Skûtsje racing in Friesland is an extremely serious sport, which traces its beginnings to a century and a half ago. The skûtsje is a very nimble barge with its length relatively long for its narrow beam and shallow draft. Its curved bilges, gracefully curved bow and stern and its pronounced sheer make it more agile and capable than other tjalken.
These barges were built to haul peat, sand, gravel, compost and other cargoes across the shallow Friesian lakes and through the narrow canals. During quiet times when few cargoes were available, the skippers would gather together, move their furniture and belongings ashore and race with each other. These impromptu and casual races continued. As motorized barges replaced the old skûtsjes, many were scrapped as the skippers moved on to more efficient vessels. The better skûtsjes survived by being converted to jachten or woonbooten, yachts or residential boats, as was our Zonder Zorg.
In 1945 the SKS, a skûtsje racing association was founded and began an annual series among the skûtsjes representing fourteen Friesland towns and cities. Among the regulations is that the skipper of each barge must be a direct descendant of a commercial skûtsje skipper. Our skûtsje, Zonder Zorg was owned and operated by Albert Douwe Visser, and this week his grandchildren made him proud again, with Douwe, Douwe and Albert Visser placing first, second and fourth among the fourteen skûtsjes. This is the eleventh time one of the Visser grandsons have won the annual championship in the past twenty years. Above, Douwe Visser in the Grouw skûtsje pulls ahead of his cousin Douwe Visser in the skûtsje from Sneek.