Classic fishing and a ‘Shit Race’ hail era of sail
WORKUM _ Few people are more serious about classic yachts than the Dutch. Chances are zero of not seeing an old-timer, lovingly restored, on a Dutch waterway. Traditional sailing vessels are everywhere. In all shapes and sizes, made of wood, steel or _ wait for gasps from purists! _ polyester. It is unadulterated nostalgia that feeds the Dutch love of classic vessels. These boats command a lifestyle that finds a loud echo at a time when clean, durable energy tops so many agendas. Each fall, the Netherlands hosts Europe’s only classic boat show.
And also each fall, the wind streaking across the usually choppy IJsselmeer fills the sails of classic boats in events honoring an era when fishing and transport by water occurred under sail only. Key among these events: the Workum Fisheries Days, the very serious ‘Shit race’ and “Beurtveer,” an event reliving days when people, mail and cargo were taken under sail from Friesland province to Amsterdam and places in between.
The 2012 Workum Fisheries Days lured 29 spectacular old-timers onto the IJsselmeer to fish under sail. No motoring allowed! Which was particularly tough as the week-long fishing event opened on a windless day. To make tracks participants had to use push poles or pull their vessels! The wind picked up toward week’s end only. Organizers recorded a haul of over 1,000 kilos of fish spread across 10 species. The biggest catch: a 3.5-kilo pike perch. The priciest: 200 kilos of crabs, sold at auction in Workum for more than 1,000 euros.
The ‘Shit Race’ relives the 19th century days when manure collected from Friesland’s fertile meadows was shipped to southwestern Holland to be strewn across the tulip fields. It was always a tricky trek. To steer the smelly, fermenting semi-liquid cargo across lakes, rivers and narrow canals without spilling required ample seamanship. Today, the annual ‘shit race’ is no less easy. Rules forbid both motoring and the use of modern navigational devices. Skippers must take their cargo from Workum in Friesland to Warmond, 30 kms south of Amsterdam, and back. 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the shit race in its modern day version. Expect about 50 boats and a chunky roster of old-style sailing activities grouped around the 2013 annual race.