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A skûtsje (pronounced 'skootshuh') is a Frisian sailing boat of the type tjalk, originally an ordinary cargo boat, but today a prized ship and one of the icons of Frisia. Skûtsjes were built from the 18th century until about 1930 and are 12 to 20 m long and on average 3.5 m wide, with a maximum of 4 m (based on the standard dimensions of Frisian bridges and sluices).
In the 1920s and 1930s many skûtsjes were fitted with engines and after World War II the sails were even often removed. Nevertheless other, much larger, powered boats took over water transportation in the area and many skûtsjes were rebuilt into houseboats or luxurious sailing yachts. Over time, more and more were restored to their original state.
There is a yearly racing event in Friesland called Skûtsjesilen. Such races were already held in the early 19th century, but since 1945 they are regulated through a committee, SKS. In these races, each Skûtsje represents a city or village. In 1981 another organisation, IFKS, also started organising races.
This racing already started early in the 20th century where villages in Friesland or more precisely often the bar and hotel owners made prices available for the winner. At that time the skipper and his family lived on board in a narrow cabin and before the race the family and the interior of the cabin was placed ashore to appear as light as possible at the start of the race.
The Skûtsjemuseum in Eernewoude (Frisian: Earnewâld) started building a new skûtsje, out of wood at the old way, that is expected to be ready in 2008.
- J&J Griffin: The Quick Reference Guide to Dutch Barges, UK, 2007.
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