Race of the Classics

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

– William Arthur Ward

Race of the Classics

The Race of the Classics is a sailing race with classic sailing vessels across the North Sea, where students are part of the crew. Students from all over the Netherlands form teams that represent different Universities and Colleges. Team Vrije Universiteit (VU) is one of the teams that has been participating continuously for more than ten years!

In 1989, two fellow Amsterdam residents, students of the Amsterdamse Academie, conceived the Race of the Classics at the bar of their student house. ‘De Rees’ – as the sailing competition is called by participants – was soon a fact: a small sailing trip from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Ramsgate in England. Little is left of that small scale: more than 500 students take part in more than 20 teams, in what has become the largest sailing race on classic ships for non-professionals. What remains of that humble beginning is the original goal: improving relations between students of various schools and studies and providing an experience of traditional sailing at sea.

The fleet has been sailing from the Veerhaven in Rotterdam for several years now. True to tradition, four rakken, courses between two fictional buoys at sea are raced – after which a port in Belgium and a port in England are visited during the week. Eventually the fleet arrives in our own city, Amsterdam, where the event ends with a spectacular end party, the Port Side Party.

All participants are committed to making the week in April a great success. Although most student-crew members have no experience with sailing at sea, or even never sailed at all, they learn under the guidance of the skippers and crew how things are done on a classic sailing ship on the North Sea in true Dutch fashion. And because this is a competition, it means quick learning and hard work! And yes, sometimes also to manage the seasickness …

Not only does the Rees demand quite some effort from participants at sea, also ashore a lot is happening in the run-up to the Rees. Teams have to be put together, agendas are to be set, media is to be updated, sponsors have to be found, introductory drinks and parties are organized – in short: all organizing boards have been preparing for the Race of the Classics for more than a year.

But all that contributes to what has become known as the Rees feeling, which is difficult to describe. Great, adventurous and addictive: you only know what it is once you have been there. Sincerely a unique experience.

“I hope that the event will remain as it was intended; for and by students and non-profit.”
– Luc van Laarhoven, one of the founders of the Race of the Classics


Classic Sailing Vessels

The Race of the Classics is a sailing race, where each team participates on a classic Dutch sailing ship. For almost 30 years the Rees sails with Dutch classic sailing ships. The fleet is formed by all kinds of ships, including barques, barquentine, brigs, schooners, cutters, loggers and even a ship of the Royal Dutch Navy. The ships are traditionally rigged, which means that sailing is still very labour-intensive and requires the necessary knowledge of sailing. The fact that this sailing heritage is competing against each other on the North Sea every year, in a competition for and by students, is very special and it always provides a unique spectacle. Sailing on a classic sailing ship combined with the tension of a crossing to England is in itself a huge experience. Add the competition element and you have the Race of the Classics.

But the Race of the Classics is not only an important event for students: for three decades the Rees has been a very warm supporter of classic seafaring by organizing this competition. It has led to a excellent relationship between the students and the traditional sailing community, which is reflected in the number of students who participate in other journeys after the Rees as permanent crew and the fact that many skippers support the competition with time and resources. Without this great relationship there would not be a Rees! In the nineteenth year of the Race of the Classics, the idea arose to set up a classic ships’ fund. With this, the Race of the Classics wants to show how important it is for the Dutch sailing heritage to be preserved for the future – and so, students support the classic ships on which they can participate in this competition!

Every year prior to the Race of the Classics the central organizing board determines which team will sail on which ship. This can sometimes be exciting, since not all ships are able to participate in the competition each year; for example, due to maintenance work or other obligations. It also depends on the preference of the skippers and the size of the participating teams. For many years Team VU was a guest at the barquentine Thalassa. This seaworthy three-master is not only one of the largest ships in the Dutch classic fleet, but also one of the fastest and most enjoyable ships of the Rees. But because Thalassa has different commitments this year in April – Team VU will sail on another ship this year. So it is still very exciting which ship we are signing on!

As soon as we know more, we will let you know that here!