It all started when Taras and I were chatting over Facebook one day. We were trying to figure out a weekend where we could go sailing together, and – as it usually happens – things were looking rather bleak … schedules were just insanely busy and did not want to match. At some point during this conversation Taras mentioned that we should join the “Sail around North Holland”-race, and I was immediately intrigued.
Tickling the Google search button we were quick to find out that this race had already happened months ago.Determined to not have to wait for another year to sail in a race together, Taras went off and searched the endless grounds of the interwebs for another candidate. Not long before he came up with what looked like the perfect first race for Bon Bini: the Delta Lloyd 24 hours race. This race is somewhat special, in that all boats are trying to sail on a pre-determined set of tracks on Holland’s Markermeer, Ijsselmeer and the Waddenzee, and try to make as much ground as possible within 24 hours. Enthusiastic about our first time sailing in a regatta we went to decipher the Dutch website and sign us up. Unfortunately our enthusiasm took an immediate hit on the next day, finding out that we had just missed the deadline for entering the race. On the odd chance that we might still be able to join we sent an email to the organizer, and – SURPRISE! – we were in.
Having taken this hurdle, the next one presented itself in the form of lengthy documents written in Foreign outlining the rules and regulations for this race. Weeks went by decrypting Dutch sailing jargon until we finally had an idea of the do’s and don’ts of this event. Next up was finding a boat yard that would install a tricolor on Bon Bini, which is a requirement for the race. We found a nice little place not far from Amsterdam, and delivered Bon Bini there on an early – 6am – Monday morning. We picked her up with her shiny new light (one of those LED lights that have a mooring light integrated as well) on Wednesday evening, to be ready to brief the crew on Thursday evening, with the race starting on Friday. What a week!
The crew met on Thursday evening for a quick briefing and the obligatory pre-race adult beverage. Since we were starting from the Amsterdam Marina, we had to make it to the starting line near Marken in about 2.5 hours. Normally not a problem, but with a bridge and a lock in between you never know. We made it out of the marina on time, and motored down the IJ channel towards the drawbridge. My anxiety to miss the 15 minutes starting window grew exponentially as we waited for the drawbridge to open. Usually this bridge opens every 20 minutes , but today of all days they decided to take things a bit slower. I was relieved to see the red over green announcing our departure towards the lock. We’ve made it through the lock and to the starting line in time, and the butterflies in our stomachs danced to the sound of the horn announcing the start of the race. We were one of the first boats to make it over the starting line, and we sailed on a dead run towards our first buoy. Having never used Bon Bini’s genakker before, we decided to play things safe and use the conventional goose wing on this first leg – what a mistake. Basically every boat around us had their downwind sails flying high, and we were losing at least two knots on everybody around us. After making it around EA2 – the first buoy that had to be sailed when starting from our position – we decided to enjoy a nice reach down south towards our second buoy, Sport-J. Emily made a delicious sweet-and-sour chicken with rice, which the crew inhaled while sailing into the stunning late summer evening sun.
As the sun settled we started our watch keeping scheme, 3 hours on and 3 hours off. It was our turn to sleep, and we went below to get some well-needed shut-eye. This is when we learned that sleeping in Bon Bini’s spacious forepeak is fantastic on a nice broad reach, but the heel and the sounds of the waves make it impossible to sleep when she is close hauled. Denis joined us for our first night watch while Taras and Emily where trying to get some sleep, which proved to be hard as the wind had picked up and we were chasing buoys on the Markermeer mostly beating the wind. Before it was time for us to come off watch again, Camilla noticed a funny shape in our jib. Crawling forward on all fours on a bouncing boat we realized that we had lost the shackle that attaches the headsail to the furler, and the tack of our 130% genoa was dangling in thin air. Lucky that I made the trip to the chandler quickly before we left the marina, at least so I thought. Unfortunately I was not smart enough to buy a number of different sized shackles, and the spare ones that we had were just a liiiitle bit too big. Oh well, we quickly jury rigged a shackle using some twine while Denis was helming Bon Bini on a steady course north west.
We switched watches again, and around 6am I knew my night was over, which proved to be good timing as we were entering the lock onto the Ijsselmeer. Through the lock we found light air and sailed eastward on a nice and quiet broad reach, which gave the crew the chance to finally catch up on sleep. After enjoying some delicious sandwiches we were caught on a dead run again, and this time we were brave enough to take a look into that red sail bag that had been sitting at the bottom of the locker for too long, taunting us. We thought we had a spinnaker in there, and having sailed a spinnaker only once before in our sailing lives we thought it too intimidating to put it up. Lucky that we had Taras and Denis on board, who quickly figured out that we actually had asymmetrical chute in there, stored in a convenient sock. A couple of instructional youtube videos later, and we were flying along, our beautiful gennaker flying ahead and aloft of us.
Oh my, what a difference! I can’t believe we had this sail with us the whole time and never tried it out before – it was fantastic! Our spirits flying as high as our newly discovered best sail ever, it was time to make our way to the last buoy and tack towards the finish line. As we discussed if we should head towards the last buoy or try to squeeze in just one more before we go, the wind died down to almost nothing. We were making almost no way, and so did the boats around us. To add insult to injury, Bon Bini had comfortably landed in a cloud of bugs that were crawling all over here. What followed was a painful downwind crawl towards the last buoy. Somehow Denis managed to squeeze 2 knots out of the gennaker, and we passed two boats on our way into Medemblick marina as the sun went down. We made it into the marina around 22:00, more than an hour late. We quickly grabbed the log and went to see the race committee, hoping that they would show some mercy for a bunch of first-timers caught in light air.
When we finally handed in our race log, the lady behind the desk looked like she wasn’t sure if we were joking, and only a swift kung-fu-style hand snatch could safe our log from being tossed into the garbage. Defeat yet happy we marched into Medemblick, which was absolutely packed full of jolly sailors enjoying a drink to live music and barbeque. We had a couple of beers, and headed back to Bon Bini for a full nights sleep.
We woke up to a beautiful blue sky on Sunday morning. What was supposed to be a “quick run to the shop” turned into a major shopping orgy. I think the shop owner was booking his trip to Hawaii as we dragged bags and bags of stuff from the shop to the boat. Finally we cast of the lines and made our way back to Amsterdam. The wind was a gentle northerly breeze, perfect to have our new favorite sail take us all the way south of the Markermeer. Motoring back to the Amsterdam marina we recounted the adventures of the past weekend – even though we did not finish the race, we concluded that the experience was totally worth it. Next year we’ll do better!