On August 23 1993 my daughter Aria was born. This event and
her subsequent growth and development continue to be the most profound thing that has occurred in my life. However, as earth-shattering as this moment was (and still is) for me there were other things happening that day.
Closer to home, August 23 1993 marked the first day of the first-ever leg of the Professional Board Sailors Association’s (PBA) World Cup tour to be held on Paros. August 23 was also the day the reckless, relentless son of the North, Meltemi, which had been blowing strongly for weeks (to the delight of windsurfers and the dismay of regular tourists), ceased. This led to the dismay of windsurfers and the delight of regular tourists. I for one am convinced the birth of my daughter was such a powerful force it stopped the wind.
This Grand Prix event had attracted windsurf stars from all corners of the globe, including the infamous daredevil French-Tahitian Robert Teritehau, five (at the time) times world champion Bjorn Dunkerbeck sailing for Spain and the undisputed king of windsurfing American Robby Naish. So while Aria and I were mastering diaper changing and breast feeding the fleet of becalmed windsurfers enjoyed the many non-windy diversions of Paros.
Despite there being no wind for that whole week, the Professional Windsurfers Association, (formerly the PBA) has, with the help of the Theodoridis brothers of the Paros Surf Club at New Golden Beach (Tsardakia), brought the World Windsurfing Tour to Paros each
1994, 1995 and 1996 were smaller events - not Grand Prix or Grand Slam events - with reduced prize money and racing points. This status however, did not diminish the appeal of the races here. There has always been an excellent turn-out of 20+ Greek sailors each time. Although the wind strength fluctuates, it has always blown sufficiently for the event to be successful.
While the PWA event offers a week of fun and excitement each year, a highlight in ’96 was the attendance of Nikos Kaklamanakis, Greece’s own star, fresh from a gold medal win in Windsurfing at the Olympic games in Atlanta (though a different discipline than the PWA tour). Nikos was comfortable all week hanging out with the competitors and watching the races, while his popularity was evident as he routinely was asked to sign autographs and pose for photographs. He gave a well-received speech at the closing ceremonies.
In 1997 the race was once again a Grand Prix event which meant that the top stars were here and the fleet had more than 60 racers. It was won by Bjorn Dunkerbeck on his way to becoming 10 times World Champion. Nikos Kaklamanakis returned for a few days and the two top windsurfing athletes were able to spend some time together.
This year the Meltemi proved to be in fine form, providing outstanding conditions for an exciting series of races. Blowing consistently at 20-30 knots (5-6 Beaufort) and only twice dropping below 13 knots. The conditions were so good that the maximum 11 races allowed were completed a day early!
The strong wind dictated that the racing was partial to high-speed downwind slalom races. A series of these are done in heats of 8 racers each, with the top finishers going on to semi-finals and then a winners final. Two technical upwind course races, where the entire fleet of competitors race together, provided diversity to this world-class
As described by SSM Freesports (marketing and media management for PWA) in their daily report: “PWA Racing is designed to maximise the conditions and grab spectator’s attention. Racing varies from technical course races covering the entire spectrum of wind angles to off-the-wind slalom blasts with super fast ‘make-or-break’ turns.
Slalom racing takes place over a series of rapid heats where the slightest mistake can result in elimination. Judges watch over the racing, making instant refereeing decisions. Dangerous sailing results in a black flag penalty, the equivalent of soccer’s red card, instant disqualification.”
Over the days, the competition for 1st place was very close between Micah Buzianis (USA), and Robert Teritehau. After a little drama Buzianis kept his lead by a mere 1.8 points, with Teritehau 2nd and Englishman (and the Paros winner in ’94) Nik Baker finishing 3rd. The top Greek finisher was Zois Theoharis in 18th place. Also notable was Greece’s Antonia Frey, the only woman competing in a fleet of 45 men, finishing a commendable 30th. There were 5 competitors from Paros, the top finisher being Angelos Vitsaxis of Drios in 33rd place.
For five days a year tiny New Golden Beach is transformed into a bustle of activity. The lively personalities of the competitors, the drama of the competition, the colourful flags, the dazzling fireworks display, the enthusiastic parties and the media attention all bring an air of importance and excitement. Now, at the end of August, the festivities have come to a close, the colourful flags are down, the competitors have left Paros, Aria has celebrated her fifth birthday and our traditional island strives to be just that once again.