Author: Joost Engelen
Saturday we participated in the 30th Brio (“Bridge is Open”) Sailing Marathon in the South-Western part of Friesland, the Netherlands, with 60 km (32 nautical miles) of sailing on lakes and canals.
This is Joost and Viola’s track.
During the course, one has to negotiate 12 bridges or so of which some will open and some will not or are fixed bridges. Route is shown here with the start and finish in a village called Terherne:
The winds were favorable ( force 3 – 4) coming from a South-Westerly direction which meant that the first 1/3 of the course we had to tack upwind, then some beating but not much tacking. From half way onwards, the winds were coming from behind.
Fastest boat did the course this year in just 6 hours and 48 minutes. It took us 9 hours and 12 minutes.
Very different type of boating from the normal sail & oar events that we do which are far more leisurely in nature. Here most boats are in full on race mode constantly paddling and lowering the rigs last second right before the mast is about to hit the bridge.
The boats are divided in 5 groups. Most boast are of the “Valk” (=Falcon) class, polyester keelboats 6.65 meters long, 2 meters wide, 85cm depth and 17.5m2 sail area divided over a gaff main and a jib. The boats weight appr. 600kg with 150kg of that in the keel. There is a special mast striking system using pneumatics that makes striking the stayed mast (with sails still up!) which sits in a tabernacle very light work: just unhooking the pelican hook at the front stay really.
A Valk is normally sailed by a crew of 4 which means many hands to keep the boat moving at all times whether sailing, paddling, poling, towing (often there is a tow path next to the canals), pulling or pushing the boat forward (for example of the side of a canal, jetty’s and other structures in or next to the water). These boats are very effective for the sailing area and I have sailed them much as a student. The original wooden version of the boat was designed by E.G van de Stadt in 1939 for Bruynzeel to enable Bruynzeel to show the potential of plywood for boatbuilding.
The GIS is about as different as it is possible to get.
We had a lot of fun doing the event getting many compliments on GISwerk.
Under sail only, if the chop is not too bad going upwind, speed is about the same as a Valk (often we go a bit faster but a good crew on a Valk will get that boat to go faster).
We have an advantage where one can only paddle or pole (for example behind bushes and trees where there is no towpath). But the Valk has the advantage at bridges where they can strike the rig just meters from the bridge (also having 4 pairs of hands onboard) where we need to get the sail down first, detach the halyard from the yard and pull the mast.
Goes pretty quickly, but you need to do this a bit out of the way of the other boats (don’t want to get our Goat smashed by over 1000kg of boat and crew and all of these boats are in a hurry!) which means a longer paddle. The same process in reverse on the other side.
We were losing 3-5 minutes at each bridge where you need to strike the mast (we had to do this at 7 bridges during the event if I recall correctly) in comparison to the other participants.
Also these boats need to reef later (we had to put in one reef at the “Tjeukemeer” where we had a top end F4) which also took a few minutes. We could have taken the reef out halfway the course, but we kept it in since it allowed us to set the boom higher which made paddling a lot easier (and ultimately keeping the same speed). We were 57th on handicap out of 139 participants that finished the race (in time before 19.00 PM).\
Without a toilet break we would have been in the top 40. But all of that does not matter much: if wanting to race seriously, one better just hire a Valk like all others do, also since the handicap number becomes more or less useless if not sailing only (especially if not having the described mast striking system allowing you to keep the sails up and having 2 crew members only whereby you also cannot cleat the main sheet giving the helm free hands to paddle).
I do think that we will participate next year again. And Koos should then also be there in this Artemis sailing canoe.