THE AGEAN ARCHIPELAGOS RACE
Written by Costas Tsantilis, skipper of Anything-X
Although I got really excited at first, with a second thought I realised that the success of such a race could be doubtful. Every body knows that most Greek sailors, prefer to combine a good race with a cruise and relaxation in the sunny Greek islands, than racing non stop a long and tiring race. Taking into consideration the fact that other, even sorter, races failed to attract the participation of the majority of Greek sailors (for example the PARAPOLA and MILOS races) the idea of this particular race seemed far away from the reality.
At the end, things were not so pessimistic and preparations got started. In March 1995 we decided to participate and the operation of preparing ourselves and our yacht Anything-X got into action. The crew gathered many times to discuss tactics and other problems and of course to settle other bio, issues, such as the menu preferences of everybody. Additionally a thorough study of the course and the alternatives - in case of calm weather- took place and the spots of the phares to be found in our course were appointed on the map and so did the waypoints, which were installed at the GPS.
Another difficult task was to select the final crew. Our criteria were simple: cooperative spirit and experience of other long races. So we ended up with the following people:
1. Costas Tsantilis, with an experience of 39 years in sailing and participation in races like the Aegean sailing week, Round of Peloponnissos race, Andros race, Sydney to Hobart race and others.
2. Stelios Koutsikos, with an experience of 40 years in sailing, and participation in the Aegean sailing week, Andros race, Giralia race, Ravena - Split - Ravena, Livorno-San Remo-Livorno and others.
3. Spyros Papantoniou, with experience of 25 years in sailing, and participation in races like the Aegean sailing week, ABC Cup, Andros race and others.
4. Petros Schiligi, with 24 years experience in sailing and participation in races like the Aegean sailing week, Andros race and others.
5. Denis Mavrocordatoswith experience of 10 years in sailing and participation in the Bol d’ or in lac Lemans and one Transatlantic.
6. Angeliki Hatzopoulou with experience of 6 years in sailing and participation in the Aegean sailing week and other races.
We devised ourselves into two groups: the first included Denis, Spyros and myself and the second Stelios, Petros and Angeliki. Our support croup included Caterina Tsantilis and her assistants: Paul Schillitzi, Yannis Exarchou, Doris Tsigri and of course Cotso my dog!.
Caterina did a great job with the catering nutrition and our supplies for nine days (and nights) were loaded on board.
At noon of the 5th of July 1995 everybody was ready for a great adventure in the Aegean Archipelago.
At the starting line, eleven yachts were placed, which were the following:
1. DIESEL - ROSA DEI VENTI, X 512, skipper George Vassilopoulos
2. SIDHARTHA, X 412, skipper Alkis Magriotis
3. FOLI-FOLIE - GOUDALINI, X 412, skipper Socratis Zigomalas
4. BLUEJON, JONMERI 39, skipper Notis Filippas
5. LOUPIN, JUET 1120, skipper Costas Cazacopoulos
6. ECON INDUSTRIES - GLAROS II, FIRST 38, skipper Angellos Houndas
7. MAREFLOR, DULLIA 30, skipper Apostolos Kalpacas
8.AGF KOSMOS- D.FINANCE-ANYTHING-X, .X342, skipper Costas Tsantilis
9. SARLIS- PIX-LAX, X99, skipper Dimitris Vassilakos
10. ELSPETH, CARTER 33, skipper Christos Sotopoulos
11. PANDEMONIO, Formula 28, skipper Alkis Logothetis.
The Race Committee being on board the brand-new OKTANA which was granded by the same person who found the title of the race, Mr. John Goulandris, did its last preparations before the start and finally the first «AEGEAN ARCHIPELAGO RACE» had started. A new page in the history of Greek Sailing was about to begin. 535 nm were waiting for us, starting from Phalyron Bay to Cape Sounion, North, around Aghios Efstratios, then south towards Psara and Ikaria, turn in Astipalaia, and from there to Milos and finish at Vouliagmeni.
We did a very good start, which had as a result that Anything-X was very close to the larger yachts. These ones, taking the advantage of the sea breeze, which was becoming stronger and stronger, were leading the whole race: first Rosa dei Venti, and close Sidhartha and Goudalini.
We sailed until we reached Fleves islands, surrounded by other yachts of friends who went out to wish goodbye-farewell! The whole atmosphere was a true celebration, as all the had hoist the NOA and the race flags.
Right after Fleves, we kept going close to the shore, waiting for the North wind, which came after we had passed Arsida. Six hours sifts began, and they were kept with devotion, which was, I guess, the key to our success. Experience from other big races, in which most of us had participated in the past, lead us to this decision, which provided at least a 3-4 hours sleep for everybody every six hours. Another rule which was really followed was the helmsman’s changing every two hours.
We doubled Cape Sounion having close to us Glaros II, PIX-LAX, Pandaimonion and Bluejon and we started sailing up to Cavo Doro sailing close to the wind between Makronissos and Kea. The wind at the same time calmed down and we found ourselves seeking for the wind during the whole night.
As the sun risen at Thursday 6th of July, the wind got stronger and first Rosa dei Venti, then Goudalini and Sidhartha started moving and after a while they disappeared in the horizon.
All yachts sailed to Aghios Efstratios with a North wind of 20 - 25 knots, and we were keeping our route east in the middle of the Aegean Sea, in order to avoid as much as possible the opposite stream, which passes near by Evia, and then thinking to take the advantage of the Northeast wind, which could move us to Aghios Eustratios. All around us we could see the wonderful Greek Archipelagos, where the seabirds and seagulls were flying, but apart of them, another seagull, Glaros II together with PIX LAX and Pandaimonio were following as well.
The wind became stronger as the sun was reaching its highest point and the weather was at this time accurate; a strong rainfall cooled us slightly.
Our regular communication with HELLAS RADIO on one hand and NOA on the other, allowed us to have a continuous overview of the spots of all the yachts. Also the updated weather forecast, which we regularly were receiving from our support team allowed us a clean picture of the weather that we would face further on our course.
At the evening of Thursday we re surprised to hear from the VHF the spot of Sidhartha, which showed the yacht had made an overreach to Aghios Efstratios. In the meantime the wind got even stronger and so did the waves.
Polemistis with his commander Mr. Malfas, a warship sent by the Hellenic Navy as escort boat throughout the race - by doing over 2.000 miles in its effort to watch all the yachts- overpassed us, as we were trying to pass the south edge of Aghios Efstratios.
Before downing we doubled Tripiti cape, which was not easy at all, since the beacon was out of order. Finally we moves towards the North edge of the island, the islanadrock named Aghioi Apostoloi.
With the first light of the next day, we saw about 3 miles ahead of us Sidhatrha, which after passing Aghioi Apostoloi hoisted the spinnaker and disappeared.
Later that morning, Stelios, Petros and Angeliki, switched our brand-new star- cut spinnaker with the all round one, which we kept continuously for 26 hours, the time we needed to reach Astipalaia island. The wind fit perfect to our spinnaker, blowing between 18 - 22 knots and Anything-X was really flying with 9, 10, 11, 12 and the unbelievable 14,1 knots speed.
We head already reached Psara island having just beside us on the left Glaros II and PIX-LAX and two miles behind us in constant distance Goudalini, which was, as we later fount out, stucked for a long time near Skyros island.
In our communication with NOA we heard that Pandaimonio had abandon the race just before Aghios Efstratios. That was really pity because according to the rating list, she was leading the race till then.
Polemistis passed by us just about the time we were tasting the magnificent lasagne, which Caterina had made for us. Nicos Zeinakis on board Polemistis, really wanted to taste them. In the early afternoon Goudalini hoisted the spinnaker and soon enough overcame us.
We were approaching Ikaria island as we saw all around us dolphins jumping and playing. When the night came the sea was filledup with lighted small islands, which were sparkling. This was really the magic of the Aegean Sea. But we forgot all these as soon as we realised that the lights of Glaros II were behind us We had overpass Bouves islands, on our righ leading to Astipalaia when I went to sleep for a while. The wind speed was nearly 25 knots and kept on blowing all through the night.
I woke up very early in the morning (it was Saturday already) and I saw just ahead of us Astipalaia and PIX-LAX. Dimitris Vassilakos and his crew had worked really hard during the night sailing aft, the ideal sailing for this particular yacht., (X-99) and Glaros II was still half a mile behind us.
During our morning communication with NOA we received the spots of all the yachts and we were informed that Elspeth had abandoned the race.
The wind was blowing stronger as we passed over Exopetra cape, being a mile behind PIX-LAX. After a little while Glaros II overpass us and the two yachts, Glaros II & PIX-LAX were showing us the way to Milos.
The weather forecast had warned us that we should expect north winds, force 7 - 8, which was really confirmed after a while, but with our Genoa no 3 and one reef, the problem found its solution. We sailed all the way to Milos having leeward PIX-LAX and Glaros II.
As the light was falling the wind got stronger and so did the waves. The latest weather forecast was warning about stormy winds north, Northeast force 7 to 8 and locally 9 beauforts. In this situation at about 11 p.m. after we had passed Paximadi island at the south edge of Milos, we started going upwards to the finish, having Glaros II in front of us and PIX-LAX behind us.
A head of us we could see Falkonera’s lighthouse, and on the right that of Antimilos. After a quick meeting we decided to keep our course towards Peloponissos hoping that the waves will be smaller and so did PIX-LAX, while Glaros II head for Serifos, probably because Angelos was more familiar with this course.
Things were really tough by this time and the windspeedmeter was indicating 42 - 48 knots, we were complitely wet and Anything-X was shaking up and down between the waves. This was the worse point of the race. The crew was more or less tired and I started wondering whether the yacht or ourselves could make it through this trial. Suddenly a very loud noise disturbed us: it was the boomiwang that had broken; soon afterwards, a big hole appeared at our Genoa.
We took our last weather forecast at 2 am from Caterina and we decided to keep on to our course towards Peloponissos, as the wind speed was expected to be less in Myrtoo Sea.
We were leaving Falkonera at our right hand, when I switched my swift with Stelios and tried to have some sleep. At the same moment Petros voice was heard saying: I have no rudder!. Luckily it wasn’t really something to worry about, as it was only momentary as a wave had thrown the rudder out of the water.
Dawning Sunday, we were near by Parapola island. We could sea in frond of us the grey body of Hydra island and the sails of PIX-LAX far behind us, but Glaros II was nowhere. We heard from the VHF that Rosa dei Venti had already finished at 4:30 am and Sidhartha was very close to Vouliagmeni, followed by Goudalini four fours back, while Mareflor and Lupin had already bore away in order to avoid the storm and repair their damages.
When we had approached Hydra within a distance of about two miles we made a tack and we set course to St. George island. Suddenly as we were approaching St. George we saw a sail at about 5 miles away. It was Glaros II. Everybody on Anything-X was alerted! It was a matter of honour for us to keep Glaros II behind us. But Glaros II was continuously approaching and apart from that the wind was becoming stronger outside Patroklos island. We could not keep our No1 medium Genoa any longer and we were forced to reef, while Petros and Angeliki were trying to fix genoa no 3, which was now more than necessary.
Finally just before we had reached Anavissos, we managed to hoist no 3, which kept us within a distance of one mile ahead of Glaros II. As we were approaching the finish, our anguish got stronger and stronger. We knew that in corrected time we were ahead of Glaros II, but at this time staying ahead was what really mattered. So we sailed like in a dinghy for the last five miles of the race, continuously tacking, trying to keep our revival behind us.
But the great moment of finishing had come and the finish line was really ahead of us. The time was 8:30 pm and Lisa Stathatou, the vice president of NOA washed us all around with champagne!
We did the 665 miles of this great race in 101 hours 31 minutes and 58 seconds. The first Hellenic Archipelagos Race was really over for Anything-X. We set down our sails and went to congratulate our great revival: Glaros II finished the race just 15 minutes behind us and then the two yachts, Glaros II and Anything-X entered the Microlimano port, side by side, like it was during the whole race!
We were tired to death but thrilled. We knew we made it good, but we didn’t know how much! Our satisfaction was so big, as we had lived so many new experiences with nearly no damages. It was our best race that we ever run.
In Mikrolimano, Caterina and Cotsos were waiting for us, to tell as the great news! WE WERE THE FIRST We were the winners of the FIRST HELLENIC ARCHIPELAGOS RACE.
At the evening of 12 June 1995, at the Yacht Club of Greece the Trophies ceremony took place . In a very warm atmosphere we all promised to meet again in two years for the Second Hellenic Archipelago Race.
I wish to thank Stelio, Petros, Angeliki, Denis and Spyros for sailing with me and wining the race, my wife Caterina and the rest of the supporting team, and finally my two sponsors, AGF KOSMOS and D-Finance D for giving me the possibility to prepare Anything-X for the race.