On 8 May, Åland Post focuses on the historically important postal route across the Sea of Åland with a stamp illustrating the Postal Boat Race. The race is arranged every year in June in commemoration of the hazardous postal journeys and hardships of the farmer-postmen as they conveyed the mail between Sweden and Åland for almost 400 years. The issue is part of the PostEurop 2020 Europa stamp series focusing on ancient postal routes this year.
The sea route across the Sea of Åland between Roslagen in Sweden and Eckerö in Åland has been important since Medieval times, at least. As Sweden emerged into a major power in the 1600s, regular mail services between the western and eastern parts of the realm became necessary. Swedish Queen Kristina’s first postal ordinance of 1636 stipulated that landowning resident farmers were obliged to carry the mail with the assistance of farm hands. The first mail run across Åland to Finland departed from Sweden in 1638. The crossing between Grisslehamn and Eckerö was to be known as one of the most dangerous postal routes in the world, particularly during times of treacherous ice and snow conditions; more than 200 farmer-postmen lost their lives.
The Postal Boat Race has been arranged since 1974 in commemoration of the Swedish and Åland peasants, who were obliged to convey mail and passengers across the Sea of Åland in all kinds of weather. Every two years, the race sets off from Storby, Eckerö, and all participating mail boats carry a mail bag. The boat must be true to the period and the crews of four are required to wear contemporary clothes. The goal is to cross the Sea of Åland as quickly as possible and, depending on wind and weather conditions, the crossing takes between 3½ and 6 hours. The boat and team acquiring the highest total score for clothing, boat and speed wins.
With the introduction of regular steamboat traffic in the 1890s, the postal route across the Sea of Åland lost its importance, and the peasants’ rota system was phased out entirely in the early 1900s.
|Date of issue||8 May 2020|
|Stamp size||50 x 20 mm|
|Sheet size||2 x 15 stamps|
|Perforation||13 per 2 cm|
|Printing method||4-colour offset|
|Printing house||Southern Colour Print|