For some final preparations for the Formula World Championships in Portugal next week, Sean flew to Athens, Greece to compete in the Greek FW Championships. The event took place in Schinias Marathonas on the eastern side of Athens and the top Formula and RS:X sailors from Greece took part in the four-day regatta with wind conditions anything from light winds up to 35 knots! For a full report and video of the event use the links below:
I was sitting watching the rain through the window at my home in the Netherlands last Monday when I get a call from my Aussie/Greek celebrity friend Jason Roditis (GRE-200) telling me that the Greek FW Championships are on this weekend and I should come down and see what it’s like in a country where it hardly ever rains. After a solid 5 days of rain in Holland I needed no further encouragement and I booked my tickets to Athens …
Greeted at the airport by Jason I only managed to get my sails to Greece as the lousy airline (I won’t publicly shame them) wouldn’t let me take my board and boom (although they did let me take a +50kg bag of sails and masts which was well over 3m long!). Just to drop a name, Jason is Greece’s dancing sensation being a judge on So You Think You Can Dance and will shortly be dancing as the Greek representative on the 2008 Eurovision Dance Contest which he is somehow managing to fit in before flying the next morning back to Portugal to compete in the FW World Championships next Monday. It appears ‘dancing’ is going to be the next big thing in windsurfing as Steve Allen is about to do a similar thing in Poland as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars airing very shortly in Poland …
Thursday morning we arrived at the Karavi Club at Schinias Marathonas; one of the most perfect beaches I’ve seen in Europe for Formula sailing and only a short drive from the centre of Athens on the eastern coast of the Greek mainland. The wind was already howling and the forecast of 25 knots for the day seemed pretty accurate. A small but enthusiastic fleet turned up to contest the event; a few more notables hadn’t returned from the ISA Speed World Cup on Karpathos as yet.
We rigged 10m’s and I had to quickly learn how to tune the Starboard F162 as my Vapor board was still sitting in my van back in Brussels where I’d flown from. Luckily I’d brought only one fin with me and that happened to be the worst fin possible for the 162 :-/ We did 4 races of the day in windy conditions. I took 3 bullets and a 2nd. The second place came from me doing a muppet mistake in the third race. That muppet mistake was; realising I’d been doing the same muppet mistake in ALL of the first three races – sailing around the downwind mark before the finish instead of straight to the line. Luckily I was ahead enough in the first races not to worry about this but Akis Chrisohou (GRE-22) punished me to the line seeing I had taken the extra distance in Race 3.
On Friday morning we were blesssed with a lighter wind day. I rigged the 12m for all three races we completed and had some tussles with the Greek sailors Yiannis Papaspyrou (GRE-17) and Zois Theocharis (GRE-100) who managed to take a bullet each from me with me taking the win in Race 3. By late afternoon the wind had died and I was able to spend the afternoon talking with most of the sailors about fins and tuning and all things relating to how to build up a good formula racing series in Greece. Greece have recently adopted the ‘Formula Plus’ category that we have been promoting in Australia for some time. Its nothing new, just a way to get the newer Formula sailors to do one lap instead of two whilst still starting with the main fleet as well as a system on how to introduce these new guys in to the sport and build up their confidence and enthusiasm to work on being able to finish two laps of the course. Its been really successful in growing formula in Australia and it was great to see it is also working in Greece as well. I’d love to see it spread further through Europe – this class is not just for the elite!
In the evening we went to dinner with the Greek FW Association Committee as well as some other sailors. I really love the way the Greeks eat and value the importance of sitting down together and sharing a meal with friends and family; we don’t do this as much back home in Australia with our busy lifestyles. The Greeks love their food, which worked out pretty well, because I love food too and after a few hours of eating and talking about the formula scene in Greece and how they could work on coordinating bigger and better events and attracting more Europeans, we retired for the night; leaving Jason and I an opportunity to hit the Athens nightlife – wow, is all I can say about that. Wow.
Saturday was a lighter wind day again and we only managed to get one race away for the day despite having a few attempts at this start. I tried out some new Hurricane fins from Jason which were a little better than what I had previously been using in the F162 and won this race by a clear margin. On Sunday morning, the final day, we had very strong winds coming from the North which was completely offshore at this location. It was still possible to sail, but very shifty and gusty in the corners close to the beach which made it difficult to set a fair course. On the outside, farther out to sea there were gusts up to and over 35 knots which meant we couldn’t just set a course out to sea to get away from the shifty conditions in close to the shore… so we waited… and waited…
By around 4.30pm we had to pull the plug for the day with no racing as the wind conditions didn’t change over the day. It was possible to sail in these conditions, and many guys went out to try and force a final race to start but with the offshore winds any rescues would have been very difficult and for safety reasons, wisely, the racecrew kept us on the beach.
For the prizegiving, a decent amount of trophies were dished out over a few beers in front of the Karavi Club. I won the overall event but the Greek Championship for this year went to Zois Theocharis (GRE-100). After a decent spraying of champagne over everyone at the presentation the Greeks retired home and I had another great dinner out with Jason and Antonis Nikolopoulos (GRE-202) friends back at the sailing club restaurant closer to the centre of town.
This was my first time in Greece and I must say this place has everything going for it and I hadn’t even made it out to some of the islands which apparently have even better sailing conditions. I think, at least for me, the attraction of living in a “city” weighs more over the ‘island lifestyle’ (I grew up in a big city in Australia) and so I think you’ll see me coming back to the Greek mainland to train rather than out to Rhodes or Paros… The Greek’s welcoming and passionate demeaner made this trip really special and one I won’t forget for a long time. Perfect training conditions and a perfect warmup for the Formula Worlds next week. See you guys in Greece in 2009 !!
1. Sean O’Brien (AUS-120)
2. Zois Theocharis (GRE-100) – Greek Champion
3. Akis Chrisohou (GRE-22)
4. Vassilis Solidakis (GRE-19)