Now there are 10 sailboats left in Scheveningen harbour, for The Ocean Race. Ten really big guys. Soon, in less than two months, literally many hundreds, smaller ones will join them. Because from 10 to 20 August, The Hague will really be the world capital of the sailing world. That is when the World Cup comes to Scheveningen. Ten Olympic and three Paralympic classes will compete for the world titles. As many as 1,000 boats and boards will come to the beaches and harbours, and the World Championship has roughly 1,400 participants. ”It is no exaggeration to already call us the sailing port of the world,” says a proud councillor Hilbert Bredemeijer.
Commentators on Eurosport were lyrical this week. The broadcaster broadcast both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s In-Port race live. And yes, they too had followed the other In-Port races and agreed: those in The Hague were by far the best of the entire cycle. Conditions off the coast of The Hague this week were beautiful. Beautiful sunshine, a pleasant temperature, little wave action ánd a brisk wind. The IMOCA boats were even able to foil on Tuesday, a spectacle to behold. And the VO65s also got a nice breeze from the northeast on Wednesday.
That the sailing conditions here are so good is no coincidence. Precisely because the North Sea off South Holland is quite narrow – the ‘other side’ is almost visible, so to speak – there is always a strong current anyway. Moreover, there is always some wind on the North Sea, that relatively narrow strip of water between the Netherlands and England. Whereas elsewhere you can easily spend a day aimlessly bobbing on the water, on the North Sea you can usually always sail.
And often the conditions are even challenging. Marcelien Bos-de Koning, triple world champion and Olympic silver winner in the 470 class with Lobke Berkhout, always found it great sailing off the coast of The Hague. ,,Compared to other seas, it is in any case a relatively small sea, with a very specific wave action for sailors. Depending on the direction of the wind, and the influences of ebb and flow, the waves can grow considerably. Especially when the wind is from the north or northwest, they roll around a corner beautifully. This sometimes gives a real thrill. It is then one big playground.”
Allianz World Championships Sailing
Is it already a hive of activity during The Ocean Race – all week long it is pleasantly crowded in and around the free-to-visit Ocean Live Park – in two months, Scheveningen will once again be centre of attention. And, in August it will be fitting and measuring in the various harbours and on the North and South beaches. If the IMOCAs and VO65s are now moored in the First and Second Harbour, soon more space will be needed to accommodate the 1000 (!) boats and boards. Then also, roughly 300 RIBs will set sail. All in all, the sea will look like one big anthill.
Alderman Hilbert Bredemeijer (Education, Youth and Sport) has been beaming all week. He proudly walks the quays along the First and Second Harbour, he also hears so many compliments everywhere. The municipality is praised for daring to organise The Ocean Race in The Hague for the third time. And Bredemeijer knows that the world title race will also be a great celebration. This is no coincidence, the alderman realises. Years ago, the municipality of The Hague decided to invest in the port, and sailing. On the Hellingweg is the National Top Sailing Centre. Through the outer harbour, Dutch sailing talents take to the North Sea 365 days a year to train. Bredemeijer: “All that shows how great sailing is here.” With Gerd-Jan Poortman, tournament director of The Ocean Race The Hague, Bredemeijer calls The Hague “the world capital of sailing.
World sailing city
Sailor Peter van Niekerk, who has truly sailed all the world’s oceans, “agrees for now. The eyes of sailing fans in 2023 are of course now on The Ocean Race, and later many people will follow the World Cup. Count on that having its attraction on The Hague. A lot of people will then come to eat and sleep in the city during those events.” And it could also have a long-term effect on (sailing) tourism from abroad.
As a sea sailor, Van Niekerk calls the geologically young (because only about 6,000 years old) North Sea “very challenging though. It is a very busy sea. You used to be able to sail straight from The Hague to England, but now you have to deal with a lot of wind farms and shipping lanes. However, the Olympic classes in August are not affected by this. Those stay closer to the coast.”
The IMOCAs and VO65 boats also work their In-Port races relatively close to the beach during the stopover. It produced stunning images of boats floating on their foils on Tuesday, while the waves knew only white heads. Van Niekerk, just before taking to the water on Wednesday with the Mirpuri Racing Team’s boat, said: ,,These days it is really perfect sailing weather. Flat water, but a lot of wind. With 20 to 25 knots, it’s even almost maximum, let’s say high end. I do call that exceptional, you can’t expect to always find such conditions here.”
Obviously, the IMOCAs and VO65 boats have a lot of draft, so the smaller, Olympic boats can sail even closer to shore. “An additional advantage is that they are less affected by the current there. Which is worse a bit deeper. Because there is always a lot of current in the North Sea,” said Van Niekerk, who likes hearing from fellow sailors that they are enjoying themselves so much in The Hague these days. ”Well, of course, the weather is also almost un-Dutch, so they can’t say anything about that anyway,” van Niekerk laughs.
The idea to organise events like The Ocean Race and the World Championship on the North Sea near Scheveningen originated in 2008, nota bene just before the Watersportverbond moved the top sports accommodation from Medemblik to The Hague. Before 2014, the international federation World Sailing was still bypassing the Netherlands for the World Cup because Scheveningen lacked experience in organising major sailing events. A lot has changed since then. The Ocean Race arrived in 2015, 2018 ánd this year, and a youth World Cup was held, among other events. New Zealand, where sailing has become a popular sport, was trounced for 2023 by the partnership of the Watersportverbond, sports marketing agency TIG Sports and the municipality. It makes The Hague, with its harbour in Scheveningen, make a name for itself in the international sailing world.