Tacking in 3, 2, 1..Go!

Kalamaki, Athens, Greece.  Monday, July 13, 2020

We are back in racing mode competing in the 57th edition of the Aegean Rally for 26th time out of 27 years of Team OPTIMUM existence.  It is the longest and most challenging regatta in Greece that provided so many experiences and depth in our arsenal and prepared and propelled us to international successes through the years.  Usually it lies mid-season in our racing program in Greece as we race from March through November.  But in ‘covid-19’ 2020 season, the Aegean Rally is our first race although it is mid-July!  Normally the Aegean Rally is 300-400 miles race with 2-3 different island stopovers every year which makes it unique among established international regattas.  But in the new “normality”, the 57th Aegean Rally is not a weeklong affair of racing and social events but a regatta of about 150 miles non stop racing in each of two successive weekends.  It is important to stay in record that the 57th Aegean is dedicated to 2500 years from Salamis Naval Battle and Thermopylae Battle that probably changed the shape of what we know as western world today.

 As such, we had the skipper’s meeting at the internet and the start was from Salamis island in the Saronic Gulf in Athens, where the famous naval battle took place in 480 BC.  Our Team OPTIMUM-Samos Steamship managed 1st place in Race 1 at the scoring gate in Stavronisi and a 4th place in race 2 all the way at the finish line in Cape Sounio under the Temple of Poseidon.  By doing so,  Team OPTIMUM-Samos Steamship lies in 2nd place overall and ready for battle Royale coming weekend in 2 more races.
“The team raced last time back in September when we managed to win the 52nd edition of Andros Race which is known as “The Toughest Race” in Greece due to its usually very windy conditions.  During training the boat and crew felt a bit “rusty” but “hungry” to race again.  We tacked on port exactly on the heavily biased startline and shooted for the upwind mark at full throttle which we rounded comfortably first and hoisted our brand new Quantum A2-2 spinnaker with the Samos Steamship logo flying high.  Team worked very smooth on the 20knot northerly wind and soon we entered a gybing contest with long time local rival TP52 BULLET led by Olympic champion Dimitris Deligiannis.  Soon we found a good rhythm on board and felt comfortable holding on time and distance from BULLET.  New sails always help performance and our sail designer Patroklos Tachtatzis was happy with the actual flying shapes and was keeping our interest by discussing the evolution of shapes in our new mainsail, jib No1 and A2, A3 spinnakers. At about 18:00 we started our shift schedule as the race was expected to last more than 15 hours due to dying breeze.  We reached Sounio after more than 19 hours of continuously working to improve our light air speed and we are very satisfied with the result and more importantly by the very productive atmosphere on board during the whole race and especially in the drifting conditions we experienced”,  says enthused new Team OPTIMUM-Samos Steamship co-skipper Vaggelis Nikolopoulos.

“That was my first yacht race ever and I owe the tiring but unique experience as a Samos Steamship associate in the Team OPTIMUM-Samos Steamship newly formed partnership.  It is a whole new game for me but the OPTIMUM team members made sure that all of us from Samos onboard were prepared well enough to execute our roles and immerse in the OPTIMUM team spirit.  I was mainly in the pit, grinding and occasionally doing the runners enjoying the close combat with BULLET and trying to understand handicaps, loads, sail choices, tactics, night shifts, systems on board, electronics, performance analysis, wind prediction models, eat and drink on the rail, sleep on a swinging pipecot and perform my best.  Ok, when we literally parked after rounding Parapola island for more than two hours in the night, sails flogging, with no steering ability and no moving at all, I wondered what exactly I was doing there but crew spirit was high, BULLET was next to us, we hoisted the drifter, we sat low on the leeward side and patiently kept trying to make the speedo read other than 0.00, …agonising!  An amazing sunset and a unique sunrise was included in the menu, which if I combine sharing with 14 other new mates for more than 24 hours the confined space of a racing carbon 52 footer, it was an eye opener for me.  Can’t wait for 2nd Half…!”, admitted young gun Alexandros Venetsanos.

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