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Stefanos Chandakas – All Weather Champion

The renowned gynaecologist and champion yachtsman Stefanos Chandakas discusses his athletic career, the Spetses regatta and his sailing plans for the future.

Sailing: I started sailing when I was very young, at the age of 8. I’m from Syros and I liked watching my peers sailing Optimists at the Yacht Club of Syros. So I decided to give it a try, initially in the summer months, which I spend at our home on the island. Although I was quite young, I finished well at the races, held just before the end of the summer holidays. The teachers at the Yacht Club of Syros suggested to my parents that I continue with sailing and enrol at a Yacht Club in Athens. That’s how I became a member at the Yacht Club of Piraeus.

Education and Sport: When I was admitted into Medical School there was no infrastructure in place for athlete-students at the universities. The four years before the Olympic Games proved a very challenging time. I would go to University every morning, finishing at two o’clock and then go the Tourkolimano for training. We must have trained 330 days out of 365 on an annual basis.

The Best and Worst Moments: 1996, when Stavros and Panagiotis Alevras and I qualified for the Olympic Games of Atlanta in the Soling category. It was an incredible experience. I remember every minute when the Greek team entered the stadium. My worst moment was in 1992, when we came in second in the World Championship, finishing in the top five in all races but were not qualified for the Olympics. I still don’t understand what happened.

A Rich Career: As an athlete, I have competed in all vessel categories. I started with the Optimist, then the 420, when we came in second in the Greek championship, and the 470 (third in the Greek championship), and soling – we held the title of Greek champions from 1994 to 2000. I raced in the open sea for several years with Okyalos, the team of ALPHA BANK, with Giorgos Ertsos, in triangle races and crossings. I competed in category 49 for a year, which is a category for performance vessels. It’s challenging, combining the element of speed and physical fitness.

The Sea: One should always fear the sea. The sea demands attention and respect. You shouldn’t push your luck. I vividly remember a squall in the Olympic Games of Atlanta. The races were held in the ocean with very high waves that didn’t bother us much. Suddenly, there was a gust so strong that the race was interrupted, the organisers came to get us and asked us to dismantle our boats and store them in containers as a hurricane was coming.

ALEXANDRA X: Yannis Zorzos-Fouskis, my wife’s grandfather, great-grandfather to my daughter Alexandra was one of the gretest shipbuilders of traditional vessels on Syros. He passed away two years ago at the age of 104. He owned one of the two largest shipyards on Syros; the other one belongs to Mavrikos. They continue to operate today, the last of the shipyards that construct traditional boats. When my daughter Alexandra was born in 2008, her great-grandfather decided to give her a boat. We used his boat from the 30’s, a latini from Hydra, and rebuilt it from scratch, maintaining its original design. We used the same techniques, the same wood and the same materials used in 30’s and named it ALEXANDRA X, in honour of my daughter. It has a canvas sail, not a plastic one. It’s a slow but beautiful boat that represents tradition. She is moored on Syros and we take her out in the summer.

The Spetses Regatta: I thought it would be a good idea to compete in the Spetses Regatta. It was a wonderful experience and an amazing race. After last year’s amateur race, I was once again bitten by the sailing bug and am trying to build a large team so as to participate in all categories. Many of my old teammates and opponents are thrilled with the idea. We will create a team that will be competitive, but in classic boats. We’re currently in talks with a major sponsor and hope to compete as a team with small, medium and large vessels, staying true to the philosophy of the competition.

On the future of Greek races: Greece hosts two major races, the well-established Aegean Rally and the Spetses Classic Yacht Race, which is now included in the large races of its category. Its efforts to establish itself as an international competition is a step in the right direction and I’m confident that in the next three to five years it will be considered as an important world class traditional boat race.

 

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