Round North Holland is an event with a difference, an event that only the Dutch can put on, for nowhere else in Europe do you have access to a circuit that includes inland seas, locks and the north Atlantic!
It's not exactly a fun run, but it is fun. Yachts of all shapes, sizes and ages take part and the night before the start is notoriously boisterous, which may account for the French flag!!
Next day, the competitors have a gentle enough introduction to racing, in usually sheltered waters, but vigilance is needed in the Waddenzee and anything can happen when the fleet gets into the North Atlantic!

After spending a loud night at the Marina in Muiden, we set off to the race course about 10:30 Friday morning.  The start was to be 11:30 for our "fast" cruising fleet.  With over 100 boats vying for position, and a great misunderstanding, the fleet was forming up for a great downwind start, then just before the red flag the committee postponed! Stopped the race!  A skiff rounded up the starters and we grouped to try again.  Why they didn’t hoist general recall is a mystery!

So we went to start again, even though we had missed the beginning of the start sequence and were a little off, but not enough to get buried by the fleet in the new start, until our traveler to mainsheet shackle parted during a jibe. With the wind building we had a few moments of confusion, but due to some experience on board, clear thinking, and luck no one was hurt and the shackle was replaced, but we started 8 to 10 minutes late.

Our boat was the Bree Horn. A Frans Maas design from 1967. We might have even been the oldest boat in the regatta. She is a sweet fast boat, a little tender on the wheel, but points well and is really built for off shore comfort, as I will explain later.

We had a mixed crew.  2 Americans and 3 Dutchmen, and a Dane.  Hans Rademaker was our skipper. He is an experienced sailor in North Holland.  He is very familiar with the Waddenzee, probably the most important and for sure the most fun part of the race.

Back to the race;  we caught up with the fleet at the lock in Enkhuisen.  Geez!  You had to see it to believe it!  All those boats pushing and fending and working at a better position in the lock. 

After that we were off to another good downwind run, the wind holding pretty consistently from the SW.  We made it to Kornwerderzand before we had planned to be there.  Since we had a pilot, an engineer, 2 sailing instructors, a construction worker, and a certified mechanic we spent a moment helping a friend repair a roller furling.  We did and they donated two bottles of a nice red wine to the cause (which we drank after the race) then we made our way 2 hours later into the Waddenzee.

The Waddenzee is a very large tidal basin; the depth is very important to watch and the tides are very important to watch.  The rules of engagement do not apply on the "Wad", there are channels and commercial boats.  Rules of the road are the rules and that was good, because it was getting dark. 

The wind was dying and the sky was clearing.  Our speed over ground dropped to 1.2 knots at one point.  If it had not been for our relaxed, friendly, no stress crew we might have boxed the compass and screamed in frustration. As the night wore on, we found ways to find the breeze, what little there was.  We scratched the backstay, told dirty jokes to Neptune and steered the Bree Horn into the current and  around 2:00 am found the height of the ebb and enough wind to make 9 knots over ground. From there it was past Den Helder and over Mars Deep into the North Sea!

At sunrise we found ourselves off shore in a force 4 to 5 wind that wanted to clock.  When I came on deck there was no hope for a good heading to Ijmuiden.  We tacked back inshore and the wind backed a few degrees.  We tacked back out and it backed a little more, but even then not enough.  This last 25 mile stretch was going to be a windward leg. 

At one time we had to reef down, as the wind built to Force 6+, but the Bree Horn was pretty weatherly, she shouldered the waves aside like a true ocean racer.  She is a dry boat I can say.  There was one wave that I thought was going to come on board.  It broke at the shear, just aft of the Port main winch, but the boat lifted and no water came on board.  I looked around and everyone in the cockpit had big eyes!  It was one of those "Hello"“ moments!  

The current finally turned in our favor and the wind settled down to a SW 5 breeze.  We made it to Ijmuiden in time for a late breakfast.

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