Please select your home edition
Edition
Mariners Museum 728x90

Round the World champion, Conny van Rietschoten dies at 87

by Sail-World on 18 Dec 2013
Cornelis van Rietschoten, skipper of Dutch yacht Flyer 1977-78 Onne van der Wal/PPL Barry Pickthall/PPL © http://www.pplmedia.com

Renowned Whitbread Round the World sailor Conny van Rietschoten died on Tuesday in Portugal. He was 87 years old.

Long regarded as one of the hard men of world sailing, and Round the World racing in particular, van Rietschoten won the 1978 and 1982 renditions of the then four stop race.

Van Rietschoten is reported to have struggled for some time with poor health and died of a stroke.

He began sailing at the age of three on his father’s yachts and after World War II, he studied and worked in England. After contacting tuberculosis in the early 1960’s, he spent a year in a Swiss sanatorium.

He then moved into the family electro-engineering business of the family, Van Rietschoten and Houwens, which he sold at the age of 45, retired, and then focused on Round the World racing. .He built and campaigned two round the world racers under the name of Flyer and Flyer II.

Born in 1926 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, van Rietschoten was largely an unknown before embarking on his Round the World campaigns.

He is credited with bringing the professional approach to Round the World sailing, that was picked up by others in the 1982 race onwards.



Known for undertaking extensive trialing and crew training before the race, he identified and gave several then-young sailors their first major break into professional sailing, including Erle Williams, Grant Dalton, Joe Allen all of whom went on to long careers in the Whitbread and Volvo Ocean Races, America’s Cup and other professional events.

The first Flyer was a 65ft upgrade of the original race winner Sayula II (Ramon Carlin, Mexico) which was drawn by Olin and Rod Stephens and built in aluminum by Royal Huisman Shipyard. They had a close race with Kings Legend (Skip Novak), being first home on two of the four legs and holding a sufficient time advantage to be able to win the final leg by just staying in contact with Kings Legend.

He commissioned a new German Frers designed Flyer II for the 1981/82 Whitbread Race competing against a 29 boat fleet.

The event devolved into a match race between Peter Blake’s 68ft Farr design Ceramco and the 72ft Flyer II. Although Ceramco was dismasted on the first leg and could not hope to win on a time basis, their rivalry nevertheless continued for the remaining three legs. Below decks on Flyer II van Rietschoten had pasted a photo of Ceramco on the bulkhead and written the caption 'Know your Enemy'.


Van Rietschoten showed the extreme hardness of his character when he suffered a heart attack deep in the Southern Ocean on Leg 2 of the Race from Cape Town to Auckland. He would not permit a phone call to be made to Dr Trevor Agnew, a specialist cardiologist aboard rival Ceramco, for fear the Kiwis would exploit the situation and push even harder.

Instead took to his bunk down below. 'The nearest port was 10 days away and the critical period is always the first 24-36 hours,' he recalled later. 'Ceramco was already breathing down our necks. If they had known that I had a health problem, they would have pushed their boat even harder. When you die at sea, you are buried over the side. Perhaps those Ceramco boys might then have spotted me drifting by. And that I was determined would be the only thing they would see or hear from Flyer on the matter!'

Flyer II went on to win the 1981/82 Whitbread and became the first crew to win both line and rating honours in the Race. They also set two world records – fastest Noon to Noon run of 327 miles, and the fastest circumnavigation of 120 days

Van Rietschoten is still the only skipper to win two editions of the race, a record he holds to this day, and the first to win on both elapsed and corrected time. He is also the only Dutch skipper to have won the race.

'The Flyer crew are saddened to hear of the passing of our great friend Conny,' commented Grant Dalton, one of his crew on Flyer II and now Managing Director of Emirates Team New Zealand.

'Nearly all of us can track our careers to Conny. We were all young, restless, most of us totally unproven and yet Conny took a chance on us. He allowed us to be ourselves, sometimes guiding us, sometimes coming down hard on us. He taught us how it was going to be done in the future and he introduced a professional business approach to offshore sailing. He was indeed a pioneer.



'In losing him today we have lost a person that, to a man, we looked up to with respect and thanks,' added Dalton, a winner of the Whitbread himself. 'His picture hangs alongside Peter Blake on my wall, it always will. Goodbye Conny, gone but never forgotten, thank you for taking a chance.'

'Winning two Whitbreads in a row was the result of Conny’s planning, decision making and leadership skills which were outstanding,' said Flyer II watch captain Erle Williams (the aged just 22yrs and on his first Round the World Race). 'Conny was a wonderful man to sail for. He trusted and encouraged his crew to race Flyer hard and at the same time knew when to back us off.'

Since 1982 in the Netherlands, the Conny Rietschoten Trophy has been awarded annually to the Yachtsman of the Year. Volvo Ocean Race competitor and America’s Cup winner Simeon Tienpont was the 2013 recipient.

'The Netherlands are very fond of the race and that’s all because of Van Rietschoten,' said Tienpont. 'He brought the event to an entirely new level. His campaigns have had an effect on how we are growing as a professional sport right now.'




Wildwind 2016 660x82Mackay BoatsBarz Optics - Floaters

Related Articles

An interview with Ray Redniss about the STC’s annual Block Island Race
I caught up with Ray Redniss, the Block Island Race’s longtime PRO, via email to learn more about this classic event. I caught up with Ray Redniss, who has served as the PRO for the Block Island Race and the Vineyard Race (September 1, 2017) for the past twenty-plus years, via email to learn more about the state of this classic, early season New England event.
Posted on 22 May
An Q&A with Jeremy Pochman about 11th Hour Racing’s impressive efforts
I interviewed Jeremy Pochman of 11th Hour Racing to learn more about this forward-thinking environmental non-profit. 11th Hour Racing is doing some of the most forward-leaning environmental work in the entire marine sphere, and I wanted to learn more, so I reached out to Jeremy Pochman, 11th Hour Racing’s Strategic Director and Co-founder, to ask a few questions. All sailors are strongly encouraged to give this interview the time it deserves.
Posted on 15 May
A Q&A with Don Adams about Sail Canada’s plan to win Olympic medals
I caught up with Sail Canada CEO Don Adams to hear about Team Canada’s High Performance Plan for winning Olympic medals. Sail Canada, Canada’s national sailing authority, is implementing a new High Performance Plan with the aim of improving on their recent Olympic sailing performances. I caught up with Don Adams, CEO of Sail Canada, to learn more about this ambition plan for helping Canadian sailors win Olympic medals while also helping to inspire younger generations to pursue the Olympic-sailing dream.
Posted on 8 May
America's Cup - Southern Spars AC50 build for Emirates Team NZ + Video
The Peter Blake skippered Steinlager 2 put Southern Spars on the map 27 years after Steinlager 2 put Southern Spars on the map with her unequalled clean sweep of the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race, Southern Spars were called on to build Emirates Team NZ's America's Cup Challenger. Here's a look behind the scenes at the composite engineering process Southern Spars employ on projects ranging from Volvo OR spars, to Olympic bike wheels to an AC50
Posted on 1 May
She’s still here with us, and now we can be there for her
Of the many endearing qualities in Lisa Blair, the one that is paramount is her effervescence. Of the many endearing qualities in Lisa Blair, the one that is paramount is her effervescence. Yet it is what lies behind that which could be her most incredible characteristic. Sometimes you can almost overlook her steely determination, but not for long when you start talking with her. Catching up with her live from Cape Town surely was a vivid reminder of not only what this sailor can accomplish
Posted on 24 Apr
Gladwell's Line - Timeout in Bermuda and a decision OTUSA will regret?
With Emirates Team New Zealand's AC50 now in Bermuda and being re-assembled, it is time to take a breath With Emirates Team New Zealand's AC50 now in Bermuda and being re-assembled, it is time to take a breath from what has been a hectic couple of months, both in Auckland and Bermuda. The third major Practice Session has concluded in Bermuda. This was conducted almost entirely if winds of around 16-25kts - starting to get close to the top end of the range for the AC50's.
Posted on 20 Apr
America's Cup - Glenn Ashby on hitting the AC50's sound barrier
These boats are incredible. The performance that can be achieved in light airs is the amazing thing. The big difference between the AC72, the America's Cup Class, used in the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco and the smaller AC50 to be sailed in Bermuda, lies in their light and medium air performance. 'These boats are incredible. The performance that can be achieved in light airs is the amazing thing. In 7-8-9-10 knots of breeze, you are sailing at 30kts at times.
Posted on 18 Apr
America's Cup - Bernasconi on expected winning factors in Bermuda
ETNZ's Technical Director, Dan Bernasconi has let out a few clues as to where he thought the differences might lie Emirates Team NZ's Technical Director, Dan Bernasconi has let out a few clues as to where he thought the differences might lie once the six teams entered in the 35th America's Cup. 'We have had a great run', he says. 'We've had a few hiccups along the way, as always. But the boat is going really well. We are getting through manoeuvres very well. And we think our straight line speed is good.'
Posted on 18 Apr
A Q&A with Nicole Breault about women’s match racing in the USA
I caught up with Nicole Breault to learn more about women’s match racing in the USA and about her upcoming Clinegatta. I caught up with Nicole Breault to learn more about the state of women’s match racing in the USA, and to also hear more about her upcoming Clinegatta, which is set to unfurl on the waters of San Francisco Bay this July, and which could be a great resource for other talented female match racers who are looking to sharpen their skills.
Posted on 17 Apr
America's Cup - Team NZ return fire at Coutts' social media bullets
Emirates Team New Zealand have corrected the allegations made by America's Cup organisers Emirates Team NZ have corrected the allegations made by America's Cup organisers in a media release on Thursday (NZT) over the team's daggerboard use. In the release, replayed by America's Cup Events Authority and Oracle Team USA CEO Sir Russell Coutts on his Facebook page. It was claimed that the Kiwi team had an issue with daggerboards and were using a rule they had not supported to keep sailing
Posted on 2 Apr