What’s in a name

Interview with the ladies rowing team at the nautical college on the island of Terschelling

For the last fifteen years Wagenborg is sponsor of the “Egbert Wagenborg” rowing sloop. Time for a talk with the ladies team at the nautical college on the island of Terschelling. 

A selection from the annual rowing races
A selection from the annual rowing races
9e Vechten op de Vecht 1 April
14e Slag om de Zaan 15 April
19e Roeisloepenrace Grou 29 April
22e Roeirace OFK Lemmer 13 May
HT 26 May
11e Kaagrace 10 June

Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz is situated on a beautiful location looking out across the Wadden Sea. This nautical college, founded in 1875, has about 500 students at the moment. About 10% of this group is female. Every new school year, an effort is made to form a ladies team out of this 10%, competing in about six races annually in the “Egbert Wagenborg”. Since 1992, Wagenborg owns this so called Kuiken sloop and has sponsored several teams since then.

Kees Kuiken

Kees Kuiken, lecturer for the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz in the eighties, made the design. This sloop, meant to row with eight people, is made out of polyester and is designed for speed.  The sloop is about eight meters long and has a width of 2,3 meters. She weighs only 600 kilos.

The ladies

That afternoon, end of January, the team is almost complete to give an insight in this special hobby. Carolien Nonnekes, team captain for just a few more months, talks enthusiastically together with other team members and Bas the so called coxswain.

Carolien will carry over her tasks as team captain to Nora Sappé soon. “As soon as the new school year commences, training and competing in races starts. No rituals for the new team members only the coxswain, responsible for direction and speed of the sloop, is thrown overboard at the end of the first race!”, according to the ladies.

The highest league

"The current team is rowing so well, we are competing in the highest league at the moment. Which  is quite an achievement since the composition of the team changes regularly. During their studies the students need to do two internships of five months each. The team needs to achieve a high level in a very short period of time”, says Carolien.

"Training takes place twice a week, three times a week when a race is scheduled. The duration varies from 45 minute to two hours. Carolien: “During the race, competition is fierce but afterwards we drink a few beers together. Unfortunately we can’t party for too long since we have to return to Terschelling. But there is always the bar on the ferry.”

Harlingen - Terschelling

Out of all rowing endurance races the HT (Harlingen-Terschelling) is the toughest. The first time this race took place was on Saturday June 21st, 1975. A group of people, involved in rowing on the island of Terschelling, came together in the year when the nautical college celebrated her hundredth anniversary. They came up with the idea to row from France to England. Afraid of damaging the sloops during transport, the school blocked this plan. Rowing from Harlingen to Terschelling, a distance of 34 kilometres (!) was the next best thing. Later, in a local pub called the OKA 18, a few students from Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz challenged the pub’s rowing team, of the same name, to participate in the first race. Even though the local doctor strongly advised not to row such an enormous distance since it would be “harmful to one’s health”, the islanders accepted the challenge. The students were rowing in the “Houtman”, the OKA 18 team in “de Rijp”. This was the deal, the race was not going to be about winners or losers. But since both teams were rowing at their own speed the OKA 18 team arrived in Terschelling first. 

“Rowing is a great sport as long as you’re not rowing”

Never again

When asked why the ladies want to participate in such a gruelling race Carolien says: “The finish line in Terschelling! During the entire length of the HT we are rowing with the current but during the last lap, the Schuitengat, we row against it. And while the HT is a mental race anyway from start to finish, this last stretch is purely done on character! Once in Terschelling we all say ”I will never ever row again!”. But once recovered we all agree that rowing is the best thing in the world! Especially since we made it to seventh place last year”.

Skinned hands (and the rest..)

"As soon as the HT is over, everyone has skinned hands and it doesn’t stop there… Taking a shower after the race is no laughing matter. Salt water running across these areas is very painful. But once the party starts a day later, in a large tent in West-Terschelling, the agony is forgotten!”, says Jo-Anna. Apart from the ladies team there is also a men’s team. Cooperation between the two is good. Carolien: “We help each other, share transport where possible and in doing so are saving costs”. Jo-Anna: “In the beginning we had to prove ourselves a little to the men. They thought we were in this for fun”.