Interview / Laser

Laser sailing as art – Maria Vlachou

About her short film, Alas (salt in Greek):
Nefeli Zevgoli edits and produces short films. She wanted to make a short film about a female gymnast and thought of me after reading a post I had uploaded two years ago. She was then inspired to created what you see above. After I saw how I was depicted in her work I was extremely happy. – Maria Vlachou from her blog:

Maria Vlachou optimist 1988

Maria Vlachou optimist 1988

We were able to asked Maria some questions about how she came to be a Laser Radial Champion, and what it all means:

– How did you begin your sailing life?

I wasn’t born near the sea, in fact we were living closer to the mountains, but my parents loved the sea and we always spent the Greek summer in our beach vacation house. We also use to go fishing as a family very often during the whole year. We didn’t even know that sailing existed as a sport, but one day my father had to take out his wooden boat for repairs at a place near a sailing club and that was it! We saw the other kids sailing the Optimist around the port of Mikrolimano in Athens and we both thought I should give it a try.

I was already 12 years old, taller and heavier than all the other Optimist sailors, but I loved so much the fact that I could use tactics and trimming in order to go faster around the marks, that my weight and height was not a problem for me anymore. It took me one and a half years to be competitive, but my goal was never to win, my goal was to learn more and more ways to go faster and be smarter on the race course and to sail with other kids who shared the shame great feeling of planning a boat downwind and then talk about it!

In the next years, through sailing I found out that there is always a way to reach your target, no matter your deficits as long as you use all of your positives.

 – At some point you switched over to Laser sailing. Was it clear to you that you would be a great Laser sailor with natural talent, or was it hard work and dedication that started your Laser campaign?

Oh, I never thought I had a natural talent in sailing. I left Optimist as Meditteranean champion, but it meant nothing in the Laser dinghy. I knew I had to start over again and to learn different things. I worked hard and read a lot of books to find explanations for what happened on the water each day. My first book was by Paul Elvstrom and my all time favorite by Frank Bethwaite “High Performance Sailing”. I also read about ship building, meteorology, fitness and nutrition since my youth until now. At that time I was still a school student, I was sailing for 16 hours in the weekends, during the week I was following that with a 3 hour aerobic class in the afternoon every day, it was very popular back then, and I was running every day for an hour more or less. So I guess hard work and dedication worked for me!

 – Do you have any advice for young girls just starting out in sailing – maybe in Optimists like you?

I want the young girls to believe in what nature gave them, tall or short, heavy or light, smart or not and use it completely. If they like the sea they will fall in love with sailing! And Girls, don’t let anyone tell you what you can or you cannot do. It is always up to you. If you love sailing continue your dream. Sailing is a way of living, not only a sport.

My long-term sponsor is MARINEPOOL Sportartikle GmbH &Co.KG. They have supplied me with all the hi-tech clothing I need for any weather condition. This saves me a great amount of money and allows me to spend my resources on competing at national and international regattas every year. I really want to thank them for the support they have given me.

Maria Vlachou

From her sponsor page at MARINEPOOL

Career path:

Sailed Optimist until 1988
Laser until 1992,
Europe until 1994
stopped for 4 years
Europe until 2004
Laser until now and Star whenever fits my program

Career highlights:

1st place Laser World Championships 1991
4th place Laser World Championships 1993
18th place Olympic Games 2000
several Greek Championships,
currently no. 1 ranked Greek Laser Radial sailor