4 MIN
TRAVEL TIPS

Salty Summer Breeze with Salty Bags

It all started because of the wave. I will never forget that wave.  It was nothing like the waves I had crossed in the Aegean. Summer waves of the Aegean sea are brisk, cool and mostly predictable, like the meltemi winds that air-condition the Cyclades islands and form them. This wave was man made, terrifying in it’s energy and made of sound. I was a volunteer at the Olympic sailing venue at Agios Kosmas. My job was to take out important foreign journalists and show them the various racecourses. I had just moored my powerboat and was waiting for the next batch of journalists to come and report that the Olympics were going as planned etc. etc. when I heard its haphazard rolling boom. It was made out of more than two hundred volunteers who took turns screaming and cheering, tens of R.I.Bs, powerboats, day cruisers with cameras bobbing about their sterns, sounding their fog-horns hoarse, and hundreds of hands clapping below teary faces. It rolled over the sea wall effortlessly like a hurricane, and filled the Olympic marina, crashing and booming into our chests so that if you didn’t know why it was happening some primeval urge would have pushed you to run away. In an instant it owned everyone who was there, it owned the marina, it owned the passing cars it owned the hours and minutes that were to come. We came under the spell of the wave and would remain so till we passed out exhausted, drained from partying, dancing and cheering well into the next morning. The wave was created by two twenty-something year olds racing for Greece in a little sailboat 470cm long called a 470. Sofia and Aimilia had had a galactic career until then. With four back-to-back World Championships, three European championships and twice yachtswomen of the year the Gold medal they had just won, without even having to race in the last day, should have been expected, just another peak, albeit the highest one, in a career that had brought them every prize you could win in Olympic class sailing. But three months before the Olympics, Sofia, the skipper, injured her back so badly that she could barely move. Sheer will and bloody-mindedness brought them back from never competing again to heights only a handful of athletes have ever reached. So the wave took us all in. Because they were our girls, because they made it, because they never gave up even when it seemed all was lost. Because we knew that they created an example of grand achievement that bordered on fiction but was not. Because every one of us who grew up sailing in Greece were part of it, infinitesimally, but part of it. The wave crashed over and took over their boat with Sofia and Aimilia on board. When it reached the dock we lifted them up, boat and crew and paraded them around till we realized they had to prepare for their coronation, Gold medals on their chests. In the years that followed that August day in 2004 a lot has changed in Greece. A new generation of sailing talent has gone searching for their own wave, and Sofia in a new class is still inspiring and making waves of her own. Having experienced the wave, I wanted to, I felt I had to do all I could to take the story of the wave to the ends of the earth and help Sofia, and two other great talented teams making their own waves do the same. So together we created a project called the Road to Rio, to help make new waves during the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The Road to Rio is a project made from the very materials that made waves and carry with them, written inside, the stories of these waves. We track down the sails these teams have used and are now decommissioned. We track down the story of these waves. Then we find skilled artisans in the Ionian island of Corfu who make them into pieces that can be carried around, bags, clutches, and duffels. Finally we make sure that every cent that is made from these pieces returns to the teams so they can make ever-bigger waves. Stratis Andreadis is co-founder of the company Salty Bag which has created the Road to Rio series to help get Greek sailors to the starting line of the Rio Olympics Games in 2016.  To find out more and how you can help www.saltybag.com