A North Sea race with 2 dozen winners
IJMUIDEN – No stranger to invigorating weather, the North Sea can be a bumpy ride. For anything under 24ft, it can be a roller coaster. Just ask any of the 2 dozen sailors who have registered for the 2013 Small Ships Race between this Dutch North Sea port and Lowestoft, 100 miles due west of here, in Britain. A race so tough every participant is _ and rightly so _ declared a winner.
“So far, 25 skippers have registered,” says Jur Pels, a 2013 race organizer. “That’s the limit. Some may still drop out. In 2012, 22 skippers signed up and 20 started the race.” The May 16-20 edition is the 3rd annual race for sailboats up to 24 feet (7.5m). Participants include a German and 2 Belgian sailors.
De Small Ships Race is “adventurous,” but must not be “an adventure,” insists the event’s web site. A decision to join is left up to each skipper. But organizers will express doubts, if any, about a boat’s fitness. Pels: “In 2012 we advised a skipper to think again. He then decided not to join. The condition of his rigging was dubious. But we have never banned anyone from starting.”
Participating craft must have an engine, at least 8 hours of fuel, a VHF radio, proper insurance and meet minimum safety norms: from fire extinguishers to flares to safety harnasses. Participants must also attend a pre-race safety and organizational session.
The weather on the North Sea is never short of challenging. Pels: “We had Beaufort-7 on the eve of the 2011 race. On the start day, that fell to Beaufort 5-6 so we delayed the start. Some boats decided not to start. We may delay a start and if the outlook stays bad, we may cancel the race. We have no hard and fast rules about that.”
Boats are divided into groups of 4 to 6 craft. Per group, there is a VHF check every 4 hours. There is no boat following the racers. But a Lowestoft-bound race for bigger yachts leaving IJmuiden later in the day catches up with the small craft “and may extend help if any is needed,” says Pels.
The North Sea crossing ends at the Royal Norfolk & Suffolk Yacht Club which treats the Small Ships Race to a dinner.