Much has been made of the transformation the city of Limassol has undergone on land, with the port city on Cyprus’ southern coast having been regenerated into a bustling hub of business.
The towers shooting ever higher into Cyprus’ blue skies are a hive of business activity. Businesses of all kinds have made the city their home, and in this regard, success has bred success, with more and more companies electing to move to the city.
In the shadow of those towers are the pristine blue waters of the Mediterranean sea, which form a picturesque backdrop to the burgeoning corporate powerhouse.
Freedom Finance Europe, however, noticed an opportunity for Limassol’s sea to be more than just a backdrop to the business activity taking place on the land, but an opportunity in and of itself.
Working with local nautical clubs, they created their own sailing team, and in November brought the 2023 European Sailing Championship to Cyprus.
The event was the first of its kind in Limassol or anywhere on the island and saw six days of elite level sport take place just off the coast.
The Cyprus Mail was invited to attend the final day of the championship from a viewing gallery on Pier 2 of Limassol’s Molos promenade. There, we were joined by a diverse range of people.
Some were experts on sailing and keen followers of the sport and some were taking an interest for the first time. Some were Cypriots and some were from overseas. Some were young, and some in their golden years.
In addition to the spectators, there was also a DJ and a commentator to keep spectators informed and navigate them through the ins and outs of the sport.
Among those watching on was Tom Lord, marina manager at the Limassol marina. He told the Cyprus Mail that the staging of the European Championships in Limassol was a chance to further engage with the local community and drum up interest for the sport, particularly among young people.
He emphasised the importance of building such relationships and of growing the sport.
“We have ideal conditions for sailing almost all year round here in Limassol, and this is a tremendous opportunity for us to show that to the world.”
As the day drew to a close and the last race finished, the sailors were applauded by spectators on the pier and made their way into the marina to moor, before preparing themselves for a reception in the evening.
Swedish team Happy Yachting, with Per Svardson at the helm, won the championships, with Romanian outfit S for Summer, helmed by Ryzhkov Nikolai taking the silver medal, and a positive end for the home crowd and the title sponsor, with Freedom Finance’s Freedom Sailing 2 team picking up the bronze medal.
The reception was held at the Limassol marina’s classy Gazebo Mare beach bar after the sun had gone down, and was attended by Limassol’s mayor Nicos Nicolaides.
Before almost getting sprayed with champagne by the jubilant Swedes as they received their medals, he told attendees “On behalf of Limassol, I congratulate the athletes and organisers with a very successful regatta. We are proud to host the 2023 European Sailing Championship and we look forward to hosting the next year’s European, and perhaps, even the world championship, in our city.”
As the celebrations began to die down, Evgenii Tyapkin, Executive director of Freedom Finance Europe and captain of the company’s Freedom 1 sailing team, sat down with the Cyprus Mail to speak about the championships and his hopes for the future of sailing in Cyprus.
“This has been a very successful week, and truth be told, a dream come true to win the right to host the European championships here in Limassol, in our home country,” he said.
“It is a great honour for me and for Freedom Finance Europe to be part of hosting professional teams from all over Europe, and cherishing team spirit and true competition together in Cyprus. I want to thank the participants, partners and guests of the European Sailing Championship for making it a truly remarkable athletic celebration.”
Asked what the aim of hosting the championships was, he said he wanted to make sailing popular in Cyprus here and the response from the spectators was very encouraging.
“This particular class of boats that you saw today, you can sail them with zero experience. There was one sailor competing today who has only been sailing for two years. With this ease of access, we can make sailing a popular sport in Cyprus and, in turn, make Cyprus a popular destination for sailors,” he said.
“In addition, we want to increase the profile and the popularity of Cyprus both in Europe and in the world. We want to build the country’s profile.”
Concurring with Tom Lord’s earlier comments, he said “we have unique weather conditions here, making it naturally conducive to sailing. I believe Cyprus can become a centre for sailing, and this will improve the image of Cyprus.”
“Our organisation is good. The country is good. The fleet of boats we have is good. With the right staff and the right local government support, we have been successful. All of this had to align to make this event successful, and all of it will have to align every time we hold such events in the future.”
Speaking about relations between the sailing club and the local community, he said “our club was born from the local community. We are all sailors who live here, and this is our home. Of course, we are interacting with local residents, and we know it is not enough just to exist here, but to make a positive contribution to this community, and this is at the heart of what we are doing.”
“We would like to grow, and that requires maintaining good relations with local communities. We have learnt from this event, and we will apply what we have learnt when we host future events,” he said.
Asked what those future events may be, he said there is the potential for Cyprus to host winter series sailing due to the island’s mild winters. “There are a lot of series we could bid for to host. Maybe even the world championships somewhere down the line,” he added.
“Teams here have been impressed by Cyprus’ hospitality, they are pleased with the work we have done. They may therefore support our bids, and spread the word that this is and can be a world class sailing destination. This will allow us to expand.”
He then touched on the non-sailing work Freedom Finance does.
“We are an investment company. We provide access to stock exchanges by utilising new technologies. We have around 360 local employees,” he said.
“We want to build our company and our sailing project because we live here. We are interested in building something good for Limassol, something good for Cyprus.”