Bosphorus Cup offers sailing, socialising and history

Bosphorus Cup 2016

The Turkcell Platinum Bosphorus Cup is as much about a location and people as it is about yacht racing. Three days of competition centred on Istanbul, a city steeped in history and that celebrates diverse cultures; a centre-piece race on an international seaway that connects continents and nations. Created fifteen years ago the event has grown steadily in stature, confidence and identity, the result of the commitment and energy of passionate individuals. The overall winner of the racing at the 2016 event may have been Orient Express VI, owned by Bülent Atabay, but sport of sailing as a whole could arguably claim to be a winner too.

The event concept is simple. Two days of inshore racing on the Sea of Marmara, interspersed with the Race on the Bosphorus: a 21 nm showpiece moment for event, sport, city and country. Unlike in previous years, this year’s fleet was drawn mainly from Turkey, with perhaps the uncertainties in the wider region influencing the many Bulgarian, French, Greek, Italian, Russian and Ukrainian crews that made the journey in the past.

Unmissable opportunity

For those that did participate, like Pavel Dukov from Bulgaria sailing his 42-ft yacht Petra, the effort was well worth it: “This is the fifth time we’ve come since 2008. It is 130 nm from where we live in Varna, on the Black Sea. The Race on the Bosphorus is spectacular and offers something different to any other Mediterranean regatta”. Racing with “a bunch of good mates”, Dukov says this event is about challenge and opportunity: “Sailing on the Bosphorus requires special knowledge. Some big name sailors like Mike Sanderson and Lionel Pean have come and failed. So, first, it is about getting the best out of the boat. Then it is a personal test, and finally enjoying the weekend. People should not be afraid to come. They should come because this is unique.”

Albert Kabarov all the way from Odessa the Ukraine, racing the 40-foot Buyan is another who is sure the effort is worth it: “I have been sailing for many years and have wanted to do this race for a long time. It is a special place. The fact you can only race on the Bosphorus very few times a year makes it really attractive.”

Grand vision

The Bosphorus Cup is the brainchild of experienced offshore sailor Orhan Gorbon, born and bred in Istanbul: “I used to sail on the Bosphorus when I was a kid, yet nobody seemed interested and nobody really watched. When I started to race internationally, I soon became convinced that Bosphorus could in fact be a magnetic venue for grand-prix yacht-racing.”

It has been a climb since 2002, when the first race was held, but the event continues to grow and to fulfil Gorbon’s vision of achieving various goals: “We want to promote Istanbul, the Bosphorus and the sport of sailing. We want to give message that yacht-racing, a modern, environmentally friendly sport, can be organized successfully in the middle of a huge city.” These things the 2016 Turkcell Platinum Bosphorus Cup did and more.

Compelling location

Down at the waterside it is sometimes easy to forget that one is in the middle of the seventh largest city on the planet, with a population approaching 15 million. One only has to look up at the traffic streaming across the Bosphorus bridges or head to a vantage point overlooking the city and the strait to be brought back to reality. Gorbon has a clear view that “Istanbul offers a tremendous backdrop for sailors, spectators and media thanks to its location, history and monumental buildings such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. The shoreline offers superb viewing opportunities. The water is deep right up to the wall, and the racing easy to see.”

French sailmaker, Jean Philippe Gallois who raced with Lionel Pean on the Volvo 70 SFS in 2015 returned this year as a guest of the event agrees: “The Race of the Bosphorus is incredible. You don’t believe how close you can come to the shore. You think you can nearly take a glass of wine while you are tacking and then continue the race!” His advice to other yachtsmen is straight-forward: “If it is not on your must-do list it should be. You have to be here. You have to book the event in your racing calendar because once you have raced here you will never be the same afterwards.”

Anniversary victory

From a true sporting perspective, this year’s event was dominated by lighter winds than usual, and the five race programme was disappointingly shortened. Only one race was held on Friday, along with the Race on the Bosphorus on Saturday. Sunday’s planned races were abandoned due to a complete lack of wind. Orient Express VI was declared the overall winner by virtue of a 1,2 scoreline, compared to Renault Farr Away’s 3,1 score. Quote

At the prize giving, held on Sunday evening at the Kalamis Marina, the crew of Orient Express VI were awarded the Bosphorus Cup. A sweet victory in this anniversary year; Atabay having won the first event back in 2002.

Trophy by design

The trophy received by Atabay reflects a clear desire to connect the various strands that make this event so unique. Its designer, Can Yalman, is an old friend of Gorbon’s and leapt at the chance to do something special for the event. Yalman is an alumni of the globally respected Parsons School of Design New York, and confesses a real passion for sailing, the water and his home city: “I wanted to come up with a trophy that reflected various elements. The concept of floating on the Bosphorus, different cultures competing, this race taking place right in between Europe and Asia, and that signified victory. Hence, the two sail boats juxtaposed to create the overall ‘V’ shape.”

Yalman also spent time considering the materials: “It needed to reflect different elements, so we chose crystal glass and silver. We then tracked down a traditional silversmith in the Grand Bazaar to help us with the manufacture.” The end result was so elegantly impressive that’s it the shape is now utilized in the event’s logo. For Yalman this is proof that the trophy signifies more than a piece of metal and crystal. It has become one of the faces of the race.

Triumph of technology

The trophy is one example of how the event achieves its ambition of being more than a simple yacht race. The organizer’s approach to technology is another. Gorbon has long been convinced that the Bosphorus could offer more than just good sailing. The shoreline has plentiful opportunities for spectating and sponsor hospitality. The hills and other vantage points provided by buildings ancient and modern, mean the seaway is easily visible presenting all sorts of possibilities for exposure.

Video is a key component. The 2016 Race on the Bosphorus was streamed live on the event’s website and its mobile application BC Live. Separate vision was also provided by the primary sponsor Turkcell Platinum, who delivered an impressive four-camera LTE broadcast via the Turkcell Platinum app.

This was not the end of the technology push. Spectators and fans could track the exact location of the competing yachts at any time during racing using Turkcell's “exactly here” service. The BC Live app is used to provide corrected time results in real time, updating automatically as each crossed to finish line. Gorbon is not short of ambition for the future and has no intention of the event resting on its laurels: “I believe Istanbul has the potential to become the number one sailing stadium in the world.”

The spirit of the Bosphorus

If all the above is not enough to persuade one of the event’s current standing and potential, the Bosphorus Cup now has its own cocktail. Award winning cocktail maker and finalist at the 2015 World Class Club Cocktail Championship, Kevin Patnode, an American sailor from Newport RI who has settled in Istanbul, came up with the mix. He explains his idea: “The right cocktail conjures a sense of place and feeling. The spirit of sailing is something light, fresh and fun. This drink is about not just the sport, but also the sea and has a Turkish flavour to it. We took a classic Southside and made it a little longer, a little more refreshing. The Turkish touch comes from the Raki (pronounced Rah-KUH). When you are drinking it you get the scent of the mint and the Raki and, then, when the taste comes to you, you get sour notes as well as the sweet balance. That combination is what the event is about.”

For those interested, and prepared to drink responsibly, the ingredients and proportions are:

60ml Tanqueray No. 10 Gin
15ml Lime juice
15ml Peppermint syrup
10m Premium Raki
Topped with soda and fresh mint leaves

The 15th edition of the Turkcell Platinum Bosphorus Cup held from 26 – 29 May was organized by ORG Sports and the Turkish Sailing Federation. Turkey’s integrated telecommunications operator Turkcell is the main sponsor of the event.


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