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Aegean 600 underway: A new international sailing race unfurls its sails

by Offshore Racing Congress 4 Jul 2021 14:13 PDT 4-10 July 2021
Aegean 600 - Day 1 © Nikos Alevromytis / AleN

At Cape Sounion under the gaze of the temple of Poseidon, Greek god of the Sea, the fleet of the first edition of the Aegean 600 set off today for the start of their 605-mile odyssey throughout the Aegean archipelago. Thirty-eight monohull and multihull teams started in a gentle 7-9 knot south easterly breeze with a small upwind lap to round a buoy set just off the spectacular 100-meter sea cliffs at the Cape.

From here the fleet heads south towards their first island rounding mark at the southwest corner of Milos, about 60 miles away. The weather forecast predicts light headwinds throughout the night until resuming about midday tomorrow from the south, but unlikely to exceed 10 knots in strength. By then the faster boats may be starting the next leg on a faster spinnaker reach headed ESE towards a rounding mark placed within the spectacular caldera of Santorini.

Progress of the entries, predicted wind strength and direction, and standing in ORC and IRC scoring can be tracked using the YB tracker website at yb.tl/aegean6002021, or on their companion YB app.

This morning at the Olympic Marine there was an atmosphere of enthusiasm and excitement among the teams. Assembled for coffee outside the Olympic Marine Yacht Club restaurant and just minutes before leaving the dock for the start, Valentin Oeru and his Romanian crew on his Swan 42 SetSail were quite clear in their confidence about the upcoming race: "We are looking forward to not just sailing, but winning!"

Meanwhile just meters away a team from Sweden was huddled over a laptop, looking over their weather forecast and GRIB files used for routing, and discussing the strategic options in the first leg of the race. Peter Gustafson and his team are racing on his 36-foot J/111 Blur, one of numerous international teams who have come to compete in this first edition of the Aegean 600. They are a proven team, having won their class and a 4th overall result in ORC scoring in the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea Race, a similar 600-mile race that starts and finishes in Malta.

"We were attracted to this race because of its interesting race course around islands and the warm weather," Gustafson said yesterday. He is known throughout Scandinavia and beyond for his influential sailing blog of the same name: Blur.se. "What we were surprised to find was how easy and friendly everyone has been in the organization and the excellent facilities here at the Olympic Marine venue. For those of us coming from far away where logistics are not easy in these Covid times, this has been a great experience."

But make no mistake, the Blur team is not here just for a holiday: they are focused on winning as they did in the past, with a lot of preparation and research on the geography, the weather, the rating rules and finding optimization plans for each. An example are sails and crew: the ORC rating system takes measurement of the sails and uses this and other factors like crew weight to calculate the predicted speed of the boat in various conditions of wind speed and direction...this is what constitutes the boat's rating that is used to calculate results.

"We have run numerous optimization models," said Gustafson, "to help us determine an ideal set up for this race." Besides choices of sails, whose limits in inventory were relaxed for this race, they also determined a crew of 9 was ideal, both for placing weight on the rail for windy windward and reaching legs, but also to have a rotation of fresh and rested crew members who can perform at the top of their game throughout what could be a challenging race ahead.

The effort seems to be paying off because in the early hours of the race even with light air upwind conditions, the Blur team is among the leaders in ORC Division 2.

The YB tracking site offers a leaderboard of corrected time results based on each boat's projected finish time of the race and its rating, although this can change widely as boats get separated on the course in different wind conditions.

And starting tomorrow veteran race analyst Dobbs Davis from Seahorse Magazine will be providing a daily race analysis video available on the event website.

For more information visit event website, aegean600.com.

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