Danish yachting great Paul Elvstrom, the first Olympian to win individual gold medals at four successive Games, died on Wednesday at his home in Hellerup. He was 88.
Paul Elvstrom’s first gold came, aged 20, at the 1948 Games in London, when he won the Firefly class. He then moved on to the Finn class, winning Olympics titles in Helsinki in 1952, Melbourne in 1956 and Rome in 1960.
The Dane, who competed in the last of his eight Olympics in Seoul aged 60, also won 11 world titles in seven different categories and seven European championships.
Paul Elvstrom was an inspiration
“He was an inspiration to pretty much anyone who stepped foot on a sailing boat,” Britain’s Ben Ainslie, who won four Olympic gold medals and one silver medal in the Laser and Finn classes between 1996 and 2012, said on Twitter.
Elvstrøm was noted as a developer of sails and sailing equipment. One of his most successful innovations was a new type of self-bailer. The new features were a wedge shaped venturi that closes automatically if the boat grounds or hits an obstruction, and a flap that acts as a non return valve to minimise water coming in if the boat is stationary or moving too slowly for the device to work. Previous automatic bailers would be damaged or destroyed if they met an obstruction, and would let considerable amounts of water in if the boat was moving too slowly.
The Elvstrøm self-bailer is still in production under the Andersen brand and has been widely copied; it is still found on Olympic boats, and other grand prix boats at the leading edge of the sport. In 2016, Dan Ibsen, the executive director of the Royal Danish Yacht Club said, “Today the Elvstrøm Bailer is still the only functional bailer on Olympic dinghies and boats around the world.”
Other innovations include the Elvstrøm Lifejacket, which was the first specifically designed and produced for active sailors.
We need to remember Paul Elvstrom using his words:
“You haven’t won the race if in winning the race you have lost the respect of your competitors”