Tag Yachts

Tag Yachts

Flying Dutchman History | Tag Yachts

By J-W. D. Gulcher Nov. 2013        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQlvhjdCCRs

It was in the late 1940s that the IYRU instigated a new modern 2-man international dinghy, the Tornado. She was not a success, as there was no leap forward compared to the existing pre-war classes. The Royal Loosdrecht Yacht Club of Conrad Gulcher Holland obtained half a dozen Tornados and found them very uninspiring. Conrad imagined that with modern construction methods and the use of moulded ply, a better dinghy could be constructed. Conrad with the help of Uus Van Essen, a naval architect and measurer for the Dutch Yachting Federation made a preliminary design early in September 1951. The design was sent to 30 top class helmsmen in Europe, including Bossom (SUI), John Cahmier (GBR), Charles Curry (GBR), Manfred Curry (GER), Ferry Laagwater (NED), Stewart Morris (GBR), Morits Skaugen (NOR) and Shorty Trimingham (BER), with the request to comment within two weeks. By the end of September 23 responses had been returned with suggestions for modifications to the design of the boat

Mr. Jan Loeff, chairman of the Dutch Yachting Federation, agreed to discuss the boat at the November meeting of the IYRU, but required he see her sail first. As no prototype yet existed, this was hardly feasible to accomplish, but Conrad had the mould and hull built in one week, and the mast cut, stepped and the boat rigged in another. The boat was designed to be very simple, and consequently inexpensive to produce. The easily repeatable measurement system defined by Uss van Essen aided to that end. It took to the water against the 12m2 Sharpie and the Tornado at Loosdrecht one week before the IYRU meetings. Mr. Loeff was impressed, and took the plans to the IYRU for discussion. It was decided to hold trials for the new boat class in the summer of 1952 in the Nederlands, and the name of the design, Flying Dutchman suggested by Sir Peter Scott, the then president of the IYRU , was born. The trials were held on the Loosdrecht lakes and on the open water of the IJsselmeer at Muiden. Seventeen boats participated, some one-designs like the Osprey and Typhoon, and others were from existing classes, including Hornet, Thistle, Sharpie, and Rennjolle. The results clearly showed the new boat to be a success, and the FD was adopted. However the boat was initially set with the limitation “for continental lakes only”.

Another set of trials were set up for 1953 at La Baule on the open sea. Meanwhile, the small jib in the initial design was replaced with the Genoa, and a trapeze was added. At La Baule there were again one-designs such as the Coronet, a smaller version of which later became the 505. Off the wind the Coronet with her bigger spinnaker and mainsail was faster, but upwind the FD won. Afterwards it was clear that the FD did very well on the open sea, and the “lakes” limitation was lifted. The Class started to blossom, thanks largely to the promotional activities of Conrad and a well structured Class Organisation.

In 1956 the FD participated (Conrad and Bob Boeschoten) in the cross- channel race from Folkestone to Boulogne and was the fastest two-man dinghy in the race!

In 1957 the FD was selected to replace the Sharpie at the 1960 Olympic Games in Naples. By the 1960s there were “FD” fleets throughout the world, including Lebanon, Morocco, Portuguese East Africa, Bahrain, Argentina, Venezuela, Thailand, along with fleets forming in Europe, the USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  The FD was sailed in Olympic competitions from 1960 Olympic Games through the 1992 Olympic Games. Since 2008 the FD is one of the Vintage Yachting Classes at the Vintage Yachting Games.

Many well known yachtsmen have spent time competing in the FD, including Paul Elvstrom, Hans Fogh, Ben Lexoen, Peter Lunde, Stewart Morris, Keith Musto, Andre Nelis, Yves and Marc Pajot, Rodney Pattisson, Ted Turner, Jon Turner, David Wilkins, the de Kleer brothers, Diesch brothers, Dennis Conner, Ian Proctor,  Mark Bethwaite and Buddy Melges to name but a few.

In its heyday, this design was known for being the fastest two-man centreboard dinghy in the world and is still one of the most exciting boats of its type and, while relatively stable, produces a lively performance to keep even the most experienced of helms on his toes.  Quick to get up on the plane, the International Flying Dutchman requires an agile crew to get the best out of her, but is as well-mannered at sea as on the inland waters.


Over 10,000 Flying Dutchmen have now been built, and new boats are still being built in Germany, USA and Australia.  And still today you will find 70 and above FD’s at the start of international races.

The FD has been the basis for many important innovations in sailing over the past half century.  Its hull design with a delicate entry that widens into a broad beam very far forward and has a smooth flatrun aft can still be seen in current racing yachts designs around the world.  First one-design dinghy to make use of a trapeze gear, a feature commonly found today on high performance dinghies and catamarans.  Roller furling Genoa, Windward sheeting traveler, Spinnaker chute, Spinnaker pole launchers, Composite construction,

Many hardware and rigging innovations, Double bottom floor construction, Windows in sails, New sail cloth and clothing development,  The huge Genoa now called code zero on big yachts


Four years after the launch of the Flying Dutchman 1956, Conrad Gulcher and Uus Van Essen designed the Flying Dutchman Junior, or Flying Junior, intended as a ‘training boat’ for its larger sibling. Granted international status by the IYRU in the early 1970s, the 13ft (4m) double-hander has a sail area of 100sqft (9.3m2) and is now sailed in over seven countries.




About the Author