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In Friesland skûtsjesilen (sailing with historical flat bottom boats) is one of the TOP EVENTS for Dutch tourism. Every year during the northern summer–holidays, over a fortnight, eleven races are sailed by fourteen skûtsjes in order to win the SKS championship. Skippers and their crew do their utmost to gain the much wanted champions pennant and a beautiful challenge trophy: the Sulveren Skûtsje. It’s all about the honour of a town, a village or a region. Starting with the race on the Pikmar/De Wide Ie near Grou, via De Veenhoop, Earnewâld,Terherne, Langweer, Elahuizen, Stavoren, Woudsend and Lemmer, the competition is decided on the Snitser Mar near Sneek after a fortnight’s sailing.
Skûtsjesilen is a synonym for sailing competitions with old freight ships. These flat bottom boats were built at the beginning of the last century for the transportation of peat, manure and other loads to the farms. For this purpose the ships had to sail in shallow waters. That’s why these ships had to be built long and flat. Speed and manoeuvrability is characteristic of a skûtsje and therefore this type of ship is especially suitable for sailing competitions. To anticipate on supply and demand quickly and adapt to changing weather conditions was a daily struggle in those days. In difficult times the skippers mostly sailed on the initiation of the local innkeeper to make some extra money. Then family and furniture were removed from the skûtsje and left on the shore.
These competitions form the basis of the organized skûtsjesilen of the SKS (Sintrale Kommisje Skûtsjesilen). The present skippers still directly come from ancient Frisian skipper families. Together they want to preserve the tradition of sailing contests with classical Frisian flat bottom boats and not just as a foklore. Every summer TopSport is practised on the cutting edge and on board young and old crewmembers compete passionately for the prize. But also on the shore the spectators of different generations together follow the movements of the skippers and their crew. The excitement and most of all the lively atmosphere of skûtsjesilen contribute to the unique experience of young and old, Frisian’s and tourists alike.
The site of the SKS (Sintrale Kommisje Skûtsjesilen) can easily be viewed, because of the participation of a number of 14 skûtsjes. The races can be watched from the shore or from (tourist) boats along the competiton route. The skippers show courage in taking the challenge in shallow and narrow waters (as near Grou, De Veenhoop and Earnewâld) as well as with the wider waters (such as a.o. Snitser Mar and IJsselmeer). Within the SKS, sailing is authentic and conforms historically with the established rules and regulations. Full and specific information about these regulations can be found on the website.
All races can be directly followed via the internet. Worldwide the positions of all 14 skûtsjes can be followed on a map via the Track & Trace system. This has been a huge success, as shown by the enthusiastic reactions with daily between 10,000 and 16,000 people from all over the world logging in. The internet project shows that SKS Skûtsjesilen is booming and that it embraces the benefits of modern technology. Besides, the SKS will always ensure that the authenticity of the skûtsjes is maintained. For the special SKS Track & Trace link, follow: www.skutsjesilen.nl. Via the special SKS Skûtsjesilen app everybody can receive news, reports results and rankings on smartphone or tablet. You can download the free SKS Skûtsjesilen app in the app store or via Google Play.