WORLDCHAMPION JET Tribute and Moments of Back-to-back Trips
Trip: 20 September 2020. From Piraeus to Syros and back, with the WORLDCHAMPION JET of Sea Jets.
The impressive high speed ferry WORLDCHAMPION JET was built in 2000 in Australia. She is one of seven sister ships built by the famous shipyard of Austal. All seven high speed craft belong to the Auto Express 86-class, and were built between 1998 and 2004 for different operators across the world. The ship in question began service as the VILLUM CLAUSEN for the Danish company Bornholms Traffiken, and was deployed on the Rønne-Ystad line, which connects the Danish island of Bornholm with Sweden via the Baltic Sea. At the time of her delivery, she was the fastest passenger ship in the world, and held the record for the fastest speed ever recorded by a ferry from 2000 until 2013, when it was surpassed by the newly-built FRANCISCO of the Argentinian company Buquebus. In 2005 she hit the quay in Rønne, which required her to be repaired in Landskrona. In 2006 she collided with the GRYF of the Polish company Unity Line in Ystad, and later that year she hit the lighthouse of Rønne, and suffered significant damage. She was again repaired in Landskrona and returned to service. In 2010, Bornholms Traffiken merged with the Danish services of Scandlines, which resulted in the creation of the new company Danske Færgen. As a result, Bornholms Traffiken was renamed Bornholmer Færgen.
In 2018, after 18 years of service on the Rønne-Ystad line, the VILLUM CLAUSEN was sold to the Greek company Sea Jets, a company which has established itself as one of the most dominant companies on the Cyclades during the 2010s. She arrived in Greece under the name WORLDCHAMPION JET. After being converted in Salamina, she entered service in 2019 on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line, taking over the popular Sea Jets service that was previously operated by the CHAMPION JET 1. In 2020 she was inserted on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line.
Ever since she was introduced on the Cyclades, the WORLDCHMAPION JET quickly became one of the most impressive ferries of the Greek coastal service, and the new superweapon of Sea Jets against competitors like Blue Star Ferries, Hellenic Seaways and Golden Star Ferries. She automatically became the fastest ship in the Greek coastal service, and her entry to service was a massive success, as she made an immediate impact thanks to her unrivaled speed and her impressive accommodation. Even some of the fastest high speed craft in Greece, such as the HIGHSPEED 4 of Hellenic Seaways (which was also built in Austal in 2000), the SANTORINI PALACE of Minoan Lines (also an Austal-built ship), or the SUPEREXPRESS of Golden Star Ferries, were not a match against her in terms of speed. Her success was further highlighted by the fact that she also went on to win the prestigious 'Ship of the Year' award given by Lloyd's List Greek Shipping Awards for 2019. She therefore became the first ship of the Greek coastal service to win the award since the NISSOS CHIOS of Hellenic Seaways (now the BLUE STAR CHIOS of Blue Star Ferries) won it back in 2007. As a result of her successful debut season in 2019, she also started serving the ports of Paros and Ios, which also benefited from her speedy and reliable operations. She would leave Piraeus in the early morning to serve six of the most famous islands of the Cyclades, and return back to Athens' main port right before the night.
The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen arriving in Naxos, twelve days before I traveled onboard her for the first time.
A week after having done my back-to-back trips to and from Aegina, I had stayed in Athens with my family. As these were the last days that I was spending in Greece during the summer of 2020, I decided to take the opportunity to visit the island of Syros on the Cyclades throughout one day. I had long desired to see this island ever since I saw a picture of its main port and capital, Hermoupolis, on a postcard when I was about eight years old. Syros has been known for being a very traditional and picturesque island, and serves as the capital of the Cyclades. It also has a great shipping tradition, as it features the famous Neorion shipyards which have been operating since the 19th century. Due to its importance, it therefore has a very important ferry connection with mainland Greece, the other Cyclades islands, as well as the Northeast Aegean Sea Islands and the Dodecanese. For all these reasons, I thought that it was ideal to have my last trips with a ship of the Greek coastal service for the 2020 season by visiting Syros for almost an entire day.
Besides having the opportunity to land in Syros for the first time in my life, I also had the chance to travel with a unique ferry: the WORLDCHAMPION JET. As I had seen several pictures of her indoor areas, and had heard about her impressive speed while sailing, I thought that it would be great to have a taste of a trip onboard her. Her schedule was also very convenient, as she would arrive in Syros in the early morning and leave in the late afternoon, thus giving significant time to have a look around the island. By traveling onboard her, it was my first-ever trip from Piraeus to Syros, my first-ever morning trip from Piraeus to the Cyclades with a high speed ferry, and the fastest ship on which I ever sailed. It was my second-ever trip with a ship owned by Sea Jets, as the first one was back in 12 July 2015, when I traveled from Santorini to Piraeus with the CHAMPION JET 1. It was my second-ever trip with a high speed ferry built in Austal, following my trip from Paros to Piraeus onboard the HIGHSPEED 4 of Hellenic Seaways on 29 July 2018. She also became the second ship on which I traveled in the Greek coastal service that was not carrying the Greek flag. Indeed, as she is registered in Limassol (like several ships owned by Sea Jets), she sails under the Cypriot flag. Finally, it was the first time that I ever did back-to-back trips on the Cyclades on the same day and with the same ship.
The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen in the dark, at 06:30 in the morning. She was being prepared for her morning departure to the Cyclades, which was scheduled at 07:00.
Not far from the WORLDCHAMPION JET was the ferry AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries, which serves the Piraeus-Aegina line on the Saronic Gulf.
A view of the ship's garage, which is large enough to fit more than 220 vehicles.
As soon as I embarked onboard the WORLDCHAMPION JET, the light started to emerge. From that moment, I spotted the high speed catamaran FLYINGCAT 5 of Hellenic Seaways, which spent the 2020 season on the Saronic Gulf.
The ship has two main decks for passengers, with the first one having the Economy Class indoor area. Right next to the entrance is an indoor bar, which serves various drinks and snacks.
Upon arriving at the atrium section of the ship, one can see one of its main highlights: an actual Formula 1 race-car, which is exhibited as a symbol of the high speed craft's speed. This specific car was manufactured by Minardi, and was driven by the now-retired Dutch driver Jos Verstappen (the father of the current well-known driver Max Verstappen) during the 2003 season. The owner of Sea Jets, Marios Iliopoulos, is known for being an avid racing fan, and he has himself participated in several rallying competitions. He managed to acquire this car in some way, and has made it one of the most popular features on board a Greek ferry.
A view of the impressive Minardi race-car. The wall behind her features a crowd watching a Formula One race. This was the second time that I saw a vehicle being permanently exhibited onboard a ferry in Greece. Indeed, the first time was onboard the FIOR DI LEVANTE of Levante Ferries, which has a yellow Volkswagen van which features the company's colours and other businesses owned by Georgios Theodosis (who is in charge of the company).
The Minardi race-car seen once again. Carrying on from the enthusiasm shown by passengers upon seeing the car when traveling with the WORLDCHAMPION JET, Marios Iliopoulos decided to introduce another race-car onboard his most recent introduction, the POWER JET. The latter features a rally car which was driven by Marios Iliopoulos himself in one of his races.
Another view of the Minardi race-car in the atrium area. Right above it is the second deck that is accessible to passengers, and it features the Club Class and the Platinum Class, both of which have the most comfortable seats. Above the race-car, one can also see the script logo of Sea Jets.
A view of the ship's builder's plate, which shows her original name (which she bore during her entire career in Denmark), her hull number and the name and the logo of Austal.
A view of the staircase leading to the Club Class and the Platinum Class. The logo of Sea Jets can be seen again. One can also see the ship's roof made out of glass, something which has been a common feature on many high speed craft built by Austal.
Most of the Economy Class lounge area is decorated with pictures that are all themed after racing and speed. These walls feature black and white pictures depicting a Formula One race.
A clearer view of aircraft-style seats on the Economy Class lounge area. As you can see, the walls still harbour racing-themed pictures.
A few aircraft-style seats seen on the starboard side of the Economy Class lounge area. The wall behind them depicts a race with cars dating from the middle of the 20th century.
The central part of the indoor lounge area on the Economy Class deck, which has multiple aircraft-style seats. All the way at the front is another bar selling coffee, other drinks and snacks.
The aft section of the Economy Class lounge area, which has orange aircraft-style seats. The walls in front of it yet again display a crowd watching a Formula One race.
Another poster could be seen in the starboard side of the Economy Class lounge area. It depicted a pit stop operation being carried-out on a red race-car.
After having seen the indoor areas of the WORLDCHAMPION JET, I proceeded to the outdoor area at the aft section, in which passengers were able to stay at least up until the ship's exit from Piraeus. Here is a view of the cabins of the crew and of the port side funnel. The two funnels of the ship also bear a racing theme. Indeed, instead of featuring the logo of Sea Jets, they have white and dark blue checkers, which aim to symbolise the ship's speed, making it appear as if she was a race-car herself.
Right next to the WORLDCHAMPION JET was the FLYINGCAT 6 of Hellenic Seaways. She also serves the Saronic Gulf, as she is deployed on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line. Due to her small size, I could see her from the outdoor deck of the WORLDCHAMPION JET, and I therefore spotted the Hellenic Seaways logo which was right underneath her bridge.
The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS seen in Piraeus at dawn. I had traveled onboard her from Piraeus to Aegina just seven days before my trip with the WORLDCHAMPION JET, as part of the Saronic Gulf one-day trip that I did on 13 September 2020.
As I had a considerable view over the ships serving the Saronic Gulf, I could also see the ACHAEOS of 2way Ferries, the PHIVOS of Nova Ferries, the POSIDON HELLAS of 2way Ferries along with the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS.
Next to them was the high speed ferry HIGHSPEED 4 of Hellenic Seaways. She was built in the same year and in the same shipyard as the WORLDCHAMPION JET. She has spent her entire career in Greece, having operated on the Cyclades since 2000.
The HIGHSPEED 4 was seen alongside the ACHAEOS, the PHIVOS, the POSIDON HELLAS (which also used to operate for Hellenic Seaways from 2005 to 2015) and the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS.
The FLYINGCAT 5 was seen along with the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVII, also owned by Hellenic Seaways. Both ships served the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line in 2020.
On the port side of the ship, I noticed one of her fleetmates, namely the CHAMPION JET 2.
I then saw another ship belonging to Sea Jets, right in front of the WORLDCHAMPION JET. It was the high speed catamaran SEA JET 2.
Another view of the FLYING DOLPHIN XVII and of the FLYINGCAT 5. They both carried the new livery of Hellenic Seaways, which was introduced on all of the company's high speed craft in 2020, following the end of the advertising partnership with Cosmote.
The FLYINGCAT 6 seen in Piraeus, as the WORLDCHAMPION JET began to leave the port. She was operating on the Saronic Gulf for the third straight season, and sixth overall, as she had also operated there in 2013, 2015 and 2016. I notably traveled with her from Spetses to Piraeus back on 28 July 2019.
The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS seen in Piraeus. This was her twentieth consecutive season on the Piraeus-Aegina line. Before that, she had spent the first two years of her career on the Sporades, as the PANAGIA SKIATHOU of the Northern Sporades and Evoia Shipping Company, on the Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Pyli line. She moved to the Saronic Gulf in 2001, and was sold to ANES Ferries in 2007.
A view of different ferries serving the Saronic Gulf, including the PHIVOS, the POSIDON HELLAS and the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS. On the left side of the PHIVOS was the APOLLON HELLAS of 2way Ferries.
The HIGHSPEED 4, a notable rival of the WORLDCHAMPION JET, seen in Piraeus at dawn. She was also carrying the new livery of Hellenic Seaways for the first time. In my opinion, it looked really good on her.
I then proceeded to seeing the high speed ferry SPEEDRUNNER III of Aegean Speed Lines. Owned by the latter since 2009, she has been operating on the Western Cyclades since 2017, and on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line since 2019.
Another view of the FLYING DOLPHIN XVII and of the FLYINGCAT 5 together in Piraeus.
A very impressive picture that I was able to capture for the first time in my life. Indeed, it shows all the ferries operating on the Saronic Gulf from Piraeus together in the port. These are the ACHAEOS, the APOLLON HELLAS, the PHIVOS, the POSIDON HELLAS and the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS. The first four operate together under the Saronic Ferries joint venture. I have traveled with all five ferries several times, and they have all been an integral part of my childhood and of my stays in Aegina.
The HIGHSPEED 4 spotted in Piraeus, with the cruiseferry ELYROS of ANEK Lines seen in the background.
Two ships owned by 2way Ferries, the ACHAEOS and the APOLLON HELLAS, seen together in Piraeus. The former operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line since 2014, whereas the latter serves the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line since 2017. She had also been on the Saronic Gulf from 1990 to 1995, and from 1999 to 2013. Between 1995 and 1999 she was operating in South Korea (before being repatriated in Greece in 1999), whereas from 2014 to 2016 she spent three summers on the Sporades.
The SEA JET 2 seen in Piraeus, right before her morning departure, which was right after that of the WORLDCHAMPION JET. In 2020 she operated on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Santorini-Amorgos-Koufonisi-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line on the Cyclades, in a tandem with the SUPER JET.
The SPEEDRUNNER III seen in Piraeus. She has been the sole ship operating for Aegean Speed Lines since late 2016. Ever since returning to the Western Cyclades in 2017, she has become a vital ferry for the region, and she has been acclaimed for providing a fast and regular service far beyond the high season.
While we began heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus, I was able to see the FESTOS PALACE of Minoan Lines. Formerly known as the EUROPA PALACE (2002-2012) and later as the MYKONOS PALACE (2018-2020), she was spending her debut season on the Piraeus-Heraklion line, while also making additional calls to Milos.
At the E3 gate, I spotted another fleetmate of the WORLDCHAMPION JET, namely the AQUA JEWEL. Usually she departs from the E9 gate, ever since she began operations on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos line for Sea Jets in 2020. She operates under the Sea Jets Ferries division since she joined the company in 2017.
I also noticed the FLYINGCAT 4 of Hellenic Seaways, which had completed her second season on the Saronic Gulf, on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line, and was now undergoing her winter refit.
Passing by the CHAMPION JET 2, which was also preparing for a morning service on the Western Cyclades. She had spent her debut season on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line in 2020.
Right next to the CHAMPION JET 2 was a major rival of the WORLDCHAMPION JET and of Sea Jets, namely the SUPEREXPRESS of Golden Star Ferries. She has been owned by the latter since 2018, and began operations in 2019 on the Cyclades.
Another view of the five ferries serving the Saronic Gulf from Piraeus. The summer of 2020 also marked the first time that I had traveled onboard all of them at least once during the same season.
A view of the SPEEDRUNNER III, on which I had traveled back on 29 July 2017, while heading from Sifnos back to Piraeus. She was the third high speed ferry on which I ever traveled in Greece.
The ELYROS and the AQUA JEWEL seen together in the port of Piraeus. The former is the flagship of ANEK Lines, and operates on the Piraeus-Chania line. Both ships were spending their first summer in Greece after many years of summer charters abroad. Indeed, the ELYROS was chartered for each summer between 2015 and 2019 to the Algerian company Algérie Ferries, whereas the AQUA JEWEL was chartered to Atlântico Line for service on the Azores Archipelago during the summers of 2018 and 2019.
The impressive ELYROS seen in the port of Piraeus. Built in 1998 in Japan, she joined ANEK Lines in 2007, and began service on the Piraeus-Chania line in 2008. She has been considered the greatest ferry in the history of the Chania-based company.
The FESTOS PALACE seen resting in Piraeus. She was also spending her first-ever season under her new name, which she inherited from her fleetmate and sister ship that is currently known as the KYDON PALACE. This change happened following the fleet reshuffle that was carried-out by Minoan Lines, whereupon they switched the ships serving the Piraeus-Heraklion line and the Piraeus-Chania line. The original FESTOS PALACE (built in 2001) was renamed KYDON PALACE and took over the service on the Piraeus-Chania line, whereas the MYKONOS PALACE which was previously operating there became the new FESTOS PALACE and was inserted on the Piraeus-Milos-Heraklion line.
I then saw the CHAMPION JET 1, which was docked in Piraeus. Owned by Sea Jets since 2015, she was operating on the Piraeus-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line for two seasons, before her service was assigned to the WORLDCHAMPION JET (followed by the addition of Syros). As a result, she spent the summer of 2019 under charter to the Spanish company Naviera Armas. She returned to Sea Jets in 2020.
Three notable high speed craft of the Cyclades seen together in Piraeus. These are the CHAMPION JET 2, the SUPEREXPRESS and the CHAMPION JET 1. All three of them were built in the Incat Shipyard in Australia, which is the rival shipyard of Austal.
Next to them was the high speed trimaran SUPERSPEED of Golden Star Ferries, which was also built in Australia, back in 2001.
Passing by the FESTOS PALACE in Piraeus. She is notably the first ship in the history of the Greek coastal service to have been equipped with an exhaust gas cleaning system, also known as 'scrubbers', which enables ships to limit the aerial pollution caused by sulphur consumption.
An impressive picture featuring numerous Greek high speed craft together in Piraeus. This included the FLYINGCAT 5, the FLYINGCAT 6, the SEA JET 2, the CHAMPION JET 2, the SUPEREXPRESS, the CHAMPION JET 1 and the SUPERSPEED.
Another view of the SPEEDRUNNER III, with the BLUE STAR DELOS of Blue Star Ferries seen right behind her.
Towards the exit of the port of Piraeus, I saw the sister ship and former fleetmate of the SPEEDRUNNER III, namely the SUPERRUNNER of Golden Star Ferries. She is the ex-SPEEDRUNNER IV of Aegean Speed Lines, having operated for them from 2009 to late 2016.
We also passed by the NISSOS RODOS of Hellenic Seaways, which operates on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line on the Northeast Aegean Sea.
I then proceeded to seeing the BLUE HORIZON of Blue Star Ferries, which had started her annual refit that day after having completed her service on the Piraeus-Heraklion line. She moved to the E2 gate temporarily, before heading to Perama.
A view of the BLUE HORIZON as she began her annual refit, right before going to Perama. She has been operating on the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2014.
Near the exit of the port of Piraeus, another ship owned by Blue Star Ferries was seen undergoing her annual refit. It was the company's flagship, namely the BLUE STAR 1.
Another view of the BLUE HORIZON in Piraeus, before she headed to Perama for her annual refit.
The NISSOS RODOS seen in Piraeus. She was the ship that went on to replace the BLUE HORIZON on the Piraeus-Heraklion line during the latter's annual refit. Her service on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line was taken over by the DIAGORAS of Blue Star Ferries.
The BLUE STAR 1 seen in Piraeus, during her annual refit. For the 2020 season, which was 20 years following her introduction to service, she operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Santorini-Samos-Kos-Rhodes line.
The BLUE HORIZON seen alongside her temporary substitute, the NISSOS RODOS. Between them is the floating museum HELLAS LIBERTY. Both ferries were built in 1987 in Japan, and formerly operated on the Adriatic Sea before permanently moving to the Aegean Sea in the mid 2010s.
The BLUE STAR 1 seen in Piraeus. Unfortunately, this year, she will not be operating in Greece, as she has been chartered to Irish Ferries for service on the Pembroke Dock-Rosslare line on the Irish Sea. This will mean that she will be heading to Northern Europe for the first time since 2008, as she had also spent a year on the Zeebrugge-Rosyth line, back when this service was operated by Attica Group. Irish Ferries has been keen on expanding its services beyond the Irish Sea. They plan to begin service on the Calais-Dover line on the Channel, by deploying their ferry, the ISLE OF INISHMORE, which was on the Pembroke Dock-Rosslare line. In order to not leave the latter service without a ship, the company therefore sought the BLUE STAR 1, which is due to operate there for at least a year. While this certainly arranges her owner and her charterer, shipping enthusiasts like myself will definitely miss her on the Aegean Sea this year. Her service is due to be taken over by the ARIADNE of Hellenic Seaways, which has rejoined the company following a three-year-long charter to the Italian company Tirrenia Di Navigazione.
The WORLDCHAMPION JET having exited the port of Piraeus, and now beginning to sail at full-speed. To be fair, I had never experienced such a speedy trip in my life, and it really appeared as if I was onboard an airplane. Unfortunately, due to impending rough weathers, the crew ordered all passengers to head indoors while the ship would be in the open sea.
From one of the ship's windows, I was able to spot the Ro-Ro carrier TALOS of Creta Cargo Lines, albeit under a blurry landscape. This ship has been operating for almost five decades, and has been in Greece since 2001. She was formerly the MYCONOS (later MYKONOS) of Mykonos ANE from 2001 to 2010, and later of NEL Lines from 2010 to 2013. She was sold to Creta Cargo Lines in 2014, and began operations for them as the TALOS. For the 2020 season, she was on the Piraeus-Andros-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ikaria-Samos-Kos-Rhodes line and on the Piraeus-Santorini-Chania line.
A blurry view of the TALOS as she is seen sailing back to Piraeus, after having served the Cyclades, the Northeast Aegean Sea and the Dodecanese.
At around 09:00, just two hours after our departure from Piraeus, the WORLDCHAMPION JET had arrived in Syros. I therefore arrived in the island for the first time in my life. Performing a trip between Piraeus and Syros in only two hours is something that used to be unheard of even three years ago. However, with the WORLDCHAMPION JET, all records were broken.
The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen in the port of Hermoupolis in Syros, loading passengers and vehicles in order to then immediately head towards Mykonos.
The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen about to depart the port of Hermoupolis in Syros.
A view of the WORLDCHAMPION JET leaving Syros, just a few minutes after she had docked. The cranes behind her are part of the Neorion shipyards.