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The Frigate Shtandart

October 22, 2011

The Shtandart was built in only five months, and Tsar Peter I’s personal involvement may have expedited the construction. Peter had learned shipbuilding techniques from the Dutch during his Grand Embassy tour of western Europe (1697–98), and he sailed on the Shtandart as its captain under the pseudonym Peter Mihajlov on its maiden voyage from Olonets to Saint Petersburg in September 1703.

The Shtandart’s design combined techniques from English and Dutch shipbuilding schools. The frame of the ship is wide, almost square, and the ship’s double bottom is flat, reducing the draft. The high rigging of the sails is in the English style. The frigate was launched on August 22, 1703 and set sail on September 8, 1703 for St. Petersburg.

In the great cabin there is a compass hanging over a table which can only be read from its underside. A Russian legend relates that this compass hung over Peter’s hammock and that when he woke up, he always checked the compass to ensure that the frigate was on course.

The name Shtandart signifies Peter the Great’s desire to gain access to the Baltic Sea, which at the time of the Shtandart’s construction was dominated by the Swedish Empire. A plan to take control of the Baltic Sea away from Sweden was revived after Peter’s Grand Embassy ended in 1698. The name refers more directly to a naval ensign created for the new Baltic Fleet, of which the Shtandart was the first ship. Peter’s goal was finally realized after he decisively defeated Swedish forces at the Battle of Poltava in 1709, a turning point for Russia in the Great Northern War (1700–1721).

The Shtandart was overhauled in 1710 and four cannons were added to her armament, making her a 28-gun frigate. The ship was laid up in drydock in 1711 to have several beams replaced. In 1727 Catherine I ordered a survey of the frigate to determine if she was sound enough for another refit. During an attempt to raise the ship above the watreline, the hull was cut in half by cables used in the process. The Shtandart was broken up, and Catherine ordered a replacement to be built. This order was finally carried out in 1994.

The Shtandard under Scarlet Sails in St. Petersburg

In 1994 a small group of sailing enthusiasts led by Vladimir Martus started construction of an exact replica of the ship. Martus developed a new layout of the Shtandart wherein she was built with four bulkheads, dividing her into five compartments. The “Shtandart Project” (a non-commercial organisation dedicated to youth development) launched an exact replica of the frigate on September 4, 1999. The modern Shtandart has two zones:

  • The historically accurate area above the gun deck: the steering wheel and helm, all decorative carvings, the furniture, and all of the masts, spikes, guns, gangways and hatches are carefully reconstructed.
  • The “modern” area built to modern standards and in compliance with safety regulations: This includes two Volvo Penta TAMD 122P engines and a generator.

On September 4, 1999 the Shtandartwas launched at the Petrovsky Shipyard in St Petersburg. In June 2000 the Shtandart set sail on her maiden voyage. The frigate retraced the route taken by Peter I, during his Grand Embassy.

Since 2005, the Shtandart has played the part of the “dream ship” at the Scarlet Sails festival, an annual celebration of the end of the school year in St. Petersburg from a novel by Alexander Grin. Over the last ten years the Shtandart has sailed approximately 55,000 nautical miles (102,000 km) in the Baltic, North, Norwegian and Barents Seas. She has visited fifty ports in eleven European countries.

The key mission of the Shtandart Project is to engender in young people – those who will steer us into the future – competence, self-esteem and the ability to work in a team. They will learn to overcome difficulties and to fulfil their visions.

The Shtandart in dry dock in Hellevoetsluis

Involvement with the challenges of ship building and sailing provides the means to achieve these goals. On- board, young people of Russia and of the World test themselves together in the challenging conditions of the open seas. In foreign ports, they proudly represent Russia and forge positive links with other countries.

Today, Saturday October 22, 2011, I visited the Shtandard replica in Jan Blanken Dry Dock in Hellevoetsluis, where she will be for a few days for minor repairs.

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