History of the European Championship 1956 to 1975
At the time that the Finn became the Olympic singlehander in 1952, the IYRU used to delegate the organisation of a European Championship with a crew of one to member countries. They had the freedom to select a suitable class for the event. In those days it was customary - as it was in the Olympic Games until 1996 - that the host country supplied the boats for the European Championship and that each country is allowed to enter only one sailor.
The sailors had to qualify in a local class and then adjust to the class the host country selected and the individual boat which was assigned to them each day. Before 1954 the event was generally sailed in the O-Jolle and won by sailors unknown in the Finn class.
The 1954 IYRU European Championship for a crew of one was delegated to the Federal Republic of Germany and organised again in the 1936 O-Jolle in Berlin on the Wannsee. Interesting for us is the fact that the people who were fast in the Finn were also representing their countries in that event. The favourite, Paul Elvström, won four races but had so many collisions in others that he finally ended up only 4th. The Championship was won by Andre Nelis - silver medalist in the 1956 Olympics - without winning a single race. The silver medalist of the 1936 Olympics Werner Krogmann was second and Rickard Sarby was third.
In 1955 the Championship was delegated to Austria and the O-Jolle was selected again for the races organised on Lake Traunsee. There were 11 races with generally very little wind. The Austrian Wolfgang Erndl became the European Champion. The Finn sailor Jan de Jong from Holland was third, Andre Nelis 6th, Vernon Stratton 8th and Rickard Sarby 12th after he had left the regatta because of the poor wind conditions.
Belgium should have organised the IYRU European Championship for a crew of one. However because there was no suitable sailing area the Belgians gave the organisation to the Dutch. They in turn selected a totally unsuitable sailing area themselves, although they have such fine areas. The selected site was a former peat bog near Loosdrecht with very shallow water and hundreds of little islands left over from the peat-cutting. In addition the water was crowded with about 1000 recreational spectator boats and the little islands were heavily wooded. The competitors never saw the next mark and had to decide which of the various narrows between the basins might turn out to be the most advantageous.
However for the history of the Finn it is important that the Dutch selected for the first time the Finn Dinghy for that European Championship and provided 15 cold moulded boats, not all of which had self-bailers and buoyancy bags. There were very variable wind conditions so it heavily depended on the lot the sailors drew each day. Because of the unsuitable site Elvström refused to participate. The first European Champion of the Finn Class was Jürgen Vogler from the German Democratic Republic; the runner up was the Frenchman Didier Poissant, and Andre Nelis was third. In 7th place was Rickard Sarby, and in 11th Curd Ochwadt the promoter of the Finn Class in the Federal Republic of Germany. Also, at this European Championship the IFA was finally founded and had its first Annual General Meeting.
Final Results 1956
The Italians selected the Finn again and provided 12 very nice brand new boats, all well and equally equipped. Racing was in Naples Bay - site of the Olympic racing three years later. There were 16 races scheduled, of which 10 were finally sailed. Winds were generally light and taking advantage of the tide was quite important. Andre Nelis won 8 races and became the superior winner. The battle for the runner-up was tight between Pelaschier, Vogler, and Schwarz. Sweden was represented by the nephew of Rickard Sarby, Bert Sarby.
No country was particularly interested in being entrusted by the IYRU with the organisation of the 1958 European Championship. Finally Portugal accepted without ambition, lacking experience in the Finn. For the first time, the organiser invited the participants to bring their own boats in order to save the costs in building new ones. Four sailors brought their own dinghies and had a large advantage. The 8 new boats supplied by the organiser had never been sailed before and were inferior. An additional problem was the launching facilities. A crane lowered and lifted the boats with the skipper on board from a 20 m high quay. So this Championship was more a test of technical skills than of sailing abilities.
For 1959 the IYRU delegated the event to Switzerland. Although this country even today still has a strong O-Jolle fleet, the Finn was selected since it was the designated singlehander for the 1960 Olympics. The Swiss choose the Silsersee south of St. Moritz with usually strong winds, where however they had never before organised a sailing regatta. The 52 year old Dutchman Jan de Jong, 1.95 m tall, weighing 100 kg, but quick as a flash and smart, won four races and was twice runner-up. In second overall, the Frenchman Pinaud, had a number of new technical gadgets on his Finn. The German Democratic Republic sent J. Vogler who came third and had won the Gold Cup before. Fourth was Kuhweide, at that time only 16 years old.
Four races between force 4 and 7 suited Paul Elvström perfectly and he won three of the races. 17 year old newcomer from the Federal Republic of Germany Willy Kuhweide won the first race, but scored never worse than 4th, and thus became runner-up. Host Andre Nelis won two races, but did not perform that well in the heavy wind and had a collision in the sixth race. In the fourth race, when it blew force 7, it is reported that Elvström in first and Kuhweide in second position did not dare to gybe. However Nelis in third position risked the manoeuvre, made it technically, but hit the mark, got entangled with the French Pinaud and lost several hundred meters.
In splendid racing conditions seven races were sailed without a discard. After each race the overall lead changed. Before the last race in force 4-5 there were five competitors who could win the title. The Swede Goran Andersson won that race clearly and thought he was the champion until the last round. Chuchelov had a safe 2nd until he broke his mast step on the last beat and had to retire. So Willy Kuhweide moved into second position, which was just enough to take the championship.
Final Results 1961
By 1962 the Finn was so well established even in the Federal Republic of Germany that it was selected (in disfavour of the 1936 O-Jolle) for the last European Championship for a crew of one under the IYRU flag. Only one mast and one sail were allowed and the reigning champ Willy Kuhweide as well as his Austrian friend Hubert Raudaschl blew their chances before the first start by selecting soft masts and flat sails. The wind turned out to be light and shifty all week. The Frenchman Francis Jammes developed a ‘new’ sailing technique, standing upright in his boat and pumping or gybing all the time. Jammes was leading up until the last race, but he failed to cover his only opponent and lost the title to the Swede Boris Jacobsson who had quickly picked up the art of questionable propulsion. The 3rd overall Jan de Jong and 4th Richard Creagh-Osborne despised the technique vehemently but the younger people swore to practise it.
The IYRU had decided not to continue with the European Championships after 1962. So the IFA picked up the tradition and delegated the event to Hungary. From now on two entries per nation were allowed. The beginning of the regatta was postponed by one day when the British and the Norwegian entry phoned that they had a car accident but would come soon - never to arrive. Bernhard Straubinger from the Federal Republic of Germany was leading with a large margin before the last race. However as in the year before, the smart Swede Boris Jacobsson won the last two races, while Straubinger finished only 11th and 6th, and thus won the championship for the second time. The second Swedish entry Andersson won the bronze.
Final Results 1963
Six races in force 3-5 were sailed on three days and one race was abandoned when only 14 boats were still upright in force 6-8. The European Championship was the final selection for most of the participants for the Olympics soon after.
Final Results 1964
As a new regulation the ruling champion in addition to his countries quota of two and overseas countries were allowed to enter. The ruling US Champion Dick Tillman entered as the only non-European. Of the seven races one was light air, two were medium, and four heavy. A burning question at that time was how much wet sweaters or sweat shirts one should use before a limitation was set by the IYRU. For the first time two boats were disqualified by the jury for infringement of rule 60 - means of propulsion.
Because of the authority he had gained by winning the 1964 Gold Cup, Hubert Raudaschl managed to convince the Council at the 1965 Gold Cup, to delegate the European Championship 1966 to Austria. Since the championship was open for all the non-European countries as well, all the top helmsmen had entered with the exception of Willy Kuhweide (because he had not qualified despite winning the Gold Cup that same year) and Henning Wind (who in those days refused to sail on fresh water on principle). The first race saw a lazy drifter, a five minute thunderstorm with Bruder on a screaming reach through the finishing line, many boats capsizing, and a sudden calm again with no hope for those under water to bail their boats. In rather shifty conditions Hubert Raudaschl capitalised from his knowledge of the local conditions. He had the best speed upwind, however he lost quite a bit again on the reaches and the runs. After a poor start in the regatta Raudaschl managed to take line honours four times and won convincingly with 14.7 points against runner up Jörg Bruder with 68.0.
Conditions were mainly light and fluky. The championship was in doubt up to the last leg of the last race. Van Grünewaldt from Sweden had been leading on points from the second race on. However going into the last race Willy Kuhweide was only 1.4 points behind the Swede, if both discarded their worst race - with third place a good distance behind. When Kuhweide rounded the last mark third and the Swede was around 20th everybody thought that Willy would win the title once again. However Kuhweide made one of the few mistakes of his sailing career, tacked away from a veer and dropped to 9th. So both sailors finally discarded the last race and the Swede was the winner overall.
The championship was again in doubt right up to the last beat of the last race and eventually it was Arne Akerson’s better consistency that pulled him just ahead of Henning Wind and Uwe Mares. Winds were predominantly from the north-east and appeared to be very steady before the start. However, during the race, slow subtle swings were invariably present. Added to this problem was the notorious Ijsselmeer chop. However, despite all the pumping that was going on, all the helmsmen restricted themselves to one pump per surfable wave. Raudaschl sails set on Bruder masts was the rig of the day. Wedges were still much in evidence and the kicking strap had still not positively demonstrated any superiority over the wedge. The outcome depended finally on tactics and it was the aggressive genius of the Swedes and their flair for going well in moderate conditions that finally proved decisive.
Measurement was too strict, indicating, that there hardly existed any genuine Finns at that time on the entire globe. Philippe Soria disregarded the ‘suggestions’ of Vernon Forster and was disqualified after the second race. The wind wandered aimlessly around the compass in most of the races. But Sweden’s three representatives Akerson the ruling champion from 1968, Sall, and Liljegren set a record which was equalled in 1985 by the Danish but certainly can never be broken, by winning Gold, Silver and Bronze. Arne Akerson had the best speed in the difficult conditions and did not have to start in the last race in order to secure the title again.
There were three entries per country allowed, so the participation was very good. The championship was a test of stamina, determination and fitness. For the second half of the week the wind was hardly ever less than Force 4 and there were gusts of 7 or even more. After he had won the Gold Cup in 1969 Thomas Lundquist held up the Swedish flag again. Willy Kuhweide had bought back his old wooden Raudaschl boat and did much better than the previous year, finishing fourth. In the Wednesday race it was blowing so hard that Lundquist and Van Elst in first and second position wore round instead of gybing on the run. Because of fog on Tuesday there were two races scheduled on Thursday, the second of which should not have been held. Two competitors were discovered floating well away from their craft, including Gerardo Seeliger, later president of the IFA. The Canadian Phelan had his new Elvström boat sink under him. Most of the skippers wore too many wet sweaters which was unlimited by regulations at that time - and were unable to get back into their boats after a capsize. Wooden Bruder masts had taken over by 40-2.
Each country was allowed to send three competitors except Sweden who had an extra quota for the ruling champion. In the pre-race measuring Gilbert Lamboley tested his ‘Pendulum Method’ to obtain data on the centre of gravity and weight distribution of characteristic hulls. The wind stayed in the north throughout the series and was therefore rather strong. Racing on the 4th and 5th day had to be cancelled due to winds of Force 6 and over. Thomas Lundquist from Sweden finished 3rd in the 1st race but was scored as a non-starter because he had forgotten to take out his tally. This error cost him not only the race but eventually the championship. So it was the Dutch helmsman Baudouin Binkhorst who became the new European Champion, despite the fact that he never won a race. Neither did the second overall Magnus Olin.
Wind conditions were good and from every point of the compass, ranging from light to force 7, but always shifty and demanding. Christian Schröder from the DDR won two races, was always among the top 8, and might have won even a third race when a self bailer broke while he was leading. Some of the competitors used the Mader hulls and the stiff Needlespar masts they would have to use at the Olympics, in order to become familiar with the new material. The traditional wooden masts proved to be far superior to the new aluminium masts.
The ruling European Champion Christian Schröder from the DDR this time won 3 of the 7 races and had a 10th as his discard. Lennart Gustafsson of Sweden got a 2nd overall, while the German Democratic Republic also took 3rd and 4th. Sailing conditions were very difficult with medium winds but all sorts of old waves from previous wind directions. The winning sailors from the DDR used a great variety of wooden masts. They had practised weeks before the event with the help of an extraordinary support team and gathered with scientific methods the right spar for the various conditions.
Wind conditions were excellent, the organisation on the water professional, the festivities ashore disappointing. The ruling world champion Serge Maury did not participate because he had failed to qualify in the French trials. In 1974 the Needlespar B mast was reported to be the best spar, and the Swedish Marinex sails were the choice of the champion.
Every day at about 2.00 pm there was a nice sea breeze, starting with force 1, later up to force 3. The first beat was better on starboard, later you had to keep right. You had to go to the corners, tacking up in the middle was disastrous. Lanaverre and Roga boats dominated the fleet. Serge Maury won the second and the last race, and the regatta overall by a good margin.