Not for the faint hearted this one: The North Sea race can often be a tough affair, with crew battling against foul tides, unfavourable winds, and frequently rather bracing conditions. All this in a stretch of water known for its unforgiving and sometimes brutal nature. In the past it has been described as ‘180 miles of pure frustration’. The course is a testing one; departing from Harwich, racers head up the Norfolk coast to Smiths Knoll buoy, which doubles as a navigation and racing mark on this occasion, from here it is simply an eastward run across the North Sea to Scheveningen in Holland, where you can be assured a warm Dutch welcome. Unfortunately that one short sentence often belies a whole world of hardship, for the short, steep seas kicked up in this area can often make this a race of attrition, as battered yachts one by one retire home to lick their wounds.
Nevertheless, this can be a very rewarding event and the race is a great test of tactical nous combined with true grit and determination. Naturally, given the challenging nature of the event, the standard of the fleet is generally excellent, with the number of entrants generally somewhere between the 50-100 mark, with many Dutch vessels commonly entering.
Those who make it to Scheveningen are rewarded with a hearty celebration and also a chance to explore this somewhat offbeat Dutch seaside town. The arrival of the North Sea Race fleet coincides with the start of the Delta Lloyd North Sea Regatta, four days of racing and competition, which gives the whole area a real festival feel and ensures you are amply rewarded for the tough trip across. Something that is also worth noting for keen racers is that many competitors use the North Sea Race as the ‘return leg’ of the Verspruchenrace, which runs from Scheveningen to Harwich prior to the North Sea Race.