Paul Elvstrøm, the sailing legend, passed away yesterday in his home in Hellerup, Denmark. With his 4 Olympics Gold Medals in a row and 13 World Championships, the Flying Dane shines among the best of all time. Only Sir Ben Ainslie (one Silver and four consecutive Golds) made more.
Luca Devoti remembers him with this article:
For my generation of sailors Paul was the ultimate legend. Nobody like him represents sailing all around. Champion, four times gold medallist, three in the Finn, sailmaker, boatbuilder, yacht designer, inventor. Once, a few years ago, I was in the UK when Devotisailing was based there and we received a fax: I still remeber all worlds, word by word, and the text was:
Dear Tim and Luca,
my 1956 sparring partner Boge Schwartz convinced me to go Finn sailing again, please send me one offer for two Finns,
and his magic signature Paul Elvstrøm.
I could not believe what I was seeing. We got in touch and organized two Finns. My partner Tim went all the way to his house in Hellerup, I went and visited him later on on several occasions. We became friends, the most surprising quality about him that I noticed was his kind way of speaking and his education and passion: a very fine man and a very charismatic person. He had his Finn on a floating pontoon, immediately invented a system to launch and retrieve with one electric winch and went sailing for quite a few years…
After Sydney I spoke with him on the phone and his congrats were really something special with some sort of affection that was mooving and delicate at the same time, him and mitical Giorgio Zuccoli, two of the greatest whose words I will never forget. He gave Devotisailing a series af glass slides, his Finn on top in the roof of a van while being taken down from a ferry, him installing the first self bailer in the first Finn Gold Cup that was staged in Burnham on Crouch were we had our yards in those years. His comment about the bailer was that he installed just before the regatta so nobody could copy. More than anything I remember the tone of his voice, he won, he fought he lost at times, he went through very difficult times as all ultra sensitive man go through. The Kiel Olympics something not easy for him to digest. He inspired generation of sailors all over the world and in Denmark specially, a country that gave birth to fabolous sailors after him, but none like him.
What more to say, the graetest of all times and I want to remeber him with the big smile he had when in 1987 he won Kiel Week in the Tornado helming from the wire with his beatiful daughter Trine… (Luca Devoti)
Former ISAF Presidente Paul Henderson conbtribution about the great Dane:
The “Great Dane” has left us, who knew and admired him with so many fond memories to remember him by.
The final meeting of my tenure as President of ISAF was held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2004.
Instead of going to dinner with the new Executive Board after retiring, Ralph Roberts NZ and our wives, Penny and Mary,
went to Hellerup and had a wonderful evening with Anna and Paul Elvstrom.
When Paul Elvstrom was one of the first recipients of the Beppe Croce Award he gave a wonderful fun
filled speech and made his usual accurate observations of Sailing which should be acknowledged by all today:
“It is much harder to build a strong and vibrant International Class Association than design a new boat.”
We were sailing the Finn in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and I was on the shore rigging my Finn when we noticed this
Finn come in to the beach and the skipper jumped out of the boat, a wave picked it up and smashed Paul Elvstrom’s leg.
We picked him out of the surf loaded him onto an ambulance and then went sailing.
About 4PM I decided to got to the hospital to see how Paul was doing.
As I walked into the hospital room I noticed two wives of USA Finn sailors had compassionately been there all day with him.
Paul got the wonderful toothy smile and said:
“This morning my mast was too limber and tonight my leg is too stiff.”
With that the two women said: “Mr. Elvstrom, You speak English?”
Paul replied: “Yes I speak English but sometimes I do not listen.”
We were sailing in the pre-Olympics in Acapulco in 1967 and Elvstrom who had retired from Finn sailing was ask to compete.
In the first race with 40 entries I decided to start to leeward of Elvstrom to test my speed.
The problem was the wind was slowly clocking and we got to the weather mark 2nd last and DFL.
The leaders had never been in that position before and sailed off to the wrong mark.
As we went down the reach, which we sailed in those days, Elvstrom yelled at me:
“Canuck do you want to finish second then jibe when I jibe.”
He jibed and headed for the right mark as the others sailed over the horizon.
When he finished having won the race Paul waited for all others to finish and lined them up and to race on the 7 km (5 miles) wave planing reach back to the Yacht Club de Acapulco. He disappeared leaving all the new sailors in his wake.
A wonderful day was when Paul Elvstrom was asked by Jacques Rogge to present his Gold Medal Finn to the IOC Museum in Lausanne Suisse.
When all of us think of Paul Elvstrom “The Great Dane” it will always be with a reverent smile as we were all better, as was our
sport of Sailing, for having known him and the legacies he endowed us with.
Rest in Peace Old friend as you are now planing down wind.
Olympic Medals (Gold)
1948 Torquay, Firefly
1952 Helsinki, Finn
1956 Melbourne, Finn
1960 Naples, Finn
1968 Acapulco, Star (4th)
1972 Kiel, Soling (13th)
1984 Long Beach, Tornado (4th)
1988 Pusan, Tornado (15th)
1962 Flying Dutchman
1966 International 5.5 Metre Class
1971 Half Ton
1981 Half Ton