Dutch classic sailing grows up, shops abroad
AMSTERDAM _ At Amsterdam’s 2011 Millionaire Fair, Australian model Elle Macpherson was not the only belle of the ball. Equally dazzling was ‘Walrus,’ a gorgeous 16.25m classic Dutch leeboards yacht. Showing her to a well-heeled foreign audience was meant to debunk an age-old mantra here that no market exists for traditional Dutch sail boats outside the Netherlands. “We think there is an international market. But it is an unexplored one,” says Niels Moerke of Van Oossanen’s Naval architects, a company that has designed several large leeboard yachts and hopes to reel in a Spanish client in 2015.
In the Netherlands, traditional sailing craft are a year-round celebration of the country’s rich maritime history. Flat-bottom yachting on Dutch waters revisits simpler days and evokes an unplugged lifestyle. By opting for cutting-edge design and reaching out to foreign markets, Van Oossanen en Dirk Blom Lemsteraken are setting their sights higher. For one thing they offer a maximum of luxury and comfort. “There is no reason why, with minor adjustments, traditional round-bottomed Dutch yachts wouldn’t do well in the Mediterranean, for instance,” says Moerke. “By adjustments I mean making room for a dinghy, for instance. Or providing air-conditioning in the cabin down below. Or adding some sun beds on deck.”
Lacking keels, leeboards keep Dutch classic yachts on course. There are thousands of such yachts in the Netherlands _ from dinghies to luxury giants like ‘Walrus.’ Their broad, round shapes and blunt bows have a draft of only 2 feet, leave room for spacious cabins and cockpits, often exquisitely adorned with carved ornaments. They are ideal for shallow waters.
‘Warber,’ a recent craft built by Dirk Blom is _ like ‘Walrus’ – based on the specs of a so-called ‘Lemsteraak,’ a 19th century craft once used for fishing or cargo hauling. Since the late 1960s, 750 have been made in the Netherlands, including 160 by Skipshelling Blom. “Of all round-bottom classic yachts, they are the most gorgeous,” says Blom. “Great sailing qualities. Very feminine lines. Lots of space down below.”
Working with Van Oossanen, Blom makes fast racers. Considerable time was spent on historic research to ensure a fast Lemsteraak would get the nod from the Netherlands’ Genealogical Registry of Round and Flat-bottom Boats. ‘Warber’ was approved though Blom has been asked to make minor changes such as replacing flush-deck hatches _ not a 19th century design feature _ with more traditional covers. With other companies, Birk Blom Lemsteraken has been exploring major design innovations in recent years. The two-fold aim: to build a fast Lemsteraak using modern techniques and create a group of companies to develop Lemsteraak projects together with prospective clients.
Keel yacht sailors will complain that classic leeboard yachts do not sail well on upwind courses. Moerke overcame that hurdle in the craft from Dirk Blom’s yard. With the aid of Computational Fluid Dynamics, hull line calculations were made for both down and upwind conditions. That’s a far cry form the 19th century, says Moerke, when builders “basically worked from the shape of a whale. Lots of volume up front. Like a whale. What they forgot was that a whale moves through the water while a boat cuts through the surface of the water.” www.oossanen.nl