Cyclades Regatta 2018: Inshore racing off Milos island

JULY, 2018
Sailing races


By Helen Iatrou. Videography by Carlo Raciti 
After an achingly slow start to this year’s Cyclades Regatta, we were itching to get our sailing club boat Giorgio back on the water for race leg two of the annual event.
We traversed the first race leg – stretching 60 nautical miles between the Cycladic islands of Kea and Milos – in 23 seemingly endless hours, most of them in intense summer heat and windless conditions.
So, after a full rest day on Milos, we were ready to tackle the scheduled inshore race off the port town of Adamas, that is constantly buzzing with people, tour boats and yachts.
We savoured a light yet constant breeze of around 10 knots in Milos’ long, deep natural harbour, one of Greece’s biggest and most impressive. Indeed, the harbour is one reason the horseshoe-shaped island is such a popular sailing destination.
One of the major highlights of the race involved passing right in front of the tiny fishing hamlet of Klima, known for its traditional multi-coloured boat houses called syrmata.
What a huge rush it was gybing round the buoy markers and speeding ahead of our competitors.
For most of us, it was a whole new experience as it was the first time we had crewed in an inshore race.
Our sailing club, the Nautical Club of Palio Faliro, did rather well in the inshore race. Our two fellow club boats nabbed top honours in their respective categories.
Cosmote Erytos 2, with Kostas Manthos at the helm, took first place in the ORC International class while Echionas, skippered by Giorgos Mitropoulos, won the inshore in the ORC Club class.
Among the 27 ORC Club boats, Giorgio placed a respectable fourth so we were pretty happy about that.
As with all regattas, the Cyclades Regatta is as much about the race as the island destinations featured in the programme, which changes from year to year. Generally, the itinerary alternates between the islands of the North and South Aegean.
On Milos, we had one-and-a-half rest days but wished we had a little longer to see this fascinating island at the southwestern edge of the Cyclades.
The rich volcanic earth of this isle of almost 5,000 inhabitants has long been mined for its precious minerals.
Up until recently, it had remained a well-kept secret among Greeks, particularly couples, who head there to hop between its incredibly diverse beaches, which number around 75.
These range from moonscape-like Sarakiniko and its deep emerald waters to more remote Gerondas, where you can take shade from the sun beneath natural cave formations, as long as you get there early enough.
One of our favourite Greek islands, we had last visited Milos eight years ago, spending a good 10 days exploring as much as we could with a feisty four-wheel drive.
Back then, we took an unforgettable day trip on a sailboat to swim and snorkel at the sea caves of Kleftiko and Sykia, with a group of about six other people.
This time around, we were a little disappointed to see day tripper boats heaving with visitors heading out of Adamas port for tours of the island and onto the caves.
Nevertheless, we were relieved to find that, as far as we could tell, the island hasn’t changed much since 2010.
Beaches like Alogomandra, whose redeeming feature is a cave with a roof that has long collapsed, remain pristine. There, we took a refreshing dip late one afternoon and watched as silhouetted figures jumped off rocks into the sea.
One evening, together with the Giorgio crew, we sampled assorted meze at a taverna in a quiet area of the island’s capital Plaka, run by a dreadlocked Greek chef. We then wandered up the cobblestoned steps that lead to the top of the village, losing ourselves amid atmospherically-lit narrow alleyways and bumping into other regatta crews.
The authentic fishing village of Pollonia, with its string of waterfront tavernas and sandy bay, looks almost exactly the same, with the exception of some contemporary signage and a few more whitewashed studios and apartments in the area of Pelekouda.
There, we were fortunate enough to stay at Salt Suites & Executive Rooms, a boutique property of just 10 rooms that enjoys a peaceful western-facing seaside position and, as a result, jaw-dropping sunsets.
While we love to race, staying on board isn’t always easy. Imagine tens of yachts rafted up at port and arriving early in the morning, as we did, with almost no sleep for a full day.
With the heat of the summer sun bearing down and the port coming to life early in the morning, a sparse cabin in a racing yacht isn’t the best place to recover from a long, tiring race leg.
So, this is why we almost always book a studio or hotel room to stretch out our legs and properly rest our weary bodies, as well as enjoy a decent shower.
At Salt Suites, we stayed in the sprawling two-level Kleftiko honeymoon suite, named after the sea cave.
All beige curved corners and polished floors, upstairs is an airy bedroom with a stark white ensuite bathroom and two balconies.
Downstairs is a sunken lounge area adorned with beach-style décor such as little sailboats made with driftwood, a roomy kitchen and breakfast table, a second bathroom and an enormous terrace that looks out to sea.
The day we arrived, exhausted from the race, we made good use of an open-air Jacuzzi on the balcony.
On our final evening in Milos, we joined fellow crews at the award ceremony held at the local sailing club. We swelled up with pride as a couple of teenaged club members, representing the new generation of Greek sailing talent, receive an award for their recent successes.
A three-member crew participating in their first sailing race also collected a cup in recognition of their dogged determination to finish the Kea-Milos leg, even if they didn’t make it within their allotted time limit.
Our time on Milos ended with the sun setting over Adamas that night, as we watched youngsters run back and forth across a rickety wooden jetty basking in a deep orange glow.
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