Corfu Challenge Reawakens The Ancient Spirit of Sailing

CORFU, GREECE - This summer, the usually quiet waters of the Ionian Sea will once again roil with ancient energy—a dauntless fleet of sailing ships racing toward the shores of Corfu. A vision straight from the pages of Apollonius, it could easily be Jason and his Argonauts outracing the Colchian fleet in their famous arrival at the island. The name of Jason’s ship, Argo, means “swift,” and these vessels are all worthy of the name. They are the world’s top, state-of-the-art Maxi 72 class racing yachts, each crewed by a team of modern-day Argonauts vying for victory in the inaugural Corfu Challenge, July 3-8, 2017. 

The concept of the race was inspired by two good friends, George Sakellaris and George Courmouzis, who conceived the idea of a Maxi72 Class race in Greece. Their goal was to bring new challenges to the sport—new experiences that would at the same time reconnect sailing to its oldest historical roots. Together they shared this vision with top racing yacht owners and were able to convince them over a period of six years to come to Greece.

The key was finding the right location— Sakellaris, a maxi owner himself, knew that the maxis end their season in Sardinina, and understood they would need to find a location on the western side of Greece that would deliver an experience of new waters, challenges, good winds, and the discovery of sailing’s ancient mythology. “What about Corfu?” suggested Courmouzis.   Corfu’s very scenic setting would present a new adventure for sailing, with its high mountains, including the towering Mount Pantokrator, and the unpredictable and challenging wind patterns they create. It was the ideal setting. Courmouzis, having an understanding of the unique needs of these highly specialized racing vessels, was instrumental in selecting the precise location in Corfu for the race and convincing both the local yacht club and marina to support this endeavor.

Evoking a modern renaissance of sailing’s oldest Hellenic traditions, the Corfu Challenge has generated great enthusiasm throughout the competitive sailing community and has been included in the 2017 Maxi 72 Overall Trophy. Early Corfu Challenge entries by the world’s top Maxi 72 boats include Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente, Dieter Schön’s Momo, and George Sakellaris’ Proteus.

The 2017 Corfu Challenge is being organized by the Marina Gouvia Sailing Club, with the cooperation of the International Maxi Association (IMA) and the Maxi 72 Class. The event is open to all boats with a valid 2017 Maxi 72 Certificate, as well as boats with a valid endorsed 2017 IRC Certificate and a Maxi 72 Class confirmed Wild Card invitation.

As an officially sanctioned event, the Corfu Challenge will not only inspire the sport to explore its historical grounding in the ancient Hellenic spirit and traditions of sailing; it will, at the same time, help to bring Greece into the future as a key new host of top class yacht racing.


"The Heights"

The Corfu Challenge besides bringing yacht racing to a new, if very ancient, sailing venue also brings back another old tradition, that of a race flag, a banner specifically designed for Corfu Challenge.

This year Corfu Challenge commissioned the design of a flag that brings together the defining characteristics of the island of Corfu, its most beautiful and striking colors, while at the same time acknowledging the nautical heritage of the area. 

The word Corfu is derived from the Greek word Κορυφές (pronounced Kor-EE-fes) meaning “the heights”. The name refers to the two hills that form the indomitable peninsula fortress of Corfu town. The island was defined by these two heights because they have, from antiquity to the Second World War, functioned both as a gateway to the Levant (the eastern Mediterranean and beyond) and as a bulwark protecting Europe from Ottoman invaders. The heights are referenced in the flag as the two triangles on the hoist side.

The flag’s colors are a combination of the Venetian heritage of the island with a nod to British colonial rule. The Venetians held the island for more than four centuries leaving their architecture and the terra-cotta colors on the faces of buildings, colors that you can see throughout Corfu and which add to the islands unique character. The burnt sienna colorway on the flag comes from this lineage. The British stayed less than a century but radically transformed the island. The green on the flag is a complementary color on buildings as most shutters are painted green. The specific green hue is British Racing Green reminding the sporting culture that Britain imported into the island. Corfu is the only place in Greece with a cricket pitch.

As this is a flag of a yacht race, the flags’ previously mentioned symbols, “the heights”, also reference the shape of yacht club burgees. White was chosen being the color of the reek Flag, of hope, as well as a dominant color in many burgees. Lastly, the Corfu Challenge burgee is a derivation of the flag arrived at by turning it around and removing the white element to create a swallow-tailed burgee, a shape that flies most easily in any wind condition.

our Team

Stratis Andreadis

Karen Ims

Katerina & Nicholas Lykiardopulo

Cathy Sakellaris
Dimitrios Alevizakis

Christos Epperson
Rob Weiland, Class Manager
Ariane Mainemare, Professional Race Organizer

Roman Martinez de Arenzana Avila
Tomas Catala
Joaquin Ensanat Coll
Spyros Sgouros, President
Michalis Tsatsopoulos
Christopher Peacock
Agency Mgr. Corfu

Cathy Sakellaris

Karen Ims

Katerina Lykiardopulo

Stratis Andreadis
Dimitrios Koutsodontis, General Manager
Maria Laladaki
T: 00 30 210 37 16 315
F: 00 30 210 37 16 372


sponsored by: Vassilis Kertsikoff
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First Place
Second Place
Third Place

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