Interview with the Greek Challenge at Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, February 7, 2009
While Alinghi has made a mockery of themselves with an unsportsmanlike decision to not meet ETNZ on the water yesterday without any prior notice - a decision that wasted the time and resources of race organizers and management, and that greatly disappointed the viewing public who were looking forward to the match up between the current America's Cup defender and current Louis Vuitton Cup holder, other teams have manned up and taken their licks when affected by the (now) controversial ‘no contact’ rule that invokes points penalties in the event that the boats wind up smacking into one another.
Hardest hit in this competition by the no contact rule combined with risks of boat failure are perhaps the Greek Challenge. On day one of Round Robin 1 on Jan 30, the Greek Challenge was penalized a point when they hit the stern of Alinghi, starting their regatta out in the basement with a -1 on the scoreboard. On day 2 of RR1, the Greeks went up against the seasoned Shosholoza, who would emerge as fate would have it, as their constant competitor in the series. After a great pre-start where the Greek Challenge forced a port/starboard penalty on Shosholoza, the Greeks went on to win by 58 seconds in a tight race that saw close covering.
Out of the basement now and with a bye on day 3 of RR1, the Greek Challenge were to face Luna Rossa on day 4 of RR1. Luna Rossa had just posted their first victory in the series against Shosholoza with a convincing win. At this point, the competitors in Pool B were fairly even in points. Although Team Origin was well on top of the pool with 3 points, Shosholoza and the Greeks were tied at 0 and Alinghi had only 1 as did Luna Rossa. The gates were still well open to get seeded for the next Rounds Robin. Day 4 of RR1 saw the weather gods taking a long nap and racing was delayed 4 hours. With dusk approaching, the Greeks knew they had their work cut out for them. Brady won the desired right side out of the starting gate, and after a long drag race to the port side of the course, Luna Rossa was ahead on the first cross and remained out front, although with a much smaller margin than their race the previous day with Shosholoza. This loss would cost the Greeks in seeding, but there still was a chance to move forward into the quarter finals at the end of the next Round robin.
As luck would have it, the Greeks’ next opponent was the Pool B leader of Team Origin. Team Origin would beat the Greek Challenge by the same margin of victory – 58 seconds – by which the Greeks had earlier beaten Shosholoza. With RR1 now over, the Greeks needed to put a couple of wins in the bag in order to advance after RR2. Their first pairing in RR2 on day 6 of the series was with the Pataugas K-Challenge team. K-Challenge had emerged from RR1 with 1 point. Despite text book starting tactics and close racing on all laps, K-Challenge won with a 27 second victory.
The mountain the Greek Challenge had to climb was now very tall if they were to remain in the series. Hoping to redeem themselves, in their first race of RR2 up against China Team, the Greek Challenge copped some very bad luck when they couldn't raise a jib because of a headfoil problem. With the 10 minute pre-start underway, it was too late for a postponement due to gear failure. Limping to the start with just a main while working to sort out their jib problems, Ian Williams of China Team, kept the Greeks bounced out of the start box long enough to be 2 minutes late and thus incur a start penalty only to incur yet another penalty 1 minute later in a port/starboard incident. With that, all opportunity for the Greek Challenge to progress through the Rounds Robin was dashed.
With chin up, the Greek Challenge met up again with Shosholoza on Sunday and again saw victory as Gavin Brady and Paulo Cian went head to head and the Greeks bested Shosholoza by 1 minute 26 seconds demonstrating an edge on boat handling and match racing tactics. Without the points loss on day 1 for contact and on day 8 with gear failure they would have been on top of the silver fleet with China Team. But that’s what happens sometimes racing sailboats. The Greeks’ final race will be next week once again going up against Shosholoza to determine 8th and 9th positions for the LVPS.
Despite the disappointment, for their efforts and attitude the Greek Challenge gets 10 points for sportsmanship, and corinthianism. We sat down with Sotiris Buseas and Gavin Brady on the last day of RR2 of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series fresh off their second victory over Shosholoza and hear from a team that's happy to be here, is making the best of things, enjoying the sailing experience and putting out a wake up call that there's a serious new team on the block. -Krispy Kreme.