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The Flying Dutchman: 60 years of ʻTimeless Eleganceʼ

The Flying Dutchman: 60 years of ʻTimeless Eleganceʼ

It was in  August 1951, after the Tornado EC had been sailed in Loosdrecht (Holland), when a 

young sailor named Conrad Gülcher was disappointed in the performance of the Tornado and 

made his mind up:

It is time for a change! With the help of Dutch yacht designer Uus van Essen in very short time a 

prototype was built and tested.  It was a major success!

In November 1952 the permanent committee of the IYRU adopted the Flying Dutchman to be the 

new international centre-board boat, in1960 the class became Olympic!  

On any event the boat appeared she was praised for her astonishing beauty and was the talk of 

the town. The sailors who raced and owned her could only speak of their dinghy in a tender, loving 

and caring way………  

With her distinguished forestay-angle, over six meters long, descent 10 square meters of mainsail,  

large genoa and spinnaker, the FD was (and still is!) a pretty and elegant boat. In strong winds she 

was tough to handle but really flying!  Although hobby sailors could have a lot of fun in it, to win 

races one had to be better than average!

The FD  has always been an innovative class. Some examples:

1952 Large genoa, first boat with trapeze allowed

1956 First fiberglass hull

1960 Furling jib, windows in sails

1965 Adjustable traveler

1967 Spinnaker tube and chute

1977 Spinnaker pole launcher 

1984 Honeycomb/Kevlar/ Carbon hulls

2002 Carbon booms and poles

2005 Carbon mastsDuring these years the ʻrakeʼ was developed. The mast could be canted backwards and more 

grommets were made in de jib, adjustable shroud controls were added.

This innovation became the major important trim control and made the boat much easier to handle 

in strong winds, especially for lighter crews. 

Till 1992 the FD class kept its Olympic status. All FD sailors held their breath. What would become 

of the FD Class? ISAFʼs decision was final: The FD lost its Olympic status. However, the boat's 

excellent performance was still recognized by thousands of sailors. Even better: since sailing an 

FD became a lot more affordable, the class only grew bigger!

The last World Championships were attended by 134 registered boats of 21 countries, far more 

than in the Olympic era! This shows very clearly the class is still very lively. 

Reason for this may also be that Conrad dreamed of a friendly community of sailors and their 

families who really like sailing and spending time together in a friendly, social way.

Let us salute Conrad Gülcher for this, and his splendid and bright vision on what a racing dinghy 

should look like and all look forward to the year 2012 in which we celebrate the  60th

 birthday of our beloved boat, The Flying Dutchman! 

The European Championships in Altea, (SPA) will open the celebration year, the World 

Championships  in Santa Cruz (USA) will finalize the Jubilee. Also will the FD class compete in the 

Vintage Yachting Games at Lake Como (ITA), a magnificent event for former Olympic Classes like 

Dragon, Soling, O-Jolle, Tempest etc.

The FD Class is proud to participate in the great fleet of the good old days! 


Let us all firmly hope the Flying Dutchman will show its beauty and outstanding sailing 

performance for many, many years.

Ronald Stalman

V-P communications IFDCO

more about the FD at www.sailfd.org