Last month, the Island of Crete was the scene of the first every Union Cup Regatta sailing event. Today, thanks to some help from the locals and sponsors, the true spirit of this amazing fist-time race can be revealed through a talk with the race’s winner, Captain of the yacht El Viento, Elias Kovatzis.
For those unfamiliar with the regatta, the Cretan Union Cup was organized by several of Crete’s yachting clubs, the Region of Crete, the Hellenic Sailing Federation, and a great many local sponsors to celebrate the centennial of the unification of Crete with mainland Greece. The race, consisting of three legs in between the North coast harbors of Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, and Aghios Nikolaos. The winner, Captain Kovatzis, was actually interviewed by Katerina Ramoutsaki of Lato Boutique Hotel, where his victory won accommodations in that sponsor’s executive suites.
Elias, who is a sailing instructor based in Naytathlitikos Omilos Gazou, began his sailing adventures in Athens at the age of ten. The winner of the first ever Cretan Union Cup even studied sailing at the prestigious University of Gymnastics there. Now a native of Heraklion, Elias is married and has two children he says already exhibit his own love for the sea and the sport he so loves. His boat, the El Viento’s name is, he says, inspired by his wife and the Manu Chao song. Winner of several regattas and many sailing awards, Kovatzis, when asked about the Union Cup, had this to say:
“The organizing of this event was remarkable. I only wish that there will be many other such events held off Crete in the future. All the organizers and sponsors, especially Mr. Pallikaris (Chairman of the organizing committee), did a fantastic job for this momentous first event.”
Right here is a good point to mention the sailing tradition of Crete, in particular the Minoan dominance of the Medeterranean in ages hence. These four ports in between which the race was held, are part of a trade route fraught with historic significance and cultural tradition. The Minoans, Bronze Age master metallurgists, ruled the seas as the world’s most advanced merchant empire as well.
Ms. Ramoutsaki asked El Viento’s skipper about sailing on Crete, to which he responded:
“Greece is a very good sailing destination, and especially off Crete there probably should be 2 or 3 regattas per year, possible with a change the destinations every time. Outside the current ports of Rethymnon, Chania, Heraklion, and Agios Nikolaos, smaller ports like Georgioupoli, Bali and others offer fabulous sporting and event opportunities.”
Having won the overall race, Elias and his crew did not go unscathed sailing the harsh offshore event. A wrecked balloon sail in the final leg between Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos nearly spelled disaster, but the skipper praised his team’s efforts to stand back up during this part of the race. In keeping with all sailing tradition, Elias Kovatzis also reflected on the sport in general during his conversation with Lato Boutique Hotel’s Executive Coordinator. The winning skipper elaborates:
“One very important thing sailors learn about this sport is how to bring the boat back up when it turns down. Sailing gives people confidence, focus, virtuosity, inner power, self purity, the sport demands and makes you a whole better person apart from the fitness. These are the values we should all teach our children. For this and many other reasons, we should try to bring more people closer to this fine sport.”
Finally, when asked about his vision for this event, for his sailing fantasy in the seas of Greece Kovatzis said simply; “My vision is to see the Cretan sea full of sails.”
As I mentioned, Captain Kovatzis won a stay at Lato’s Boutique Hotel Executive. Other sponsors of these events included: The University of Crete, Anek Lines, TV Creta, the Bali Star hotel, Blue Sea Resort & Spa, the City of Heraklion, and dozens more. For the full list of sponsors, more images and news, readers may want to visit the website of the Cretan Union Cup Regatta here. My personal thanks go out to Mr. Kovatzis, and Ms. Ramoutsaki, for taking their valuable time to spotlight this wonderful Crete sailing event.