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First race of the five-day series featured tricky light-medium conditions over the 30 and 34-mile race tracks 

My Way winning the offshore Race 1 in Class AB - photo Nikos Pantis

Porto Carras, Greece - Amid a gradient westerly wind fighting a weak but building southerly thermal, today's conditions at the start of the five-day 2016 ORC European Championship was anything but certain. Race managers from the Nautical Club of Thessaloniki delayed their starts in the two course areas set just west of Porto Carras Marina, waiting for one or the other breeze to win the fight.

After about a 30-minute delay and cloudy skies inhibiting the progress of the thermal, the westerly breeze seemed to win out in the Class C start area, so the sequence began with the right side of the line incredibly favored for the start of the first leg southwest towards the first rounding mark at Nikolaos on the east end of the Kassandra peninsula. From here this class would proceed due east to the rounding mark at Ambelos on the Sithonian peninsula, and then back to the finish at Porto Carras for a total distance of 30 miles.

Sugar managed to punch out free of a crowded start of Class C - photo Andrea Carloni
Punching out away from the crowd on the right side of the start was yesterday's practice race runner-up, Ott Kikkas's Italia 9.98 Sugar from Estonia, who looked strong to lead the pack in this first light air leg. Another Estonian, yesterday's practice race winner Katarina II, is an Arcona 340 owned by Aivar Tuulberg who also got off the line clean, as did event chairman Akis Tsalkis, who is skippering the local-based X-35 Oxygonon with an all-Corinthian crew.

Another favorite, Vincenzo de Blasio's NM 38S Scugnizza Total-Lubmarine from Italy, was not so fortunate at the start and got buried in the back of the crowd so deep it seemed they could never catch up, especially when the first shift went left and they were one of the boats farthest right in the fleet.

The race featured scenic sailing along the Sithonia peninsula - photo Andrea Carloni
Yet it was this position that saved the 2013 ORC Class B World Champion, because the breeze then lightened and went so far left that the others had to set spinnakers to get to the first mark while Scugnizza powered ahead to beat them to Nikolaos. From there it was more or less a parade of reaching and running in a fitful but building thermal towards the finish.

Akis Tsalikis focuses off the start on the helm of Oxygonon - photo Nikos Pantis
"We could not believe what we saw from where Scugnizza was in the first leg," said Tsalkis. "And once ahead it was hard for any of us to catch them, even with a few changes in the wind getting out from the coast at Agios Nikolaos and coming into Ambelos." But the Oxygonon team is not unhappy with their 5th place in the standings since they are at the top of the Corinthian division in Class C.
Class AB needed three tries before getting a clean start - photo Andrea Carloni
Class AB did not have as clean a start to their longer race of 34 miles: once Class C cleared their area the race managers moved south due to the lack of wind and only after two general recalls did the fleet get off and running.

Bullet-Encode led their class around the course, but ran aground just short of the finish
- photo Andrea Carloni
Leading around the track to nearly the finish was the fastest boat in the fleet, Dmitris Deligiannis's TP 52 Bullet-Encode, who unfortunately misjudged the depth changes near the finish and ran aground within sight of the line. The grounding was firm enough for the team to require assistance from the photography RIB for the event, so their score for this race is DNF.

Extreme Ways from the USA scores third - photo Nikos Pantis
With a breeze that increased to 11 knots on the leg to Ambelos and thus favored the slower boats in this large class, it was local-based Faedon Kydoniatis's Rodman 42 My Way that corrected to first place by about 2.5 minutes over Nicola de Gemmis's GS 39 Morgan IV from Italy and only 18 seconds back was Andrew Holdsworth's XP 38 Extreme Ways from the USA in third.

Top Corinthian division finisher in Class AB was Giannis Sykaris's ILC 40 Bana Bioletta 3 from Greece.

Racing resumes tomorrow at 1300 local time with inshore windward-leeward races set off the coast at Porto Carras, with as many as three possible if the weather permits.

Results, Offshore Race One:

Class AB
1. My Way (GRE) Rodman 42 Faedon Kydoniatis
2. Morgan IV (ITA) GS 39 Nicola de Gemmis's
3. Extreme Ways (USA) XP 38 Andrew Holdsworth
4. Blue Sky (ITA) GS 43 BC Claudio Terrieri
5. Bana Bioletta 3 (GRE) ILC 40 Giannis Sykaris

Class C
1. Scugnizza-Total Lubmarine (ITA)NM 38S Vincenzo de Blasio
2. Katarina II (EST) Arcona 340 Aivar Tuulberg
3. Sugar (EST) Italia 9.98 Ott Kikkas
4. Baximus (GRE) X-35 OD Thanasis Baxevanis
5. Oxygonon (GRE) X-35 OD Akis Tsalikis