Hans Fogh Six-Time Olympic Competitor for Denmark and Canada

Hans Fogh Six-Time Olympic Competitor for Denmark and Canada

Hans Fogh was born March 8, 1938, in Rodovre, Denmark and grew up there in a family of 5 kids. There were two boys and three girls. Mr. Fogh, is one of the most successful competitive sailors in history, with dozens of national and international championships and in many different classes, including two Olympic medals including a Silver Medal in 1960 (Rome), and then a Bronze Medal in 1984 (Los Angeles). He also Finished Fourth in 1964 (Tokyo) Fourth in Kingston (Montreal Olympics) 1976, and Seventh in Kiel,(Munich) 1972. 1968 (Mexico) withdrew because of his father’s death.

I was introduced to him and his family back in 1986 in Kingston, Canada. I was there to witness CORK (Canadian Olympic Regatta at Kingston) and let me tell you that to witness this international Sailing competition was one of the highlights of my life. There were hundreds of competitors from all over the world, and the coolest thing was the camaraderie amongst them. Battling out on the water of Lake Ontario, then helping each other load and unload their boats at the dock, and a subsequent meal at the common area of the Yacht Club. I never thought I could fall in love with this non- traditional sport as I am a Hockey and Soccer fan for the most part, but I hope that the lessons and stories he imparts throughout these pages will lead to a new and fascinated generation of athletes that desire to learn more about the sport of Sailing just like I did.

AS TOLD BY HANS: My childhood in Denmark was loaded with sports activities, and I remember our father taking us to the Soccer games quite often. On one particular long school break, the family went to go and visit my Uncle’s cottage. He had a rowboat with some blades in it, and I remember rigging up a mast & sail, because the boat had a rudder. A rudder is a device used to steer a boat. I always enjoyed water but this was my first exposure to sailing and I loved it. Upon our return after vacations, my father had bought my brother and I, a Snipe boat. My brother steered, and I crewed as the little brothers do, but then other things came into my brother’s life, like love, and so he gave up sailing. My father then sold our boat, but I was determined to continue. With my own saved up money, I bought a Pirate Dinghy, which was a small two-man boat. This was 1955, and I was seventeen years old. I kept the boat about thirty minutes away in Copenhagen, and rode my bike down there to sail. I started to compete quite successfully. My father then showed some interest again, and brought me a new sail, that was one of the first sails made by famed Danish Sailor Paul Elvstrom in his basement. I went to a Regatta one weekend and competed in the Second fleet of the Race, as I was not known to anyone. I had demolished the competition, and was approached by Mr. Elvstrom, who then told me, that I needed to sail next time in the top fleet of the Regatta. This man had already competed in three Olympic Games, and won three Gold Medals, so this conversation for comparison purposes would be like Pele speaking to a young soccer player, or Michael Jordan advising a high school basketball player. I borrowed a newer boat, and my sailing partner and I started to win pretty consistently around Copenhagen. We won all the regattas around Copenhagen but had to settle for second in the Danish Championship. Through the connection I had made with Paul Elvstrom, he invited me to his house to come and sail with him in his new 505, a two-man boat. We sailed half the way to Sweden and back, and he mentioned to me, that he thought I was a talented sailor, and should find a good friend to help me buy a Flying Dutchman (A 20-foot high performance two-person dinghy. It made it’s Olympic debut at the 1960 Olympics, and is still one of the fastest racing dinghies in the world). Elvstrom said that I should train to compete for making the 1960 Olympics team. This was in 1957, so that would give me three years to train properly. That is exactly what I did, and as soon as I got home, a friend (Ole Gunnar Petersen) and I purchased a Flying Dutchman from Germany. Elvstrom became our coach, and looked after us putting us in international competitions in preparation. In 1959, about 4 to 5 months before the Olympics, we won the Olympic Trials and earned the right to go to Rome in 1960. We were so happy, and celebrating this accomplishment, until Elvstrom turned around, and said that it was not good enough to just qualify, but rather that we needed to go there, represent our country, and win the Gold Medal.

I have been asked on many occasions as to my favorite type of boat to sail, and I think that the Flying Dutchman suited me best, because of my size. I’m not a very tall man not too small either, but what I did was build up my strength like I was sailing in the larger boats. I also enjoyed the Soling Class (The Soling is a strong 3-man boat designed for any wind and sea condition.) Fitness, and team skills are very important for all types of boats) This is the Class that I won the Bronze Medal representing my new country of Canada in the 1984 Olympics. In 1969, I moved to Canada to open a sail making business, and slowly lost a little desire for competing, but after receiving my citizenship for Canada in 1975, I decided I would like to win an Olympic Medal for Canada as well, already having won one for my birth country of Denmark. Unfortunately the 1976 Olympics was a little bit of a disappointment as we finished in Fourth, out of the Medals. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, I did reward Canada for their support in 1984 with a Bronze medal, and the training for that event was tough. I had not planned to compete in the Olympics anymore, because of the commitment it takes to succeed at a high level, and I had a family, and my business to look after, but the fire re-ignited, and I ended up having a wonderful crew (John Kerr and Steve Calder) to work with.

We competed very successfully all over the World, winning 3 European Championships and several US Nationals and North Americans. To be even in middle contention in a race is a huge long sacrifice of time & money by all members of the team. My belief is that the coaches in this sport can have a very big influence on the outcomes. Over the years, I have found only a handful that could prepare a team properly for winning the competitions. I was very fortunate to have Elvstrom as my advisor and coach. He is a winner, and he knows what it really takes to prepare for competitions. It is a demanding sport that requires a disciplined and organized training regimen. You have to train to WIN, not only just train to compete in events, otherwise you have no chance of giving a strong performance. I guess it would be like expecting to just automatically win the World Cup, or Super Bowl without putting in the training, and extra work it takes those teams to get there, and then just hoping for the best, or actually expecting it. There are a few stories I’d like to mention over my career in Sailing and the first one took place in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1962 at the World Championships. My crewman could not attend, so Elvstrom offered that he would go with me, and be my crew.

Steering is obviously the more glorious position of the two, and this man who at that point was a Four-time Gold Olympic medalist decides he wants to come and crew for me, which was the less glorious position on the boat. I was honored and gladly accepted. We started to train every weekend for the year before the competition, and sailed many times, in storms of the winter season in Denmark. This was just fine for Elvstrom as his philosophy was that in the harder conditions we trained in preparation, the better off we’d be. He quite enjoyed the training and so did I. I need to mention that I also worked for 10 years for Paul Elvstrom, starting in l960, as well as during the time we were doing our training. Here I was this apprentice of the greatest sailor at the time, so I tell you that the atmosphere surrounding the World Championships was amazing. The sports journalists were always surrounding us, but Elvstrom taught me about staying focused, and well concentrated on our task of winning the World Championship we had trained so hard for. We won, and against the game crew of Rolly Tasker from Australia, that pushed us the whole way through the competition. Going into the last race, we were ahead on points, and Elvstrom said we needed to get them in the start, sit on them, and hold them back. We did just that getting a great start, and holding them back awhile, but then we got a knot in our Jib sheet (A triangular sail on the front of the boat). The Australians then escaped from us, but ended up finishing in Seventh Place, which was not enough points to surpass us. Later on I would return the favor to him, and crew for Elvstrom while he steered in a World Championship. This time it was in Sydney, Australia 1974, and we raced in a three- man boat called a Soling. We added a mutual friend of ours who had raced in the Finn Class (A single handed Cat-rigged boat). We won the Gold Medal there as well, and I was so proud to have repaid the man who had been my mentor. One of the great accomplishments of my career, was when I was asked to make the Sail design of the new Laser Class in 1970. This was a powerful boat, but not designed for younger or smaller people, so I later came up with an idea to design a smaller rig. It was a Laser Hull with a shorter Mast, same length of boom, and I made a new sail called a Radial Sail. This new combination on the boat gave a younger, and smaller person the opportunity to have more control and success. Today the Radial Sail exceeds the big Laser Sail in purchases. In fact, the Radial Laser became an Olympic boat for women in the Olympic games in China, in the one-person Dinghy category. I believe that I have given respect to my mentor Paul Elvstrom, and the importance he had in my life, throughout my chapter, however I mention once again that I worked for this man for 10 years, and learned properly how to train, how to sail, how to win, how to put a sail together, and learned how to come up with the all of the right combinations of tuning a boat. I am grateful for my fantastic teacher