi-yacht in the days when the Iron Curtain was still drawn tightly closed. Vlad had the vision, the perseverance and determination to make it happen. This is a timeless story, one that will inspire you to have your own dream. I highly recommend this book not only because I played a very small part in the Fazisi campaign, but because of the heart and sheer guts Vlad displayed in creating the Soviet Union’s first, and by happenstance, last Whitbread entry. By the time the fleet returned from the race the Soviet Union had disintegrated. Fazisi, many say, played more than a small part in making that piece of history happen.