Seven BISC members left Brussels on Friday afternoon, June 21st, and headed for Zeeland with the ambition to sail the 24 hours of the Veerse Meer. They wanted to defend the cup that a BISC crew won last year on board Zeewolf, a Spirit 28 chartered form De Arne. Two boats would be flying BISC colors this year. Bo, Kai, Peter and Willem crewed good old Zeewolf hoping to squeeze another victory out of her. Richard, Jennifer and Roel crewed Stormvogel.
The BISC boats spend Friday evening on the visitors pontoon at the Arnemuiden yacht club. Zeewolf hosted a Spartan dinner, an indication of the hard times still lying ahead. Kai cooked up canned pea soup found somewhere deep in Bo’s Swedish army reservists’ trunk, and then opened a pack of supermarket pancakes to be served cold. Jennifer carefully hid her lovely homemade chocolate cake, meant to comfort Stormvogel’s crew on the long midsummer night sail.
There were dire rumors at the bar and even more over the VHF. Grapevine had it the 24hrs would not be sailed on account of the weather and a lack of valiant crews. The Dutch coast guard broadcast warnings for the area spiced up with promises of showers and poor visibility in rain. We headed for our bunks shortly after midnight. The briefing at nine Saturday morning confirmed the rumours. Only three boats were willing to sail 24 hrs on the prevailing weather forecast, two of them from BISC. The organising committee launched 11 boats into what would now be the 12 hours of the Veerse Meer.
At exactly eleven, the fleet crossed the starting line and headed in the direction of Veere and the Oostwateringen turning buoy. Zeewolf took the better start, Stormvogel crossed the line in only the 8th or 9th position. The wind was coming in from the SW, blowing up a strong five and regularly gusting six. On this initial beam reach Zeewolf had a reef in and a well furled genua. Stormvogel’s main was down to the second reef but she sported her high aspect, 15M2 jib nr. 3.
In Oostwateringen the fleet turned into a reach back to Arnemuiden, and then veered onto a dead run East towards the Sand creek. Bo unfurled his genua and the lighter Zeewolf steadily build up her advance over Stormvogel. On the long stretch towards the creek, the wind increased to a steady six, with occasional gusts of seven. On Stormvogel’s foredeck, the crew laid out jib nr.4, a smaller 10m2 front sail to prepare for the long hard beat back to Arnemuiden.
As Richard, Jennifer and Roel prepared to jibe at the creek, decision was taken to keep the high aspect/jib nr. 3 flying on the front stay after all. Stormvogel would try to make up some of the miles now separating both BISC boats. It proved to be the right decision. As Zeewolf was beating into the wind on a furled genua, Stormvogel was steering sharper headings on a well cut foresail. Moreover, her 4,5 ton displacement, a handicap over the 3 ton Zeewolf on the run, proved a blessing on the beat, at least with the prevailing 6B.
Slowly but surely Stormvogel crept closer and closer to Zeewolf, eventually overtaking her about two miles short of completing the first round of the Veerse meer. Stormvogel actually overtook Zeewolf leeside. Zeewolf being closer on the wind was obliged to steer too high a course as Stormvogel climbed ever higher under her lee.
Both crews pushed the boats very much to the limit. Stormvogel was knocked beyond 60° bank at least twice, not only washing her gunwales but actually filling the cockpit as well.
On their second round of the Veerse Meer, the same happened all over again. Zeewolf made good on the run, only to lose out again on the beat; Only this time around, her crew trying to squeeze the last yard out of each tack, ran aground, not only once, but actually twice. Both incidents cost Zeewolf about half an hour, and in excess of two miles. Her crew points to a slow depth sounder for the navigational mishaps. But thanks to this, in her third round of the Veerse meer, Stormvogel kept ahead of the other BISC competitor.
An important tactical decision still lay ahead. Stormvogel decided to make her final turn at the Schelphoek, on buoy VM28. As she beat her way back towards Arnemuiden and the finishing line, she came across Zeewolf who promptly made her final turn as well. Stormvogel crossed the finish at 22:50, avoiding penalty miles that start adding up after 23:00. Zeewolf followed shortly thereafter at 22:57, narrowly avoiding a first penalty mile. Stormvogel got credited with 59,289 miles, Zeewolf with 52,225 miles. The log on Stormvogel read 59,6m.
We took our moorings just before midnight, and headed for the bar. Results would be announced at 00:30. In the end, after handicaps had been applied to each boat’s mileage Stormvogel finished third, Zeewolf ninth. The third place came with a bottle of Berenburger, the famous Friesian herbal gin.
And what about the trophy Bo, Kai and Peter took home in 2012? There having been no challenge over 24 hours, the throphy remains in hands of last year’s winning team and BISC. BISC here and now calls to arms to defend the trophy with as many crews as possible in 2014.
After more than 12 hours on the water, most crews still tried to complete the 24hours at the bar. None succeeded, but Roel closed the club at 04:00, claiming to have successfully completed the sailing/drinking combi-event known as the seventeen hours of the Veerse Meer. He found his bunk without falling of the pontoon and emerged at ten in the morning to cook up eggs for his crew.
As Stormvogel sailed back to her moorings in Wolphaartsdijk, it was still blowing up a six. Along the way, her crew spotted a Sailor 660 open keelboat from our charter base at De Arne, upside down, with her keel pointing at the sky and her mast stuck in the mud. It proved to be a tough weekend indeed.