The flat-bottom boat racing is now protected cultural heritage
Translated by Thomas Ansell
As reported by the Sneeker Nieuwsblad, the SKS championship, which takes place every year on the Sneekermeer, has been added to the Inventaris Immaterieel Erfgoed Nederland (Dutch Intangible Cultural Heritage Register). It joins around 160 other cultural practices, including artisan crafts, festivals, and social practices.
By being included on the list, Skûtsjesilen’s visibility will be improved and its heritage will be better preserved. The list is underwritten by UNESCO, and forms part of a larger international cultural database. The unique culture of the SKS championship, and the Skûtjesilen tradition, is particularly important in Friesland- which places a high importance on water-based traditions.
In the coming years, the SKS foundation will be aiming to bring more young people into the sport, whilst organising the championships each year.
Skûtsjesilen’s roots sit within the Frisian inland freight trade. Since the waterways in the Province were often quite shallow, the boats were adapted into their current low-slung form. Aside from maximising the amount of peat or grain they could carry, it also made the boats incredibly fast and maneuverable. Originally each captain was chosen by the landlord of a pub, though there are often very long-standing ties between a ‘captains family’ and the village they represent.