Skûtsjesilen is a discipline of competitive sailing that is practised in the Dutch province of Friesland mainly. The name is Frisian for sailing (silen) with old freight ships called skûtsjes. These ships with flat bottoms were used in the 19th century to deliver turf, manure and other cargo to and from Frisian farms. Because these vessels had to make use of shallow waterways, they were constructed long and flat.
Some people used their skûtsjes to live on. If there happened to be a match, all furniture was put on the waterside. These matches only occurred in times of little employment, because clearly earning money was of the highest importance and the shippers were paid for their transporting services.
At first it were café owners who provided for the prize money so that a match could be held. Around 1850 the nobility started associations, but their luxury prizes instead of pure cash caused the skûtsjesilen sports to grow unpopular, magnified by the advancement of motorboats.
Not until the end of World War II, some fanatics revived the tradition by organizing matches again. Since then, it became one of Friesland's most popular summer sports and cultural event, together with kaatsen en fierljeppen.
The official yearly competition now consists of eleven races in different Frisian cities and towns (not to be confused with the eleven cities of the infamous Elfstedentocht), including Grou, Veenhoop, Earnewâld, Terherne, Langweer, Stavoren, Woudsend, Elahuizen, Lemmer and Sneek. The sports has its own website at http://www.skutsjesilen.nl/.