Aiolos finishes the Aegean 600 under the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion.

Aiolos finishes the Aegean 600 under the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion.

Greek first timers claim Aegean 600 Maxi class victory


11/07/2024 - 18:32

In a race as tough as the Aegean 600 you would not expect first timers to collect much silverware – however Greece’s George Procopiou, aboard his newly acquired VO70 Aiolos, defied the odds to win the race’s Maxi class. In the process Aiolos also receives maximum points for this event in the International Maxi Association’s 2023-24 Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge, which started with last autumn’s Rolex Middle Sea Race and will conclude with next month’s Palermo-Montecarlo.

Fourth overall in the Aegean 600’s full 52 boat IRC fleet, Aiolos came top of the seven competing in the race’s new Maxi class. Under IRC, Aiolos’ time corrected out to 24 minutes 27 seconds ahead of Jørn Larsen’s turboed VO70 L4 Trifork, in turn 1 hour 26 minutes 43 seconds ahead of Bryon Ehrhart’s 88ft monohull line honours winner Lucky in third place.

This result also means that Procopiou and Aiolos win the International Maxi Association’s new George Andreadis Challenge Trophy 'for the highest placed IMA member in the Aegean 600' (right). With the blessing of his widow Anna Andreadis, this trophy was created by the IMA in tribute to George Andreadis, who died last year. Andreadis’ endeavours on the water, twice representing Greece at the Olympic Games, followed by numerous championship victories across a wide range of keelboat classes, were only matched by his huge contributions to the sport ashore, including helping steer World Sailing, the ORC and also as a long term member and Vice-President of the International Maxi Association.

Procopiou was a popular winner being one of the Aegean 600’s founders and the chief supporter of the Hellenic Offshore Racing Club-organised event via Olympic Marine; his marina in Lávrion, close to the start/finish off Cape Sounion, hosting the majority of the race fleet. He is also President of the Yacht Club of Greece.

“The Aegean 600 is one of the most challenging races worldwide. It is of course a hobby, but it is one which has a lot of synergy for tourism, for Greek seamanship and, as Greece is first in shipping worldwide, we are trying to also make it the first in yachting…” said Procopiou, adding that he was proud of this year’s record entry of 69 and their international make-up.

This fourth edition of the Aegean 600, supported by Olympic Marine and with Rolex for the first time as ‘official timepiece’, was the windiest to date. While the MOD70 trimarans that led around the race track endured 45-50 knots at the Mykonos gate, on board Aiolos they saw 55 between Mykonos and Tinos (the island NW of Mykonos).

“From the beginning we knew that we were a bit inexperienced compared to the competitors in our class,” commented Aiolos’ tactician, Rio Olympic 470 bronze medallist Panagiotis Mantis. “We hoped for medium winds so we could play with our opponents. When the wind dropped between the islands, our tactics paid off and we gained a lot time, especially from Kasos [the southerly turning mark] to the end.”

Experience and local knowledge certainly helped Aiolos. After she was Puma Ocean Racing’s mar mostro in the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, Aiolos was campaigned extensively as I Love Poland and finished second overall to Leopard 3 in last year’s Aegean 600. I Love Poland’s navigator Konrad Lipski raced on board again this year, also showing the new Greek crew the ropes: invaluable in the, at times, extreme conditions. Meanwhile many of the Greeks within the team also knew well both the race track and the numerous islands it passes.

Of sailing in 55 knots, Mantis commented: “We were under storm jib and fully reefed main and trying to slow the boat down. There was a lot of wind – you couldn’t look forward without goggles. The water hit your face at what seemed like 100km/h. I was wondering if we were going to finish - even small damage in that amount of wind could grow to huge damage...” They experienced some mast track issues but this did not put them out of the race.

Mantis was also impressed with Procopiou: "When the pressure was on, he took command - he was steering even in 55 knots. He is an amazing guy. He was saying ‘let’s push until the end. I don’t care if we have issues. Let’s push push push!' It is great to have an owner who wants to put everything into the race. He is a very good captain, from ships to little boats."

VO70s, built for racing around the world, were certainly the right vessel for this race’s conditions, claiming the first two spots in the Maxi class. “It was like an Ocean Race in two days,” commented Jens Dolmer, skipper of Jørn Larsen’s L2 Trifork (originally Ericsson 4, the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race winner – Dolmer along with L2 Trifork’s Martin Strömberg and navigator Aksel Magdahl, sailed that race on Ericsson 3). “It is special - the changes are enormous throughout the whole race, going from 20 knots and then suddenly 35 or even 45 and then to nothing. The race course is difficult to read. Everything is about the timing when you get to the islands: You can get stuck in some places, but one hour later or one hour earlier and you can slip straight through.”

L4 Trifork spent the early stages of the race nipping at the heels of Bryon Ehrhart’s substantially larger Lucky, until the tricky section north of Rhodes. According to Dolmer they saw the most wind (40-47 knots) approaching Rhodes and again after Mykonos, just before the finish. Like Lucky ahead of them, they parked up for three hours in a big wind south of Ikaria (the island due east of Mykonos). “We saw it but we acted too slow,” admitted Dolmer.

Procopiou and the Aiolos team will be presented with the George Andreadis Challenge Trophy and their other prizes at the Aegean 600 prizegiving on Saturday.

IMA Secretary General Andrew McIrvine commented: "George Andreadis was a long and valuable member and officer of our Association and supporter of maxi yacht racing. The IMA committee and I felt it was important to remember him by creating a trophy for our members in an event which George was central to establishing in his beloved Greece."

A Riva Style summer in Andalusia: the new Riva Lounge opens in Puerto Banús
16 Nations to contest Offshore Double Handed World Championship