Paul Elvstrom: 1928–2016

Paul Elvstrom

In addition to his prowess as a competitive sailor and boatbuilder, Paul Elvstrom also wrote several books on racing tactics, including Expert Dinghy Racing, shown right.

Reverently nicknamed “The Great Dane,” Danish sailor, designer, and sailmaker Paul Elvstrom died last December at the age of 88. He won four consecutive Olympic gold medals in the Firefly and Finn classes (1948, 1952, 1956, 1960), and competed in others through 1988. He won medals, mostly firsts, in the world championships of eight sailing classes. His books on racing tactics, such as Expert Dinghy and Keelboat Racing and Paul Elvstrom Explains the Yacht Racing Rules, are still widely considered important reads for newcomers to the sport.

"Expert Dinghy Racing"

A self-bailing device and hiking straps are two of his innovations. Almost afterthoughts to his racing records are his 35 yacht designs, ranging from 11 to 41 (3.4m to 12.6m), nearly all built in Europe. According to one obituary, Elvstrom is reported to have said: “You haven’t won the race if in winning the race you have lost the respect of your competitors.”