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Wacky Boats

The Lemsteraak The shouts of the crews mingle with the sound of timber meeting timber. Eased-out booms sweep across decks, grinning sailors ducking as the treetrunk-sized spars brush their scalps. On shore, screaming spectators wave banners and urge on their local heroes. As the fleet approaches the mark, the race turns into a barging match—literally. For we are on the

The Lemsteraak

The shouts of the crews mingle with the sound of timber meeting timber. Eased-out booms sweep across decks, grinning sailors ducking as the treetrunk-sized spars brush their scalps. On shore, screaming spectators wave banners and urge on their local heroes. As the fleet approaches the mark, the race turns into a barging match—literally. For we are on the Ijsselmeer, the shallow Dutch inland sea where dozens of lemsteraaks do battle in a hard-fought series of races every summer. These flat-bottomed, leeboard-equipped barge yachts, from 25 to 60 feet long, were originally fishing boats and look much the same as they did 300 years ago. Modern lemsteraak sailors, though, spare no expense in having their foils and rigs optimized, and Dutch naval architects do a brisk business tweaking and designing these boats. Lemsteraaks have a surprisingly brisk turn of speed, are very seaworthy and make excellent cruising boats; the Dutch royal family can often been seen sailing theirs on a summer afternoon. – Peter Nielsen

Dhow

The lateen sails of cargo-carrying dhows are still a common sight along the coastlines of the Middle East, and in some countries these traditional boats are also raced hard and fast. Dhow-racing season in the Persian Gulf centers around Dubai, where fleets of purpose-built racing boats and more traditional dhows line up against each other. Rules are few: racing dhows must be built of teak and have wooden masts and bowsprits, though the long lateen yard can be carbon fiber or aluminum. Laminated sails are popular and some inventive trapeze work can be seen on the more high-tech dhows. Competition is heated and many crew end up swimming during the races. – David Schmidt

Thames Barge

Thames sailing barges carried cargo on the shallow waters of England’s east coast and Thames estuary until the early years of the 20th century. Originally sailed with a crew of three—skipper, mate and a dog—these flat-bottomed, leeboard-equipped wooden or steel boats are about 80 to 90 feet overall with a beam of roughly 20 feet. They’re boxy boats with plumb bows and sterns, and they carry powerful rigs; top speeds of 12 knots are not unusual. The annual Thames Sailing Barge match was first held in 1863, making it one of Britain’s oldest sailboat races after the Cumberland Cup and Cowes Week. Small wonder these boats inspire such passion among those who sail them. – DS

Bermuda Fitted Dinghy

Dating back to 1853, this venerable class was developed as a scaled-down version of bigger boats sailed by professional crews. Bermuda Fitted Dinghies were restricted to an LOA of 14 feet 1 inch, sail area was open, and some boats carried huge rigs, long bowsprits and spectacularly proud booms. Square sails were flown initially, but Bermuda-rig sloops soon emerged as a more efficient sailplan. Fitted Dinghies are still raced by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, the St. George's Dinghy and Sports Club and Sandy's Boat Club. Funky rules abound: as with dhows, boats can jettison crew who may help push the boat along via their swimming prowess. Another mind-bender: boats on starboard tack do not always have rights over those on port. – DS

Chesapeake Bay Log Canoe

When 1,500 square feet of sail is rigged to a canoe four times as long as it is wide, it takes plenty of ballast to keep it upright. That’s why Chesapeake Bay log canoe sailors jam long boards beneath the leeward gunwale, bear-crawl up them to windward, sit on their thumbs, wrap their ankles and hold on. No one, and nothing, is secured to the boat. Two hefty masts support three working sails (jib, foresail and mainsail), a kite (small gaff-rigged topsail), a staysail and an asymmetrical spinnaker. The main trimmer, perched on the bumpkin, is often dunked in the bay; crew frequently fall from the slippery boards; and capsizes are not uncommon. There are 15 log canoes in the world and those who race them tend to be a die-hard bunch. It’s not hard to see why. – Meredith Laitos

Hawaiian Sailing Canoe

A thousand years ago, Polynesian adventurers in wooden-hulled canoes with sails woven from leaves explored and settled the Hawaiian Islands. Through the centuries, this traditional boat was all but forgotten until, in 1987, the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association formed. Locals built modern-day versions of the ancient craft—now with fiberglass hulls and Dacron sails—and the club grew to 15 boats and 200 members. They established a regatta calendar that reaches every Hawaiian island, racing up to 50 miles at a time across the rough waters of the inter-island channels. They sail at speeds of 15 to 20 knots and are often steered using a single canoe paddle. – ML

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