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Paul Elvstrom - Tribute from A Sailor

by Paul Henderson on 8 Dec 2016
Paul Elvstrøm (DEN) - an unforgettable friend . ..
Former Canadian Olympic representative, Paul Henderson, had the experience of competing against the world's greatest sailor, Paul Elvstrom on several occasions. Then, like all good sailing friends the two Pauls kept in touch over the years. Henderson recounts some of his experiences with the Great Dane on the occasion of Elvstrom's passing on Wednesday morning.


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 second 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.

regards,
Paul Henderson
A Sailor
BIA 2017 Brisbane 660x82 SailingMusto AUS 2017 660x82 4Jeanneau Sunfast 660x82

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