This summer about 350 traditional sailing workboats will be engaged in passenger charter work in The Netherlands and in the spring and autumn there are annual races from the ports around the Ijsselmeer.
The first of these is the Pieperrace (The Potato Race) off Volendam. The race takes its name from an event in the closing months of World War II. In 1944 the transport system was brought to a standstill by a Dutch rail strike and the retreating Germans.
Volendam is a Roman Catholic village and eleven fishing botters sailed from here across to Friesland and brought back fifty thousand kilo of potatoes for the Catholic hospital in Amsterdam. The Friesland Tjalken also sailed food over to Amsterdam, but it was not enough and the unofficial death toll was 5,300 people who died of starvation in the ‘hunger winter.’
Volendammer botters were known as ‘kwakken’ because it was said they worked so close to the land they could here the ducks quacking. The inshore Dutch fishing craft, in the age of sail, didn’t have names and were known by their numbers. There were vast numbers of barges carrying cargoes under sail in the inland waters and these were motorized in the inter-wars years. In the 1970s the Dutch Government gave subsidies for smaller barges to be scrapped and the families moved ashore.
The Volendam Potato Regatta is two days of racing for four different classes of flat and round-bottomed craft, but all have leeboards. These are the small fishing and cargo boats of the ark group, the fishing ‘vissers,’ steel cargo tjalken and the larger klippers. The klippers, as their names suggests, sail fast and have the traditional ketch rig or are sometimes three masted schooners.
More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - May 2011 Issue
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