A blus­tery sail across the Wad­den­zee Love at first sight

Yachting Monthly - - CRUISING LOG -

Ger­ben Bergsma gets to grips with his new boat on a rally from Har­lin­gen to Ter­schelling.

Like many sailors, when the sail­ing sea­son comes to an end and I can’t get out on the wa­ter, I turn to trawl­ing yacht bro­ker­age web­sites. I wist­fully browse through ad­verts, look­ing for some­thing that is both beau­ti­ful and af­forad­able. It’s a pleas­ant pas­time. In 2013, a photo popped up and caught my eye. I saw a boat with stun­ning, slen­der con­tours and a hull of yel­low ochre; a low coachroof adorns the el­e­gant hull. An ex­tremely sharp bow, a slight tum­ble­home and a slip­per stern, all in per­fect pro­por­tion. She was clearly a very fast yacht, and I was fall­ing in love.

I trav­elled to Kor­sor in Den­mark for a closer look and had soon put in a bid. Be­fore long, the boat was mine. Called Svala, she is a Safir 10-Me­tre. On the wa­ter she eas­ily met my ex­pec­ta­tions, sail­ing ex­tremely fast in al­most all con­di­tions and on all points of sail.

Hav­ing got her home to the Nether­lands and had a sea­son of sail­ing her, I was keen to see how she would fare against other boats so I en­tered the Har­lin­gen to Ter­schelling race, through the Dutch Wad­den­zee.

On the day of the race, the wind was blow­ing a solid Force 5 to 6 from the north­east. From the start, Svala set­tled down to a beau­ti­ful close haul, and we started creep­ing up through the fleet. The waves soon got up as the breeze built, with gusts up to 35 knots send­ing white­caps tum­bling down the steep seas.

I put in the sec­ond reef as we crossed the Pan­nen­gat, still on a beat. Ev­ery now and then, a par­tic­u­larly vi­o­lent gust hit the boat and her rig shook like a leaf. The boat was get­ting tossed about in the rough seas, and some­how the fuel line con­nec­tor for the out­board en­gine tore off the fuel hose. We were now to­tally re­liant on sail­ing well.

Spray was be­ing thrown back over the cock­pit, past the keel­stepped mast, and I quickly dis­cov­ered that the cuff around the mast didn’t seal prop­erly, as wa­ter ran into the cabin be­low.

‘I thought this boat was meant to be a dry boat to sail!’ I yelled to my crew against the wind. Now and then the whole fore­deck dis­ap­peared com­pletely un­der wa­ter as the bow sliced through an­other wave. The nav­i­ga­tor lifted a board to in­spect the bilges.

‘Is there a lif­er­aft on board?’ he asked non­cha­lantly. My an­swer didn’t re­as­sure him, but I did pass him a bucket with which to im­prove our chances of sur­vival.

Af­ter what seemed like a life­time at sea, we ar­rived at the North Meep chan­nel in the lee of the is­land of Ter­schelling and sailed into the shel­ter of har­bour, where we could drop the main­sail and drift along­side. There, we hauled out the sod­den con­tents of our boat to dry out, though the nav­i­ga­tor was all in favour of book­ing into the near­est ho­tel.

The next day was no less windy, but on a run back to Har­lin­gen we all stayed dry. I was thrilled that we fin­ished half way up the rank­ings, not a bad show of speed for a bunch of cruis­ing sailors.

‘Now and then the whole fore­deck dis­ap­peared com­pletely un­der wa­ter’

With low free­board and slen­der lines Svala is fast but she’s not dry

Svala en­ters the North Meep chan­nel

Svala is a Scan­di­na­vian Safir 10-Me­tre

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