‘Green Dragon’: A yacht fit for any king
AMSTERDAM – Dutch royals are never far from a sailboat. So it’s only fitting that when Queen Beatrix, 75, abdicates April 30, the royal ceremonies end with a “water pageant.” At 7.30PM, her son, brand new King Willem Alexander, 46, Queen Maxima and their 3 young daughters start a 2-hour tour across the IJ waterway that cuts through Amsterdam. Some 200 historic boats will salute the new monarch.
Sadly, security concerns appear to have nixed an appearance of the Groene Draeck (Green Dragon), the spectacular 15m royal sailing yacht.
Luckily, there is still time to correct that. Very few other craft embody the Dutch passion for boats and sailing like the royal yacht, a classic round-bottomed sailing craft built in Amsterdam in 1957. It was a present from the nation to Princess Beatrix when she turned 18. (Photo: a young Princess Beatrix taming the Groene Draeck). Its design goes back to the late 1800s, but remains immensely popular here.
The Dutch call it a “Lemsteraak,” a cargo craft named for the town of Lemmer where the first one was built, probably around 1870. It was designed to ferry fish to places as far away as Brussels and London. From a distance any Lemsteraak may look like it just unloaded fish somewhere. But come closer and you’ll see history, brilliantly updated. These are fast yachts, some brimming with hi-tech and luxury. They are embraced by both recreational sailors and racers. Over the years a spacious cabin appeared behind the mast, along with fancily carved woodwork. The mast has been stretched to 1.5 times the yacht’s LOA. The cockpit accommodates a crew of 10!
There are 60 registered Lemsteraak racers in the Netherlands. Many more are recreational craft, all boasting that curious egg-shaped design of wide, slow rising bow and slender aft. Its soft, round lines render great stability and sailing qualities. Lacking a keel, the Lemsteraak relies on lee boards to keep course. A new one can set you back €500,000.
At the 2013 Amsterdam HISWA show, a brand new one made of polyester won a “Dutch Glory” award from the magazine Nautique in the category of sailing yachts of 12.5 to 17.5-m. Said the jury: “There is still progression in old Dutch boat designs. (The Belly Glider-2) is a centuries-old design … an all-round yacht that strikes a perfect balance between comfort and regatta sailing. A modern classic, very user-friendly and innovative.”
In recent years, the royal yacht was at the heart of a spat over its high maintenance costs. That ended in 2010 when the government announced King Beatrix would pay these costs herself. The Groene Draeck was overhauled in 2011 at a cost of more than €300,000.