Sailing coaches evacuate residents during Greek wildfire

Sailing coaches save stranded locals amidst wildfire emergency in Greece

As extreme heat and wildfires continue to engulf Mediterranean coastlines, sailing coaches at the ILCA 4 Youth World Championships in Volos, Greece, came together to save lives with a daring beach rescue operation.

Witnessing the scene from across the water as racing concluded, coaches jumped into their motorised support boats. They headed for the nearby village to evacuate residents and local wildlife from the beach after fires blocked all exits from the area on the mainland.

The coaches grabbed bottles of drinking water and travelled the 10 miles across the bay to Nea Anchialos, Magnesia, at full speed. Around 60 boats saved more than 130 people from the beach and brought them back to Volos.

Andrus Poksi, field operations officer at the International Laser Class Association, says: “The selfless and quick reaction of the coaches was inspiring to see. Their contribution to help the local people shows that sailing is a sport where teamwork and camaraderie shine through in even the most challenging circumstances.

“I would expect nothing less from the sailors and coaches, and we will always do anything we can to help those in danger.”

Labis Tsoukalas, president of Nautical Club of Volos and Argonauts, adds: “When we got the call for help from the coast guard, I knew we had the right people and equipment for the job.

“We’re very proud to have been able to contribute to the lifesaving operation in the way we know best as sailors. We have very talented and qualified coaches working at these types of events. It’s a credit to them that we were able to carry out the rescue successfully.”

David Graham, World Sailing CEO, praised the efforts, saying: “This is a truly outstanding example of the best qualities of our sport – resourcefulness, courage and a strong sense of responsibility for our wider coastal communities.

“Sailing is a global family, and we are proud to be able to help those in need. All of the coaches deserve the highest praise and – on behalf of World Sailing – I commend them for their actions.

“We all hope that the fires across Greece subside quickly, and the communities impacted remain safe.”

All sailors and coaches are unharmed.

An airforce ammunition depot near Volos exploded during the emergency, with footage of the incident captured in this eyewitness video.

In recent weeks, areas in central Greece and the wider region have been threatened by wildfires following a heatwave where temperatures reached 47 degrees Celsius, causing the ILCA 4 Youth World Championships to pause while the heat subsided. The event concluded on 30 July 2023, after six days of competition.

The ILCA sailing action will move now to Stavanger, Norway, where the 2023 ILCA U21 European Championships will take place from 6-13 August 2023.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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