6 BTOSC members had a great week competing in the Beneteau Blue Cup Regatta, in Greece, in the first week of November. Some good results in the racing, sunny weather, food, wine, and the magic Greek scenery made for an unforgettable trip.
For those that don’t know, the Blue Cup is a cunning initiative by local yacht hire firm Vernicos to put 42 boats on the water at the very end of their season by arranging their own regatta. So – good for Vernicos, but also great for us – part racing, part holiday (and part alcoholic binge – but let’s gloss over this). The racing took us from port to port moving south around the Saronic, with a couple of days free sailing to return to Alimos Marina (a 45 min bus ride out of Athens International Airport).
We were quite lucky with the weather, sunshine most days, no rain, no storms. OK, the wind was too light on a couple of days, and it was coolish (especially in the evenings), but it would be petty to complain about this. I’ve got sunburn on my nose, and we saw some great sunsets. And, as Peter pointed out, a bright moon was floating over our evenings in the classic manner.
Our boat was an Oceanis 40, named “Alexandra”. Our crew, left to right in picture: Mark Gaastra (tactics), Hazel Bagnall, Peter Kinsella, Roy Cullers, Mike Griffiths (skipper), John Kelly (myself).
The icing on the cake (honey on the kadaifi?) was that we came first in one race (within class A), and 11th out of 42 boats overall. A good effort for a scratch crew, we thought. It has to be said that our performance was patchy: great speed off the wind, but decidedly indifferent upwind, and our ranking race by race depended a lot on the course set. But still a good result. Races on the first 2 days were timed out due to light winds (ie, the fleet drifts for 6 hours, then race is abandoned and no-one gets a result). But on the third day the course had 2 legs, and the Vernicos race team managed to fit in 2 races on the 4th (last) day, so we all had 4 results in total.
The other 41 boats were from all over, although mainly European. Worth mentioning is the huge Norwegian contingent; mainly from the Stavanger area. They evidently have some local organisation, and have decided to put the Blue Cup on their racing calendar. We believe it to be a Norwegian boat that flew an inflatable sheep amongst its flags, and it was certainly the Norwegians that provided the most extravagant partying.
We visited some lovely ports around the Saronic. Most of these would be packed with holidaymakers (many Athenians, with or without boats) in the high season, but we had them largely to ourselves. Some of the tavernas etc had shut up, but there were quite enough still open to give us all the choice we needed.
The Blue Cup results can be viewed at http://bareboat.vernicos.gr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=177:results-2009&catid=60:blue-cup&Itemid=152.
My photos of the week can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/johndavidkelly/sets/72157627971236305/
Mark has placed our track for the whole week (as recorded on GPS) onto a map (google); this is included in my photo set.
There follows a brief day by day account.
Saturday 29th, fly into Athens and are bussed to the marina.
Sunday 30 Oct. Free sailing from Alimos Marina to Epidavros. Wind N F4. Fast reach, 1 reef in the main for part of the trip. The fleet moors up around 3 sides of wide jetty. Whole fleet eat in large and characterless restaurant up behind the front; food, wine, Greek dancing etc.
Monday 31 Oct Palea Epidavros – Methana. The first race starts in light NW, which quickly falls to nothing. Whole fleet is drifting, some in circles. We while away the time with discussions on laminar flow (very serious) and uphill sailing (slightly less so). Roy clarifies the semantics of “zoom” – it’s a relative term, and can be defined as “twice the speed of the person uttering the term”. So, eg, a boat creeping by at 0.2 knots can correctly be said to be zooming if at the time we are only doing 0.1 knots (which we were).
The race eventually times out while we are south of Angistri. Motor in. Stern to on long quay. Town welcome committee offer free ouzo on the quay, things become a little blurry after this. It might have been this evening that Hazel was heard, soco voco, “let me just crawl over to the gin”. (Perhaps less incriminating than might appear at first – the gin was stashed in a locker in front of which we had piled our sailing bags, so crawling was the only practical option – short of giving up on the gin and cracking another can of Mythos instead).
Methana is pretty little town with long beach. There’s a volcano behind it, and a whiff of sulphur in the air.
Tuesday 1 Nov Methana –Poros. Again race starts in light winds which then fall light. Alternative course 2 has been set – out to Platia, then back around west side of Poros. Roy educates us on “making tacks” (none of them do, in this day’s racing), and notes at one point that we are at least “drifting in the right direction”.
We seem to improve as we approach Platia, and the proximity of other boats gets us concentrating – we overtake several boats. Then the race times out, and we motor into Poros.
Bows to into other boats on quay (NW end of quay). Poros is nice town, bigger than others we have been to, but with good feel to it.
Wednesday 2 Nov Poros – Souplia – Ermioni. Start in lightish winds, but it comes up 3-4 for the race. We make a good start, leading for most of the way, overtaken only by boat 10. Once through the gate at Soupia, 10 looses it, and we pull away from all. Only overtaken by a handful of boats from faster classes towards the end.
Ermoni is un pre-processing village, but we walk over short hill to the other side of the promontory on which it is built, and it is prettier here. Have drinks overlooking the sea, and check out a possible restaurant for dinner. Walk around the promontory on the way back. In evening all go to fleet meeting, and Mike picks up our prize. Then buffet food is offered, so we stay for this.
Thursday 3 Nov Ermoni – Porto Heli. Weather again starts light but wind builds to 3-4. Committee boat sets a short triangular course in the morning. Beat to the first mark close under the cliffs at Ak. Thermisi. Gusts at this mark caused most of us problems. Then run to Dokos island, and beat back to the line. With two beats, our weakness upwind was exposed and we came in well down in the fleet.
After a short break (lunch on the run), there was an abrupt start sequence (leaving us 200m off the start when the gun went), then a largely downwind course to Porto Heli. We pulled out well in front of the fleet until the last mile or so, when we came around the corner and had to beat into Porto Heli: we lost several places on the beat.
Porto Heli is a largish and sprawling town, not particularly attractive, but surrounded by expensive Athenian real estate. Prize giving dinner in town, with everyone getting their 15 seconds of fame. Much drunken cavorting from the Norwegians.
Fri 4 Nov Porto Heli – Perdika (Egina). Free sailing day. Set out earlyish (8:30) from Porto Heli. With northerly 3 (occasionally 4) blowing, we opted to motor most of the way. We sailed for an hour or so in the afternoon, taking the opportunity to try to improve our upwind sailing. But though we pulled and pushed on every available control, nothing made any noticeable improvement in our pointing angle or speed, so we have no earth shattering breakthroughs to report.
Perdika, on SW side of Egina, was a delightful small and quiet village, with just us and a few locals in the cafes watching the sun go down. Dinner in taverna close to the boat. There was fresh fish on offer so we stuffed ourselves, to the gills one might say, but also with the gills, in the case of the smaller fish, eaten whole. At one point the owner went down to the quay to meet an incoming fishing boat, a returned with a bulging plastic bag: presumably re-filling the fridge for tomorrow’s diners.
I rose early next morning, walked around the bay and knocked off a quick watercolour view of the place. But on later inspection it not only fails to look like Perdika, it fails to look like much at all. Too much wet in wet. I blame the unhealthy influence of JW Turner.
Sat 5 Nov Perdika (Egina) – Alimos. Full breakfast in cafe overlooking the harbour. The motor round to Egina town, noted for its pistachios. Then back to Alimos.
Sun 6 Nov. Athens and home. After hand over of boat in morning, we had several hours spare so took the tram into Athens and did the Parthenon, in true tourist style. Then back to the beach restaurant by the marina where half of Athens were treating their elderly relatives to Sunday lunch, all tailored leather jackets and Jackie Onassis sun glasses. Then on to the airport and home.