In 1988 Bellingham’s Soviet Union sister city, Nakhodka, sent a 40-foot racing boat KAPITAN PANAEV (”Pin-eye-Ev”) to participate in local races and in the Swiftsure Classic. The visit resulted from a six-year negotiation by the sponsor, Bellingham Cold Storage, and a Whatcom County delegation. The boat and crew remained for six weeks.
Unfortunately, the Soviet boat suffered damage in a collision during pre-Swiftsure maneuvering and could not participate in that race. It was a very successful visit, however. The crew of seven under Captain Victor Bukhalsky made many good friends and thoroughly enjoyed their time in Bellingham. During an emotional farewell, the Soviet crew unanimously vowed to return and invited a BYC boat to visit Nakhodka.
In 1989, the reciprocal visit occurred when eight yachtsmen, 12 teenagers, and three counselors went to Nakhodka for three weeks of camping and racing. Then, in 1990, a group of youngsters from Nakhodka came here to the Four Winds Camp on Orcas Island, Members of the Bellingham Yacht Club and the Bellingham Sister Cities organization felt that in light of participants from Tateyama, Japan and Nakhodka, Russia being in Bellingham, that a yacht race was a wonderful idea. This first race named the International Pacific Rim Invitational Regatta (PRIR), put teams from Bellingham, Japan and Russia onto Bellingham Bay in donated boats for ‘Round the Buoy’ races, and long distance races from Bellingham to Victoria BC, and from Victoria to Seattle. Along the way, hosted events by the people and clubs (Bellingham Yacht Club) from Bellingham, Victoria (Royal Victoria Yacht Club) and Seattle (Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle) allowed everyone to celebrate the differences in our cultures. The Russian team was one of the first cultural exchanges under Gorbachev and marked unprecedented cooperation between the US and Russia. The Russian training ship the “Palada“ was docked in Seattle for the Goodwill Games and it’s crew included the daughter of the skipper of the Russian team. The PRIR teams then escorted “Palada” to Bellingham for a formal visit.
The success of this endeavor was so great, it was decided to repeat the event bi-annually, moving the venue from sister city to sister city andThe Pacific Rim Regatta (PacRim) was formed.
This mutual partnership between the Bellingham Yacht Club and the Bellingham Sister Cities organization, continues today. During the biannual event participants travel to the hosting country and are home stayed, there are typically 5 days of racing, and social events specific to each city are held, awards are presented and gifts are exchanged. Everyone participating enjoys the friendships created. The regatta charter allows 20 people (crew and ambassadors) from each country. Including the host organizers and volunteers, several hundred people participate in this event.