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Home > Club > Centenary > Events Gallery > 21 Feb - Tales of 420 Adventures in Greece and Australia
Home > Club > Centenary > Events Gallery > 21 Feb - Tales of 420 Adventures in Greece and Australia

21 Feb - Tales of 420 Adventures in Greece and Australia

The third event in the Centenary calendar took place on 21st February 2018. There was a terrific turnout to hear from club members Paul and Rachael Cross who recounted their experiences and adventures attending 420 class events in 2017.

Club members enjoying a quick chat with Paul and Rachael before the start of the show.



Lisa and Fred, as ever, produced a splendid meal of Curry and Crumble and can be seen here flying round the galley at high speed to serve up the food

After feasting royally, over 40 club members settled down as Rachael and Paul took to the stage to share their experiences and give an account of their adventures.

Father and daughter take up their presentation poses.

And so the story begins....

Rachael Cross and Ellie Driver have been sailing with their families at Barnt Green for many years.

They cut their teeth sailing in the Optimist class for over 9 years.

In 2016 they progressed to sailing together in the International 420 class.

Here they are having just returned from their final Optimist Inland Championships event in 2016.

Progressing quickly through a lot of hard work and plenty of sailing practice in their new class, Rachael and Ellie were selected by the 420 GBR Association to compete in the U17 World Championship team.

Their first event was the 420 Open European Championships in Athens, Greece.

Having been selected to represent their country, it would be reasonable to assume that a well-oiled logistics and support team would swing into action on the behalf of the competitors. Sadly this was not the case.

Not only do they have to fund their travel and accommodation themselves but the young people selected also have to get their boats to the venue too.

Step in our heroes, Paul Cross and Jim Driver, who gallantly offered to drive the equipment across Europe to the venue in Athens. Suffice to say that due to other commitments, the girls flew straight to Athens.

So our intrepid duo sourced a vehicle from Brookhire Rentals in Malvern and "Two men in a van" set off on their epic European adventure with six 420s strapped to the trailer. It was going to be an uphill journey!
The journey from Barnt Green to Athens covers a distance of more than 2,100 miles passing through :

UK > Belgium > Germany > Austria > Slovenia > Croatia > Serbia > Macedonia > Greece




The Serbian Saga
The first part of the journey went comparatively smoothly until the boys arrived at the Serbian border - their first encounter with a non-EU country. A gun-toting and shouty Serbian border guard with a "big problem" demanded money with menaces for the return of their passports and "official documentation" to enable them to cross into and out of the country.

Having relieved them of €370 in cash, he proceeded to write out their "authorisation" on a scrap of paper with instructions to phone his brother's mobile phone when exiting on the other side of the country. They didn't.

Apparently, the new super-highway that is being built between Vienna and Athens also suddenly runs out in Serbia. Something that the Sat Nav failed to mention and Paul and Jim ended up on relying on some friendly local labourers to get them back on the right road, whilst trying to avoid wandering into Kosovo in the process.

Suffice to say, they high-tailed it through Serbia and arrived at the border with Macedonia.
Money Matters in Macedonia
The transition into Macedonia also went less than smoothly. On arrival at the border, Paul and Jim were told that they needed special Macedonian vehicle insurance to enable them to pass through the country legally and were directed towards an ominous-looking green hut to pay for their passage.

Due to their earlier encounters and the numerous cash-only toll booths along the way, the pair were now running very low on cash. A long and increasingly loud negotiation with the chain-smoking border control women in the green hut concluded with the need to find €240.

Rather helpfully, she pointed them in the direction of the ATM machine in the nearest village and a taxi that arrived conveniently driven by her brother.

Jim was duly dispatched and returned a short time later, ashen-faced and carrying a small sack of cash. He had learned two important things
  1. the taxi driver drove at suicidal speeds along the local dirt roads
  2. the Euro to Macedonian Denar exchange rate is around 1 to 62 resulting in a rather large number of notes spewing from the cash machine - hence the sack

As Macedonia is only about 100 miles from top to bottom, the insurance cost about €2.40 per mile!





Getting into Greece
Nearing journey's end, the final obstacle was to convince the Greek border guards that they had a legitimate reason for entering the country. This was touch-and-go for quite a while. It turns out that the Greeks don't like Macedonians very much as Athens contends that the name Macedonia represents a territorial claim over Greece's northern province, also named Macedonia.

Despite towing a trailer full of 420 dinghies, a long discussion with three increasingly senior officers was needed to convince them that :
  1. they were not trying to smuggle immigrants across the border
  2. they were not trying to smuggle drugs across the border
  3. they were in fact going to Athens for a sailing competition

After a dressing-down by a pugnacious female border official, Paul and Jim were finally allowed to enter Greece without having to part with any more cash.

Having taken a slightly more leisurely and less stressful route to Athens, Ellie and Rachael proceeded to park the boat, attend the opening ceremony and get the boat measured and race-ready.

There were only a couple of issues that needed sorting out - the sail numbers were placed too high on the kite and had to be hastily moved. Apparently some self-confessed idiot (Paul) had put them there. Oh and the spinnaker pole was 4mm too long and had to be filed down to the correct length.

Both the sailing and scenery were spectacular. The weather was baking hot but the breezes were kind.

If you look closely, you can see our girls sailing in front of The Acropolis on the hillside in the background

The final race of an incredible week saw the girls in 5th place at the leeward gate but they lost some places on the second beat and came in 8th.

Ellie and Rachael finished 37th in a fleet of 46 boats and 4th out of 6 boats in the British under 17 team.

A hugely creditable performance and a credit to their families and Barnt Green sailing club.

And so on to the Antipodean adventure at the 420 World Championships which took place in Fremantle on the west coast of Australia in December 2017.

Once again, Ellie and Rachael were part of the GBR 420 team but having learned from their previous experiences, the team decided not to drive on this occasion and the GB boats were loaded into two shipping containers purchased for the occasion and put on a slow boat to Australia.

However, the journey was not without incident when the Ship's captain decided to head straight for Sydney on the Aussie east coast after the voyage was delayed on the passage down through the Indian Ocean.

This meant that the girl's dinghies were on completely the wrong side of the continent, a distance of over 2,100 nautical miles.

Frantic phone calls got the containers off-loaded and re-loaded onto a new ship for the return journey. Were the boats going to arrive in time for the Championships?
The boats were finally released from quarantine in Fremantle docks at 9:00am in the morning. Then towed to the sailing club and through a huge team effort unloaded and rigged ready for the first race of the Aussie nationals.

The girls launched at 12:35pm for a 1:00pm start and made the line with just 3 minutes to spare.

The final day of the Australian Nationals brought with it the infamous "Fremantle Doctor" - an afternoon sea breeze which occurs during summer months in south west coastal areas of Western Australia.

The temperature was 30C with the "Doctor" providing 22 knots and 2m swell. A good opportunity to practice capsize technique

All three sails up and flying - a day not to capsize as the local beach was closed due to a large Tiger shark being spotted on the prowl. Nobody told the girls until after the race!

The girl's Championships ended with a spectacular capsize after a tight spinnaker hoist on the top reach in the final race. It took them a while to right the boat but at least the shark didn't turn up! That and a black flag in the previous race, dropped them to 33rd overall but 13th in the U17 girls race in the world. What an outstanding performance !

After packing the boats away, the presentation ceremony turned into a party on the beach as the sun set over the Indian Ocean one last time.


Last updated 12:31 on 6 March 2019

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