When manure moved under sail
WORKUM _ On Oct. 21, some 50 classic sail-powered cargo vessels are expected at the starting line of a most curious cross-Holland race. The event is a salute to sailing skills of days long gone. But this is more than an annual exercise in folklore. Yes, you are invited to admire the past. But, more than that, you are invited to imagine durable transport in the future as more than pie-in-the-sky stuff from well-meaning volunteers. Welcome to Holland’s 40th annual dung race.
The contest revisits pre-1950 days when, each spring, large, flat-bottomed sail-powered cargo vessels hauled natural fertilizer from northern farms to the tulip fields south of Amsterdam. The first boat in got the best price. This was no easy task. To prevent tons of malodorous, semi-fluid cow dung from shifting too much under sail required solid sailing skills. Also, fermentation was a problem.
This year marks the manure race’s 40th anniversary. As always, participants rely only on wind power. If that’s unavailable, they can pray, draw or push their boats forward. Engine power is banned. The race record stands at 33 hours, 25 minutes. In the race’s early years, participants carried manure but that practice was halted to no small relief of bystanders and crew.
The Dutch embrace classic boating with a passion. The manure race is part of several popular fall classic boat events. They are not just a link to the past, but also to the future. The race was founded by Reid der Jong, a retired architect. In an interview with Zeilen Magazine, he calls Holland’s classic sail-powered cargo boats monuments to Dutch history that point the way to more durable transport today.
De Jong says the manure race has been a catalyst for zero emission initiatives such as the Tres Hombres schooner of Fairtransport, a Dutch company that ferries cargo from Europe to the Caribbean and back. A 2nd schooner, the Nordlys _ a gift from a sympathetic Norwegian _ is to enter Fairtransport service soon. Other initiatives include the clippers of the Dutch Menwhosail project or Holland’s sail-powered Island Hopper ferry service. Fairtransport is the most ambitious zero emission trader. At its request, Dykstra Naval Architects Partners has drawn the Ecoliner concept ship. An 8,000 DWT multi-purpose, hybrid cargo vessel. The “Ecoliner Fair Winds” has 4 large “automatic” sails and a top speed of 18 knots.