Following the J/22 European Sailing Championships in France, where the Delft-based team won and the Rotterdam-based team came second, the rivals once again faced each other at the National Students’ Championships held in Rotterdam last weekend. “RSZV tends to be slightly better at team sailing than Broach,” RSZV member Joris stated prior to the race.

It was a warm Sunday in June with a lot of sun and a little bit of wind. RSZV President Casper Hamminga had been chosen to spend the day shuttling sailing boat crews representing six students’ sailing clubs across the Kralingse Plas Lake in a motor boat.

He was transferring Groningen’s Mayday team, all of whose members were wearing sunglasses. The team were a little hungover from the night before, but said they were ready to win the title. “I certainly hope so, because the Rotterdam team has been winning this race for years,” Casper told the Groningen team, pretending to be fed up with his own club’s dominance. “It’s about time someone else win the title this year.”

Strategic type of sailing

Once we arrived at the committee boat, a large motor boat moored in the middle of Kralingse Plas, where the Championships’ race committee were sitting on plastic garden chairs, there were some brief instructions regarding the start of the race, after which the Groningen team were taken to their sailing boats. Each race involved four sailing boats, all owned by RSZV, divided between the two teams participating in each race. It was now the Groningen team’s turn to take on one of the favourites for the title, Delft’s Broach club.

After the ‘Go-to-the-start’ signal had been given, the two pairs of sailing boats made their way to the start line (an imaginary line between an oblong buoy in the water and the committee boat). In the meantime, a race committee member named Bart explained that team sailing is a very strategic discipline in which two teams, each consisting of two boats, try to obstruct one of the other team’s boats so as to make sure it crosses the finish line last, since the team whose boat comes last is the losing team.

Both of Broach’s boats quickly took the lead, and in no time the two boats crossed the finish line. Every time a boat crossed the line, a pistol shot would be fired on the committee boat.

’I’m just following protocol’

By now Delft led the rankings, and it was RSZV’s turn to take on Groningen’s Mayday. Before the starter pistol was fired, the boats sailed to and fro in front of the start line and a complicated time-indicating procedure involving flags was carried out on the committee boat – a procedure so complicated that the person responsible for it, Kate, was unable to explain exactly how it worked. “I don’t know exactly how it works or what all these flags mean,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “I’m just following protocol.”


Wind turned

When the starter pistol was finally fired upon completion of the lengthy flag ceremony, the four sailing boats made their way to a large orange buoy moored further down the lake, which marked the end of the course. However, while they were coursing towards the buoy, the sky gradually became overcast and the wind blowing down the lake changed direction. From the committee boat Bart communicated with the other race committee members, who were located on several boats on the lake. The general consensus was that the race was no longer fair due to the change of wind direction.

During the discussion the various members of the race committee displayed a high level of confusion, and at one point there was a great deal of laughter on both sides of the walkie-talkie line. “I’m still drunk from last night’s party,” Bart admitted apologetically.

It was decided that the race had to be cancelled and re-contested. In the second run RSZV beat Groningen. This meant Delft and Rotterdam were now the joint leaders and had to face each other off in the final, which was to be contested later that afternoon.

No beer allowed!

By then a crowd had gathered on the committee boat. An RSZV photographer had arrived on board holding a can of beer in his hand (“No beer allowed on the committee boat,” Bart said sternly. “This is the championships’ official boat!”). Furthermore, two female spectators had taken seats on the front deck.

Bart decided he had had enough. “There are too many people on board. Anyone who’s not actually supposed to do something must leave the boat.” While returning to the shore on the shuttle, the two spectators who had been banned from the front deck chatted about the ‘Under The Sea’-themed party they had attended the night before (“I was in character. I brought a genuine cod as a prop,” said Anniek). For his part, the pilot, Joris, discussed RSZV’s chances of winning the final. “Rotterdam and Delft are evenly matched, but RSZV tends to be slightly better at team sailing events than Broach.”

Four consecutive titles

As it happened, Joris was proven right. In the best-of-three final contested between RSZV and Broach, the Rotterdam-based team won two races, meaning they won the National Students’ Team Sailing Championships for the fourth time running.