The Folkboat Class

To this day, the SFBFA is the largest and most active fleet of Nordic Folkboats outside of Europe. The reasons for this prolonged success of more than four decades can be found in a lucky combination of circumstances.

  • People – The class was always blessed with enthusiasts who care and put on first-rate events.
  • Venue – San Francisco Bay is the ultimate playground where Folkboats can show off their stuff. They simply don’t get rattled by the fresh breeze and strong current – unlike some of the modern fou-fou boats. Plus the Bay offers sun and wind AT THE SAME TIME, a dream for immigrants from northern Europe.
  • Foresight – The trust of SFBFA officers in the guidance of the Scandinavians who governed the Nordic Folkboats as a one-design class. Purism paid. No heads, no inboard engines, no kites.

Our story began when the first Folkboats appeared in 1955 and banded together in the SFBA in 1957. Already one year later, the Folkies had grown to such a strong class that the Yacht Racing Association, which ran most of the races, granted them one-design status. Encouraged by the boom times ­ in 1961, 42 of 46 registered Folkboats showed up for more than 5 races ­ the SFBFA got the creative itch and came up with a slew of events that now are happily copied here, there and everywhere.

  • They sponsored the first Wednesday night race series long before shrinks prescribed active stress-release for the workforce.
  • They showed off their antics in front of a merry shore-side crowd in the 4th of July race.
  • They did a race with LeMans start. The Folkboat variation was more fun and less dangerous: all participating crews brought their sails in bags to the Golden Gate Yacht Club bar. When the gun sounded, they had to down a beer before running to their boats at the dock to hank on the sails and race across the bay to Sausalito.
  • They let the ladies take the helm in the Lipstick regatta, a quarter century before the world salivated over the first all-women team in the America’s Cup.
  • They were the first to sell out a harbor cruiser, which motored along the City front to bring spectators closer to the action during the first Wednesday night race of the season.
  • They were the first class to invite rockstar skippers for a regular class event. (Tom Blackaller was one who participated. He never won, but rumor has it he ate all the sandwiches on the boats he steeredŠ)
  • Another fun event is the annual Angel Island cruise on Easter Sunday, where Terry Holmes uses an antique camera to take funny pictures of Folkboaters, their friends and families as they are posing on the lawn of hospital Cove before they descend on the scrumptious buffet.
  • The marquee regatta is the San Francisco International Cup, which is held in odd years and is the largest Nordic Folkboat event outside of Europe. Visitors from Folkboat Meccas like Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Germany are invited to race the top locals.

Folkboat sailing is an educational process with so much fun that even schools in Denmark and Germany have adopted it as part of their curriculum.

  • You learn to wait for your turn when ordering drinks at the bar.
  • You meet people who may consider taking the stern of a starboard tacker.
  • You learn how to beat up on the local Knarr fleet (take a cue from Folkboat alumni such as Tom Reed, Sean Svendsen, Mickey Waldear, Knud Wibroe, Dick Griffiths and John Werner)
  • You learn to negotiate the bay in conditions that have fou-fou boat sailors curl up in front of the fire place with a blanket and their favorite Harry Potter tome.
  • You don’t have to screw around with a chute. (The famous less-is-more-lesson.)
  • You get to enjoy a million-dollar-view of the City when you recline idly like a mermaid on the bow during the run.
  • You learn that in an emergency there is nothing quite as good as a cool one in the bilge.