Eight Bells: Erling Olsen

Erling Olsen died on 30 November 2020 at the age of 82 years.

Erling was the founder of the companies Skipper Snipe and Alu Mast and, through a long career, a significant supplier of boats and equipment to the Snipe Class and sailors all over the world.

Erling’s interest in building Snipe dinghies emerged in the sixties and seventies, a period in which Snipe sailing in Denmark bloomed and amateur construction of boats took off in Espergærde Sailing Club, Pioneer Fleet 302.

Erling showed a special talent and interest in boat building and was the man behind the Skipper Snipe.

It all began in an old cow stable in the little village of Espergærde, just south of Elsinore, Denmark. Initially the construction of 10 plywood Snipes was started by a group of amateurs, and year after year the interest for the class increased. Soon more than 50 plywood Snipes were built. Every year new improvements were found. Better building methods, finer lines to the hull, new cockpit arrangements, and better rig and sails. All should be the best and fastest in accordance with the SCIRA Rules. Erling Olsen and architect Peer Bruun started the first Danish fiberglass racing dinghy factory named “Larchmont” boats, where Snipes and Finns were built in numbers. Later Paul Elvström joined the company and brought to it his knowledge and expertise, especially to the building of the Finns. After some years the factory was sold to Paul Elvström, who continued only with the Finns.

Because of a big demand from sailors in Denmark and Sweden, Erling Olsen wanted to proceed with Snipe construction and now, with the experience gained from building more than 100 plywood and fiberglass Snipes, and with all knowledge of construction and fitting-out, he was determined to make the “just right” Snipe and market it under the trade name of ” SKIPPER”. Erling set up a strict standard of quality and performance which appeared difficult to obtain, but the product met all class and sailing requirements and has enjoyed a tremendous acceptance and success. Erling started his own factory based on the Skipper Snipe which he improved over the years.

Approximately 2,300 Skipper Snipe were produced in Erling’s years as builder and many Snipe Worlds and Snipe Europeans were won with the Skipper Snipe.

Erling was an amazing craftsman who rarely neglected an opportunity to proceed into other areas of manufacturing if he saw an opportunity to develop and improve a product. For this reason, Erling started his production of masts and booms for the Snipe class in 1974 under the auspices of Alu Mast. It became several mast models over the years and ended with the success of the SideWinder mast, as we know it today – the favorite mast in the Snipe Class. Erling also built several road trailers of his own design for the transport of Snipe dinghies and many of these are still on the road.

Erling worked for a long time to promote the interests of the Snipe class and SCIRA in Denmark, Norway and Sweden as well as Europe in general. Erling was one of the main forces in the implementation of the very successful 1980 Snipe Europeans in Espergærde, and in the following years he participated in the organization of several large Snipe events in Europe.

Several years ago, Erling felt the urge to pursuit other interest, such as his great interest in photography, film and TV and handed over his production of boats and masts to younger forces, thus losing his connection to the Snipe Class.

We send our condolences to his family

(Svend Andersen – Espergaerde, Denmark)

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