The 32nd Windmill Rally- 23rd and 24th July 2016
(Click a photo to see a larger picture in a slide show. Most taken by myself with a few downloaded from the VMC website)

The Windmill Rally - held bi-annually and for 2016 it was in Holland. Wales won the 3rd Windmill Rally back in 1967 when it was incorporated as part of the Saundersfoot run. The winning Welsh team then was:
Pat Cravos - 1924 Douglas
Graham Gardiner - 1925 Scott
Phil Griffiths - 1925 Sunbeam
Bryn Boulter - 1928 Norton
Colin Chambers - 1936 Scott
Bob Perring - 1941 Harley Davidson
There were three England teams and one Dutch team.
By winning we were obliged to organise the next running of the event and somehow we managed to squirm out of it. I seem to remember that Arthur Mortimer sorted that out for us. The Windmill Rally was again held in Wales, as part of the 1983 Saundersfoot, starting from Llandovery - we made sure that we didn't win it again.

The event is a timed event and as some background information, part of the regs are as follows:
The Windmill rally will be held over 2 days. The route on each day has to be at least 100 Km and should have one break minimal.
The participant has to point out the average speed. We recommend a free choice of 24,30 or 36 Km/ph average speed.
All competitors must present their motorcycles with cold and stationary engines at the start.
All machines of riders of the 'A' and 'B' teams have to stay at least 12 hours in a parc ferme before the start on the second day. CLASSIFICATION
Class A: Machines manufactured before 31-12-1914
Class B: Machines manufactured between 01-01-1915 and 31-12-1924
Class C: Machines manufactured between 01-01-1925 and 31-12-1930
Class D: Machines manufactured between 01-01-1931 and 31-12-1940 Each competing nation should present an 'A'-team, competing for the 'Windmill-Trophy' and eventually a 'B'-team, competing for a national memorial cup.
The members of the 'A'-team and 'B'-team should be nominated by their national club.
'A'-teams should consist of 6 riders and 1 reserve, with the following machines:
  • 2 machines manufactured before 31-12-1914,
  • 2 machines manufactured before 31-12-1924 and
  • 2 machines manufactured before 31-12-1930.
The machine of the reserve should be manufactured before 31-12-1930.
If a nation wants to compete with an 'A'-team that doesn't require with the years of manufacture, a number of extra penalty points will be given to that team (see Penalty Points).

'B'-teams should consist of 4 riders and 2 reserves and the machines should be manufactured before 31-12-1940.

So, moving on to 2016 and the 32nd running of the event which was to happen in North Holland. For me, a chance to ride our 1908 Triumph outfit was just too good to miss. However, other Brits were thin on the ground and they were, Vic and Laura Blake(1926 Raleigh), Dave and Christine Pritchard(1929 Triumph), plus John and Pat Salsbury(1928 BSA), so no British team this time.

Jean and I were booked on the overnight Harwich to the Hook of Holland ferry on Thursday 22nd. We had a cabin booked so slept all the way and never saw any of the crossing. Arriving at the Hook at 8am gave me all day to drive the 165 miles to our Hotel in Eext. Eext is a small village, next to Gieten in the district of Drenthe and some 15km East of Assen. A leisurely drive got us to the camping field by 11:00, so we called in to make contact. There had been torrential rain on Thursday and the ground was still rather water logged and squelchy to walk on. Anyway, there were plenty of vans and tents there already, but no officials, that we could find. Not that it was a problem - so after a quick chat with a few of our Dutch friends we decided to head off to our hotel for a sit down with a coffee and a sandwich. The hotel had 14 bedrooms and was barely a mile away from the main event campsite. As we arrived at the hotel, we found it swarming with cyclists all stopping for lunch. It was pure chaos. We watched all the comings and goings over a bite to eat and after the dust had settled, we booked in and arranged an evening meal. The intention was to pop back down to the campsite later on and try and sort out scrutineering and signing on before returning to the hotel for our evening meal.

After sorting ourselves out we headed back to the campsite and found the organisers in the main marquee handing out the paperwork and goody bags. Moving on to the scrutineering and in a real creepy manner I asked if anyone could help as I had my bike in the van. I explained that it would be a nightmare to unpack everything and then to have to repack it all. "You can come back in the morning" was the reply. Sheepishly, I said that I'd still have to pack and unpack, as I couldn't ride the bike across the soggy campground. Eventually, and feeling sorry for me, I think, the bike was scrutineered in the van.

There was a BBQ laid on for later that evening to be followed by the raising of the country flags. The Union Jack was used to represent 'Engeland' a common mistake and one that is rarely corrected by the English. I made a mental note that I'd take a Welsh Dragon next time. Entries from each country were:
Holland - 99
Germany - 28
Sweden - 13
Denmark - 21
Austria - 10
Switzerland - 5
England - 3
Wales - 1 (no prizes for guessing who)
total - 180

After all of this it was a case of back to the hotel for our evening meal and then to bed.

Saturday - day one.
The run was at least 100 kms(60 miles) and the start was to be from the neighboring village centre of Gieten. We arrived at the campsite and unloaded the outfit, which was all prepared with oil and fuel etc, and ready to go. I watched a few off:

Jean and I then joined in for the ride to the 'official' start in Gieten a few miles away. For those not able to ride, wives etc, a vintage bus was laid on and it followed the route all day.

We were riding number 20 and riders were sent off in pairs. We had a 1933 Husqvarna for company. We were soon out of Gieten and into the countryside and following the route signage. The Dutch use a square sign on a post for turn left, circle for turn right and pyramid for straight on - all coloured red. A simple system that Jean and I are quite used to following when riding the Anglo-Dutch events. All I do is remember that Round is Right. Anyway, the first stop was at the Windmill in Gieterveen. We had 30 minutes to down a drink and eat a fabulous piece of tart in some glorious sunshine. I watched Harry de Boer ride in on one of the families three Williamsons - all of which were in original condition.

The route went on into the Drenthe countryside towards the Lunch stop of 90 minutes at the windmill museum "de Wachter" in Zuidlaren.

Inside the museum, apart from the working windmill, were a number of steam engines and models in varying sizes:

We continued after lunch and soon came across the fifth and final checkpoint. The next stop for us was the windmill "de Hazewind" in Gieten. We were riding number 20 and, guess what, when we arrived at the windmill, nearly everyone was already there. I've always wondered how they do that and the question was answered on one of the last 9-Provinces that we rode. The locals just take a short cut - and in this case could do that, as we'd signed off at the last time check, so there were no penalties to incur.

The fuel level in the tank was very low by this time and I opted to continue until we ran out and to then use the 1 litre that I had in a can in the sidecar. We were soon running on fumes and - as luck would have it - we came across a fuel station. Harry de Boer was refueling his Williamson and kindly showed me how to work the fuel pump using my credit card, as the fuel station was unmanned. I did feel a lot better as we continued with a full tank.

Back at the finish, we opted not to stop, as we were feeling quite tatered and the day had been quite long. Our Triumph would do an easy 80 miles on a tank and we'd had to find a fuel station not long after the last afternoon stop. I guessed at around the 100 mile mark ending with a daily mileage of 120ish. Anyway, back to the hotel, a shower, change of clothes and we felt human again. It was then back to the event Marquee for the evening meal. I must say that I have no idea what half of it was, but it looked ok and was soon eaten. The bikes involved with the country teams for the Windmill trophy were held in a Parc Ferme overnight. As there were only four Brits we didn't have a team, so our outfit went back into the van for the overnight.

Following the meal a live band came on and played mainly Country and Western music - and good they were. With all the fresh air during the day, we were soon feeling pretty tired, so set off back to the hotel.

Sunday - day two.
 We arrived at the campsite just after 9am and unloaded for the 10am start. Waiting were:

10am came and we lined up and with a large crowd of spectators, I pushed the Triumph off. In three paces the engine fired up and we were away and looking forward to another super day riding in the Drenthe countryside. The weather was a tad overcast, but dry. Today we were looking for a 30 minute coffee stop, a 20 minute break, a 90 minute lunch stop and finally an afternoon 30 minute stop in Nijlande. The first stop was at Jumbo Abbas in Gieten:

All good, so far, then things started to go downhill. We set off for the next stop of 20 minutes and arrived at a Dutch 'Museum Village'. The road consisted of large cobble stones that threw the outfit all over the place. I stopped to get our time card stamped and decided to just push the outfit to the side of the road, as we only had to wait 20 minutes before we were off again. Oh dear, was I in trouble. "You can't stop there" said a marshal, "there's a big fine for parking in the village". I was directed to ride down the road and turn left and then left again into a field. I was feeling a little hot under the collar as I tried to explain the starting procedure for a single gear, clutchless outfit, on the cobblestone road. However, the marshal was having none of it and volunteered to push. That was a bit easier, but he soon saw the problem and allowed us to shortcut under a tape into the parking field.

Whilst I took some photos, Jean just stayed in the sidecar, as it didn't seem worthwhile getting out for a 20 minute stop. As soon as our time was up I quietly pushed the outfit back out under the tape and started to push off. It doesn't happen very often but when the motor fired up my right foot went for the pedal and I missed - all due to the bouncing around on the cobbled road. I hung on and as I was trying to get on board, I was aware of a lady standing in front of the outfit and trying to wave us to the left to go into the field that we had just come out of. I ignored her and luckily, she jumped out of the way at the last minute, as I continued to scramble onto the, slightly, out of control outfit. I made it eventually and we were off to the lunch stop. The sun was out and the uncluttered minor roads beautiful to ride.

I suppose that we had travelled something like 10 miles when the driver and passenger in a car coming towards us flagged us down. "You are early, have you had lunch?", I was asked. My reply was that we hadn't got to the lunch stop yet . To cut a long conversation short, it seemed that the Museum Village was the Lunch Stop of 90 minutes and not the 20 minute break that I thought it was. Anyway, the advice was to carry on to the next village and stop in the local cafe for some refreshments. So, on we went - this was where things again went downhill.

Travelling along a main road, we had a right turn onto a 100 yard length of sand road. Luckily, we were soon back on tarmac, thank goodness. We passed a couple sitting on a bench and gave them a wave. That was one of the really nice things about the whole event - the locals were all out watching and waving at the bikes. On we went and soon we came to a Junction to go straight across with a red flag hanging on a pole to our left, indicating extreme care. You need to picture this in your mind now. We crossed the main road and travelled through the village of Schoonloo. No sign of a village cafe, by the way, so on we went and soon we came to a red square sign, indicating to turn left onto a main road, towards a roundabout that was some 100 yards away. No other signs to be seen, so I did the usual and went straight across the roundabout. In the absence of signs - keep going straight on. After travelling quite a way, with no confirmation sign that we were on the right road, I decided that it was wrong so back tracked to the left turn sign. Looking carefully, there were no signs at all on the approach to the roundabout. "Maybe some kids had removed the signs" I thought. So we set off again and turned right at the roundabout. Several miles further on and, again with no confirmation sign, I decided that the route must be a left at the roundabout. So, back we went and straight across the roundabout on to the only road from the roundabout that we hadn't tried.

Was it right, was it hell. It wasn't long before we came to the junction that we'd crossed with the red flag flying. So, with my Sherlock Holmes thinking, it must have been straight across the roundabout and we just didn't travel far enough along that road looking for a sign. I do hope that you're still with me on this.

Back to the roundabout and turn left - this time we were right - weren't we? Not on your life. We eventually approached, from the other direction, the right turn onto the sand road that we had done half an hour earlier. Jean didn't recognise it, so after a brief discussion, I said " I'll prove it to you" and set off down the sand road. The couple sitting on the bench were still there and by this time, alongside, a time check had been set up. I stopped and explained what had happened - then the light bulb moment. The left turn square really should be a right turn round sign. I explained it all to the time check lady and she straight away got onto the phone, presumably to report the dilemma.

The time check was the final one for the day and I hoped it wasn't far to the finish, as the bike was again running low on fuel. Anyway, off we set and when we came to the left turn square sign, this time I turned right. A couple of hundred yards and we were back on the route with a left turn sign in view. The route continued using side roads with no filling stations in sight. I was hot and sweaty and we were both getting distinctly fed up, as the route just went on and on. Eventually the bike stopped - out of fuel. I still had my 1 litre in a fuel bottle so poured it into the tank. A modern motorcycle stopped and offered help and said that it was only a few miles to the finish, luckily, it was.

The outfit went back into the van and we set off for the hotel to clean up. We needed to be back at the event marquee by 5pm for the results to be announced, followed by the prize giving. We had an evening meal booked at the hotel for 6pm and we altered that to 7pm, as we wern't sure on how long the prize giving was to take. As it happens, at 6pm, an announcement was made that the organisers were having computer problems and the results would not be announced until 7pm or later. We called it a day at that point and on the way out had a brief chat to Heinz Kindler, a friend from Germany. "You must come to Germany in 2018" he said. I reckoned that he knew something I didn't.

Back at the hotel and whilst sitting outside after our dinner and enjoying a lovely evening, some of the Swiss returned. I asked who had won and the reply was "Germany". The following morning, at breakfast, Dave Pritchard said that actually Sweden had won, but they had given the organisation of the next event to Germany. So Heinz knew all along.

The trip home was completely uneventful, thank goodness, apart from the M4 at the Brynglas tunnels being closed, necessitating a detour through Newport. I must say that the organisation of the event was excellent and that the Dutch Veteraan Motoren Club did a marvellous job, with only the one error, that we found the hard way, of course. There was so much to organise - I certainly wouldn't have wanted the job. We'd sure had a good weekend, despite the problems on the second day.

If you fancy seeing some more photos there are plenty on the VMC(Veteraan Motoren Club) website.
Just click the links under the "Windmolenrally entry".