Sailing Coaches save stranded locals amidst wildfire emergency in Greece

Stranded Locals

Aug 4, 2023

The rescue of over 130 people from wildfires by coaches at a youth sailing world championship has been hailed as “a truly outstanding example of the best qualities of our sport” by World Sailing Chief Executive Officer David Graham.

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

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

Without hesitation, 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, said, “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 shines 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, said, “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 credit to them that we were able 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.”

For the past week, areas in central Greece 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.

All sailors and coaches are unharmed, and the city of Volos is considered by Local Authorities to be the safest place in the area.

For more information about the event, please visit the 2023 ILCA 4 Youth World Championship website, or the Hellenic Sailing Federation YouTube Channel.

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