• Alexandros Vrailas

SPEEDRUNNER III Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 29 July 2017. From Sifnos to Piraeus, via Serifos, with the SPEEDRUNNER III of Aegean Speed Lines.

The high speed ferry SPEEDRUNNER III was built in 1999 in Italy for the company Sea Containers, alongside three other sister ships, two of which also went on to operate in Greece later in their careers. These four ships are part of what is known as the MDV 1200-class. Being the third vessel delivered to the company, she was initially named SUPERSEACAT THREE and was deployed on the Liverpool-Dublin line on the Irish Sea. In 2000 she was transferred to the Liverpool-Douglas line. In 2001 she operated on the Calais-Dover line on the Channel, while in 2002 she returned to the Liverpool-Dublin line. In 2003, she joined her sister ship, the SUPERSEACAT FOUR, on the Baltic Sea, after being chartered to Silja Line, operating under the SuperSeaCat subsidiary. She was deployed on the Tallinn-Helsinki line. In 2007 she collided with the TALLINK AUTOEXPRESS 2 of Tallink in Tallinn, but was repaired and returned to service immediately afterwards.

With SuperSeaCat beginning to experience financial difficulties and eventually going out of business, she was sold to Greek high speed craft company Aegean Speed Lines in 2008, along with the SUPERSEACAT FOUR, and both ships were renamed SPEEDRUNNER III and SPEEDRUNNER IV, respectively. Aegean Speed Lines was a company founded through a collaboration between Sea Containers and the Greek shipowner Leonidas Dimitriadis-Evgenidis, whose family is from Sifnos. The company was founded in 2005, and its first ship was the Incat-built SPEEDRUNNER I (ex-HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN for Sea Containers), which was deployed on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Paros line. After two successful years, the company acquired another high speed ferry, the larger, faster SPEEDRUNNER II, which had been built in the same shipyard as the SPEEDRUNNER III and the SPEEDRUNNER IV three years earlier, and which had several similarities with the latter, as she is considered to be the ship preceding the MDV 1200-class. The company soon began to expand its services on the Cyclades, serving islands such as Syros, Mykonos, Naxos or Santorini. The SPEEDRUNNER I was sold in 2008 to Panagiotopoulos Shipping, and the company decided to replace her with the incoming SPEEDRUNNER III and SPEEDRUNNER IV for the following summer.

After the completion of the 2008 season on the Baltic Sea, the two newly-acquired high speed craft went to Poland for conversion, arriving in Greece right before the start of the summer of 2009. That year, the SPEEDRUNNER III was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line, while the SPEEDRUNNER IV was deployed on the company's main line, the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros line. After a good first season, the SPEEDRUNNER III was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line in 2010. She continued on that same line in 2011, but suffered a major engine failure which caused her to miss many months of service. This, combined with the impact the Greek financial crisis had on her company, saw her laid-up for the entire 2012 season (as did her fleetmate, the SPEEDRUNNER II) in Elefsina, with her sister ship being the sole ship operating, on the restricted Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line. She was repaired, however, and returned to service in 2013 instead of her sister ship, being deployed on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line, where she also stayed during the 2014 season. That year, the SPEEDRUNNER IV returned to service on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos line, though this service lasted one season only, as she was then redeployed on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line for the 2015 season. In the meantime, the SPEEDRUNNER II was sold to Venezuelan company Naviera Paraguaná. The SPEEDRUNNER III, as a result was chartered to Moroccan company Navline and was deployed on the Algeciras-Tangier Med line, with no significant success.

In 2016 she was chartered to Levante Ferries, and operated, under the Ionian Group joint venture, on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line, thus being the first high speed craft to operate on the line and on the Ionian Sea since 2001, when the late JET FERRY 1 of GA Ferries lastly operated. Her charter ended after the 2016 summer season, and she returned to Aegean Speed Lines after the company sold the SPEEDRUNNER IV to Golden Star Ferries, which became the SUPERRUNNER and was deployed on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line. The SPEEDRUNNER III was deployed once again on the Western Cyclades in 2017, operating on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos line.

Despite her constant shifts in deployment on the Cyclades, the SPEEDRUNNER III has been considered by many as a vital high speed craft for the area, and particularly for the Western Cyclades where she has been operating for three different summers (2013, 2014 and 2017). In each one of these summers, she has also been the ship that symbolically transported the well-known icon of Panagia Chrysopigi to its namesake monastery in Sifnos the day the patron Holy Virgin of the island celebrates, during an emotional and festive celebration. Moreover, she is credited with providing additional high speed service during the spring, summer, and fall, when the demand for passengers in these islands increases, and with the ferries of rival company Zante Ferries not being enough to supply all of them. Aegean Speed Lines has maintained a strong presence in the area ever since their debut season in 2005, with the Western Cyclades line being the only one the company has served each summer in its history (even during the 2011-2013 period when it was forced to abandon its other lines due to the problems caused by the Greek economic crisis). With the SPEEDRUNNER IV also having much success on the line while being owned by Aegean Speed Lines, Western Cyclades residents immediately went on to appreciate the sister ship SPEEDRUNNER III. 2017 marked her first return to the Aegean Sea after her charters in 2015 and 2016 respectively, and she returned to the Western Cyclades for the first time since 2014, though in that season the smaller islands of Kimolos, Folegandros and Sikinos were added as an extension to the already-existing Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line.

The SPEEDRUNNER III in Piraeus, four days before my trip with her.

So this is a general summary of the ship and her company. Now it is time for me to talk about the trip I had with her. Indeed, it marked my third trip on a high speed craft, the first one being on the CHAMPION JET 1 of Sea Jets on 12 July 2015, and the second one being on 14 July 2017 (15 days before my trip with the SPEEDRUNNER III) with her sister ship, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED of Hellenic Seaways. It was also my first-ever trip with a ship owned by Aegean Speed Lines. Furthermore, she became the second out of the three sister ships of the MDV 1200-class that operate in Greece on which I would go on to travel with, the last one being the current SUPERRUNNER of Golden Star Ferries (and ex-SPEEDRUNNER IV). It was my third trip returning from a Cyclades island to Piraeus, and my first one when leaving the island of Sifnos. I had previously stayed for four days with my family on that island, having arrived on 26 July with the ferry ADAMANTIOS KORAIS of Zante Ferries.

Upon arriving at the port of Kamares in Sifnos, I spotted the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS maneuvering and unloading passengers.

A view of the great ADAMANTIOS KORAIS, on which I had traveled three days earlier. She began her service on the Western Cyclades the same year during which the SPEEDRUNNER III was deployed in Greece. Indeed, since 2009, she has been operating on the Piraeus-Kythnos-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Ios-Santorini line.

The ADAMANTIOS KORAIS in Sifnos, loading vehicles.

Five minutes after the arrival of the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS, at around 12:10, the SPEEDRUNNER III began to approach the port of Sifnos.

The SPEEDRUNNER having arrived directly from Milos and now heading towards the port of Sifnos.

The SPEEDRUNNER III heading towards the Eastern part of the port in order to maneuver safely and far from the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS.

The SPEEDRUNNER III soon beginning to maneuver.

The SPEEDRUNNER III, during her first summer back with Aegean Speed Lines and on the Western Cyclades since 2014.

The SPEEDRUNNER III almost ready to maneuver.

The SPEEDRUNNER III shortly before maneuvering.

As the SPEEDRUNNER III approaches Sifnos, the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS begins to depart the port. Both ships are not only competitors between them, they are the two most important ships on the Western Cyclades, and are both much-acclaimed by passengers for their services.

The ADAMANTIOS KORAIS leaving Sifnos in order to head towards Milos.

The SPEEDRUNNER III begins to maneuver.

The SPEEDRUNNER III maneuvering while the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS leaves Sifnos.

The SPEEDRUNNER III undergoing her quick maneuvering procedure.

The SPEEDRUNNER III maneuvering in Sifnos.

One of the two funnels of the SPEEDRUNNER III. It is painted in dark blue (one of her company's colours) and features the company's logo in white, which represents two horizontal waves heading upwards in the end.

The SPEEDRUNNER III having maneuvered and beginning to dock in Sifnos.

The stern of the SPEEDRUNNER III as she is ready to dock in Sifnos.

In the meantime, the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS has began to head towards Milos.

We immediately embarked and found our respective seats. As it was the case with her sister ship, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, the SPEEDRUNNER III mainly features aircraft-style seats.

A view of the Economy Class area, featuring only aircraft-style seats.

The ship's onboard shop, called the Sea Drops Gift Shop.

The stern area of the Economy Class area, also featuring aircraft-style seats.

A view of the smaller Business Class area, located a deck above the Economy Class area, also featuring aircraft-style seats.

The back of the Economy Class deck, with wider space and some lounges, followed by aircraft-style seats next to the windows.

Several posters depicting the ship's destinations are located on her walls. This one shows the Chrysopigi monastery, which is one of the most important in Sifnos. The ship has a special connection with it, as, once a year, she transports the icon of Panagia Chrysopigi there, in the midst of huge and very traditional celebrations.

The outdoor area of the ship, accessible to passengers, located in the stern.

The Greek flag on the ship's stern. We had now began to leave Sifnos.

Leaving the pier of the port of Kamares, as it is called in Sifnos.

A view of the houses next to the port.

Leaving the Sifnos strait.

Only fifteen minutes later, Sifnos was very far from us, as we began to head towards Serifos. Unlike her sister ship, the SPEEDRUNNER III offers the chance to passengers to stay in the outdoor areas while the ship is traveling, which fortunately gave me the chance to spend the entire trip outdoors.

After only fifty minutes, we were already in Serifos, in the port located in the town Livadi.

A view of Serifos, where the SPEEDRUNNER III quickly maneuvered and began to unload some passengers and some vehicles.

After five minutes of loading passengers and vehicles, we immediately left for our final destination: Piraeus.

After an hour, we began to see the Attica coast. There I spotted the BLUE STAR PAROS of Blue Star Ferries, which had departed Piraeus.

Built in 2002, the BLUE STAR PAROS is one of the best ferries in the Greek costal service. 2017 was her second season on the Dodecanese lifeline, where she began operating after the departure of her fleetmate, the DIAGORAS. In 2017, with the addition of Paros and Naxos to her itinerary, she was on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Astyapalaia-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Nisyros-Tilos-Symi-Rhodes-Castellorizon line.

The BLUE STAR PAROS heading towards her namesake island, as part of her very long itinerary which was vital, for the second straight summer, to the residents of the Dodecanese Islands.

Another view of the BLUE STAR PAROS.

After an hour, we finally began to approach the port of Piraeus. As we started to enter the port, the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA of Aegean Flying Dolphins (which, despite having a similar name with the owners of the SPEEDRUNNER III, does not have any connection with the latter) was seen arriving as well.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA approaching the port of Piraeus. Owned by Aegean Flying Dolphins since 2010, she has been on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line since 2011.

The cruise ship OCEANA of British company P&O Cruises, moored at the entrance of Piraeus.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA beginning to enter the port of Piraeus.

While the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA began to enter the port of Piraeus, her Saronic Gulf rival, the FLYING DOLHIN XVIII of Hellenic Seaways began to exit, passing by the OCEANA.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII exiting the port of Piraeus.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA having lowered her speed upon entering Piraeus.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII preparing to travel at full-speed towards the Saronic Gulf.

In front of us was the well-known floating museum HELLAS LIBERTY, a former Liberty ship present in Piraeus since 2008.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA following us from right behind.

As soon as the FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII left, two other ships were also heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. The first one was the small passenger boat SALAMIS EXPRESS I of Salamis Express, which operates on the Piraeus-Salamina line.

And the second one was the SUPER JET of Sea Jets, which was deployed on the Western Cyclades, just like the SPEEDRUNNER III. For 2017, she was on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Ios-Santorini line.

The SUPER JET beginning to depart Piraeus.

The SALAMIS EXPRESS I and the SUPER JET leaving Piraeus together.

Another view of the SALAMIS EXPRESS I and the SUPER JET leaving Piraeus together.

The SUPER JET and the SALAMIS EXPRESS I heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA seen from right behind.

The SUPER JET heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus, during her second straight summer operating on the Western Cyclades.

The SALAMIS EXPRESS I heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus, in what was also her second straight season on her respective line (and sixth overall in her career, which began in 1997).

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA following us.

The SUPER JET exiting Piraeus.

A view of the cruise ship AEGEAN QUEEN of Turkish company Etstur. She was previously the ORIENT QUEEN and later the LOUIS AURA of Louis Hellenic Cruises (now Celestyal Cruises). Since 2016 she has been left out of her company's plans, but found a role in 2017 as she was chartered by Etstur for the summer season.

Another view of the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA.

In front of us, another ferry was departing. This time, it was the POSIDON HELLAS of 2way Ferries, which was heading towards the island of Aegina on the Saronic Gulf.

The POSIDON HELLAS in the twentieth summer of her career, with all of them spent on the Saronic Gulf.

The POSIDON HELLAS has been operating for 2way Ferries since 2015, after she was sold to them by Hellenic Seaways. The owner of 2way Ferries, Papaïoannidis, previously operated the ship from 1998 (the year her construction was finished) to 1999, when she was taken over by Hellenic Seaways' predecessors, Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins.

The POSIDON HELLAS heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

The POSIDON HELLAS leaving Piraeus.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA heading towards her docking spot in Piraeus.

The POSIDON HELLAS leaving the port of Piraeus. She serves the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Methana-Poros line.

On the left side of our docking spot was the cruiseferry BLUE STAR PATMOS of Blue Star Ferries.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS was built in 2012 and has been operating on the Cyclades on a permanent basis since the 2015 summer season. I had traveled with her 19 days before our trip with the SPEEDRUNNER III, marking my first trip in Greece for the 2017 season.

Another view of the POSIDON HELLAS.

As well as of the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA.

And another one of the BLUE STAR PATMOS, shortly before our maneuvering procedure and docking.

The SPEEDRUNNER III maneuvered in her usual docking spot, at the E7 gate. This therefore marked the end of my trip with the ferry, as she stopped in Piraeus in order to rest, just a few hours before her second round trip to the Western Cyclades, which is performed in the afternoon and evening during the months of July and August.

As I was able to be outside for the entire duration of the trip, I found my experience with the SPEEDRUNNER III very satisfying, with the ship being fast, efficient and comfortable while at sea. It was a very pleasant trip which concluded my stay in Sifnos, and the end of my visits to the Cyclades for that summer, as I would then go on to spend time at my two main islands: Zakynthos and Aegina.

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