More than 1,000 boats were once again due to take part Friday in the biggest regatta of the year on the Oslo Fjord. The Færderseilasen follows a week of sailing and racing events at the start of a boating season that was delayed, began tragically and now demands special licenses for everyone under age 30.
It took a long time before winter finally eased its grip this year, and a chilly April and May delayed the usual rush of boats onto the water from Easter and onwards. The season also began tragically, with two people dying in a high-speed boating accident off Røyken in late April.
Accidents at sea prompted lawmakers to demand licenses for operators of boats longer than eight meters (about 24-feet) or with engines of more than 25 horsepower. Everyone born after January 1, 1980 was supposed to have a license in hand by May 1.
Not many seemed to be complying by the deadline, however, and maritime authorities started issuing warnings that the licenses were mandatory. By last week, more people were studying and registering for the licenses, but only an estimated 30 percent of the roughly 100,000 people involved had met requirements.
There’s been criticism that the licenses are only required for those under 30. Newspaper Aftenposten reported last month that 25 of 31 persons who died in boating accidents last year were men over age 41. If police nab boat skippers for recklessness on the water, however, they can demand the offender get a license whatever their age.
Norway has an estimated 300,000 pleasure craft bobbing along a coastline that stretches from the Swedish border in the south to the Russian border in the Arctic. Boat owners were struggling once again this year with long waiting lists for berthing spots. Some boat owners must wait seven to 10 years for a spot at a reasonably priced marina.
Price doesn’t seem to be an issue for many Norwegians who invest heavily in pleasure boats and yachts. Local marinas are full of huge boats that cost several million Norwegian kroner, as much as a house.
See photos from last year’s Færder Regatta here.