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Six days of maritime wonder attracts 500 heritage vessels

SAIL 2005 promises entry of twenty tall ships

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM – Hundreds of heritage vessels will join twenty tall ships this summer for the Seventh edition of Sail Amsterdam. For the entire week, from August 17 to the 22nd, the Dutch capital city will host one of the biggest maritime events in the world. Amsterdam’s SAIL 2005 festivities highlighting nautical heritage also include a full program of cultural events.

Under its motto ‘Enjoy a World of Friendships,’ SAIL 2005 allows visitors to see the ships from close by or even on-board. A program of events, activities and communications will add different dimensions to the huge tourism endeavour, in every sense bringing together worlds and people. Organizers strive to give the nautical week social relevance by emphasizing the maritime link between past, present and future, as well as the link between worlds and cultures, especially those of young people.

As in the six previous Sail events, a number of Dutch tall ships and replica’s will be joined by windjammers from countries such as Australia, Brazil, Norway, Romania, Russia and the Ukraine. In addition to these ships, hundreds of heritage sailing ships and motorboats will participate. These vessels will moor at the famed Oosterdok and the new Aquarena.

The first Sail Amsterdam event was held in 1975, during Amsterdam’s 700th anniversary celebration. The manifestation was such a crowd pleaser that initial plans to hold such a meeting every five years were consolidated. The huge success of Sail Amsterdam 700 was repeated and surpassed each time since. A permanent organization was set up in 1975 to prepare the succeeding events in 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000 and again this year.

Tall Ships

‘Tall Ships’ in essence are sailing ships measuring longer than 30 feet. The idea for this designation originated in 1955, when the city of London organised a sailing competition for the ‘last windjammers’. As a result, the ‘Cutty Sark Tall Ships’ Races’ was born, which still exists and has become a world class cultural and social sailing event. The races were organised for all types and sizes of sailing ships, in order to involve as many entries as possible.

There are three classes of ‘tall ships’. All square-rigged vessels over 36,6 metres in length overall belong to the A class, as well as fore-and-aft rigged vessels over 48.8m in length overall. Class B covers all for-and-aft rigged vessels of between 36.6m and 48.8m in length overall. Class C includes all fore-and-aft rigged vessels with a waterline length of at least 9.14m. All tall ships participating in SAIL Amsterdam are A-class vessels.

One of the Dutch replica ships at SAIL 2005 is the Prins Willim (as the name reads), built in the Netherlands for display at the Oranda Mura replica theme park in Japan. Brought home a few years ago, the replica of the largest ship of the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) now is part of the maritime theme park Cape Holland in Den Helder.

Heritage ships

The historic ships - the traditional Dutch commercial fleet, now also known as the ‘brown fleet’ after the colour of their unbleached sails - are merchant and fishing ships that mostly sailed the Dutch inland and coastal waters until the mid-1900s. These days, the ‘brown fleet’ mostly serves a recreational purpose.

Many seaside and inland ports in the country already are home to, or are in the process of becoming the home of such vessels, which lovingly are restored to former splendour by local volunteers and artisans. Many of these ships have a regional background and date from an era when the country largely depended on cartage by canals and waterways. A fair number of these ships now can be rented for special occasions, take paying passengers on inland cruises or serve as sailing schools.

Royal Dutch Navy

Two vessels operated by the Royal Dutch Navy also are expected to participate in SAIL 2005. The presence of such distant cousins of the 16th and 17th centuries’ Dutch naval power, has enhanced Sail events ever since 1975. One of the ships possibly in Amsterdam is the state-of-the-art Hr. Ms. De Ruyter, a 144-metres long air defense and command frigat, commissioned in 2001.

New to Sail Amsterdam are other modern ships. Vessels expected at the August 2005 event include the classic and stylish wooden speedboats of world famous Italian manufacturer Riva. Also expected in the Amsterdam port are one or more ships that earlier participated in the America’s Cup, vessels which incorporate modern technologies and futuristic designs.

Further adding to the spectator appeal and participation of SAIL 2005 is a special day for home-made ‘vessels,’ in Dutch called pieremachochels. The quasi-boats always seem seconds away from sinking, are notoriously top-heavy and are propelled by boisterous ‘sailors’ often in a costume befitting the theme or name of the contraption. A floating parade of the pieremachochels will take place through a portion of the canals of Amsterdam.