Tragedy in the Aegean 600

Published on July 9th, 2024

A fatality occurred during the 4th edition of the Aegean 600, a 605 nm course around the islands of the Aegean Sea. Starting July 7 from the southernmost tip of Attica in Greece, the 2024 fleet of 69 monohulls and multihulls hailing from 24 nations faced winds of over 40 knots in the island channels followed by near-calms in the island lees.

After passing through the gate at Santorini in the early morning hours (the fastest boats had already passed in the night), the bulk of the fleet was heading downwind en route to the southern end of the course towards the passing point at Kassos. It was then when the Pogo 44 Heaven was reportedly struggling with their spinnaker in the late afternoon, with two crew members falling overboard.

The team managed to retrieve one crew member who was severely injured within 7-8 minutes and the other soon thereafter. The team called for emergency help given the severe internal damage they observed in the injured crew, and a rescue helicopter was called to the scene.

However, the injured crew remained unresponsive to revival attempts so a Hellenic Coastguard vessel stepped in to accompany the boat to make port on Kassos. News reports indicated the deceased to be 40-year-old Anna Konontchouk (FRA) which sustained a fatal head injury.

“We believed our team mate was unfortunately hit by the boat’s rudder,” said skipper Andrii Prokopenko. “The water was full of blood from the impact and we did our very best to treat this severe injury. We are devastated by this terrible accident.”

Meanwhile towards eastern edges of the race course the battle royale continued between the two MOD 70 trimarans, with dozens of sail changes and gear-shifting needed on the teams of Erik Maris’s Zoulou (FRA) and Jason Carroll’s Argo (USA) as they swapped positions for the lead. Boat captain Chad Corning on Argo described the action.

“This was an exceptional effort at staying in the right mode with the right sails, and the conditions were changing so rapidly we always get we were a little behind,” he said. “The short legs on the east side of the course provided few passing opportunities if you got behind. We did have a spectacular final push at the final leg to the finish, with both of us using full Mains and J1 headsails at the very edge of control, but neither of us dare change to slow down.”

At 03:18:52 EEST on July 9, it was Zoulou (FRA) that crossed the finish line at Cape Sounio to set a new Multihull Elapsed Time Record of 1D 13H 18M 52S, an average speed of 16.2 knots around the course, with Argo only 1M 21S behind.

Like the Multihulls, the Monohull first-to-finish contenders encountered the same lee behind the island of Ikaria while en route to the passing gate at Mykonos but got stuck there longer. Bryon Erhart’s Juan K 88 Lucky (USA) managed to just stay ahead of John Larsen’s Volvo 70 L4 (DEN) as the two drifted through this lee and unfortunately consumed too much time before taking off again at high speed to make it to the finish at Cape Sounio before the 45 hour record elapsed time limit expired.

Nonetheless, with an elapsed time of nearly 48 hours, Lucky was the first to finish in the Maxi class, followed by L4 and a few hours later by another VO 70, George Procopiou’s Aiolos (GRE), who has won the class on IRC corrected time.

“It’s a great course,” said Lucky crew boss Dean Phipps (NZL), “with a lot of starts and finishes, great scenery, and beautiful conditions to sail in. It was a bit shifty at times, this was one of the toughest races I’ve done in a long time. A few times it was really windy and we backed off and turned into survival mode to prevent breaking anything.”

“We have done the Caribbean 600 three times and this is much a more challenging race,” said Ehrhart. “There is fantastic wind but also some holes, and getting caught in one this morning for 4 hours we think cost us a chance at the record. Regardless, this is a great race.”

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