So, all the guys showed up for it at 09:00. The plan was to race the first race of Piraeus Sailing Club, an 8-mile Windward/Leeward race around the cans, cross the finish line and head out to a 150 mile offshore training session to make sure every member of the OPTIMUM crew bound for Malta synchronizes with the rhythm of long offshore mode and the 607-mile Rolex Middle Sea Race that may last up to 6 days, does not harm anyone’s nerves. In addition it works as a test to all systems onboard that have gone serious maintenance and updates.
The idea to race first in close combat, on a race around buoys was to resemble the race start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race in Malta, where you have to start at very confined waters within the Valetta harbor between castle walls and leave on port three yellow Rolex buoys scattered across 8 miles of Maltese coastline, allowing thousands of spectators to watch the action. The action involves about 6 starts in a 10-minute sequence, with the smaller/slower boats going first and the larger/faster in the end. There will be about 20-25 boats in every start on a start line marked with concrete walls in both ends that is very unique and creates lots of suspense..! Then you have to deal with the fact that in the first 8 miles you are overtaking about 80-90 yachts slower than you but very-very competitive, and at the same time you are being passed by another 30-40 yachts faster than OPTIMUM 3-ASPIDA-SAXOBANK. You better be sharp there because it gets critical more often than not. Then, as soon as you leave back on starboard the last Rolex buoy and head for the SE corner of Sicily, you have to judge right when to start the crew shifts so that you keep everyone with enough rest to be combat ready for the whole 4-6 day sailing marathon and especially through the first 2 days and nights that involve passing the notorious Messina Straits.
“I was on time on board but cautious for the forecast of force 7-8 winds blowing all weekend. The skippers were cautious too and during the briefing we switched our offshore plan from Parapola-Falkonera and back, to Kalamaki-Nafplio-Kalamaki to avoid breaking ourselves or the equipment. We headed to the start area in Faliro Bay and as soon as we hoisted the old racing mainsail we lost the middle lower batten in a 30-knot gust and 5 minutes later the Race Committee cancelled racing for the day due to the heavy weather conditions. We instead, put a reef in and hoisted the A5 spinnaker and surfed down towards Hydra in high adrenaline pace. Less than 2 hours later and after few jibes we were a mile away from Tselevinia where we noticed in front of our eyes a sailing charter yacht going upwind fully reefed in 35-knots losing her mast over the side in a split second. We immediately took down the spinnaker and turned around for assistance. It was a couple only aboard the Bavaria 35-footer and nobody was hurt. They were already trying to cut the rig free so it would not damage the hull and they got a lot of courage knowing we were there on standby for them. We soon had to nurse down our old mainsail in order to hold position close to the stricken yacht only to find out when down on deck that the leech was falling apart. Half an hour later, the charterers managed to throw over the side the rig and cautiously sailed under engine towards Poros island. We took shelter to the lee of Tselevinia, assessed the mainsail damage which was beyond repair on board. We hoisted the trysail and Jib3 and continued towards Nafplio. At 16:00 we started the crew shift rotation and at 20:00 the rested shift came up on deck after enjoying my first OPTIMUM spaghetti for 2014 as part of my training for Malta too. The night went smooth with couple of headsail changes; we reached Nafplio and then non-stop back in Kalamaki at 06:00 on Sunday. The checklist of things to be fixed grew up again but we feel we accomplished what was needed as preparation for Malta. I am not sure if there are any other “crazy” and seriously motivated men out there but we actually enjoyed our Optimum night out,” says enthused Optimum pitman, cook and master of provisions Nikos Apostolakis, a valuable team player since 2007.
Count this article as Malta news-story No.2, and watch this page for more soon enough…