Jorgen Philip-Sorensen, one of sailing's most longstanding patrons, has passed away

Jorgen Philip-Sorensen CBE, one of sailing’s greatest and most stalwart supporters, passed away yesterday in Geneva.

Philip-Sorensen, 70, who was born and lived in Denmark but had Swedish citizenship, came into sailing sponsorship through Sir Chay Blyth’s British Steel Challenge in 1992. His company Group 4 was teamed with an up-and-coming former fireman, Mike Golding.

He and Golding, then an ambitious and highly organised 31-year-old, saw eye to eye and when that race ended Group 4 continued their sponsorship for another four years. Golding went on to win the 1996 race convincingly and the association ignited in Philip-Sorensen an enduring passion for sailing and the teamwork required by it.

When he could he would turn up to the finishes of race legs to cheer Golding’s team, sometimes doing so hanging out from the side of a helicoper, his trademark large cigar clamped in his mouth.

JPS, as he was affectionately known, fostered a family atmosphere with crews and shore teams and enjoyed socialising with them at celebratory dinners.

His belief in Mike Golding’s potential led him to follow the sailor rather than the Challenge Business, though he remained lifelong close friends with Sir Chay. Group 4 bought the Challenge yacht Golding had raced and funded him for a successful attempt to break Chay Blyth’s ‘wrong way’ solo circumnavigation.

Afterwards, Group 4 sponsored Golding’s first Open 60, the Groupe Finot-designed Team Group 4, in 1998. In so doing it paved the way to a deep involvement and engagement in solo round the world racing in the UK that had not existed before and in turn opened up an exclusively French domain to international competition.

Jorgen Philip-Sorensen continued to lever business sponsorship for Golding’s Open 60 campaign through the long-running Ecover campaign that followed in 2001. As well as being chairman of Group 4, a company started by his grandfather, he was the owner of the Belgian ecological products company, which he rescued in 1999.

Philip-Sorensen also solely owned Mike Golding Yacht Racing and oversaw the running of the sailing business. He had many other business interests, including owning Danish Yachts in Skagen; he recently had the Group 4 Challenge yacht refitted as a luxury cruiser there, which I blogged about here.

Yet he still managed to take a keen interest in the yacht racing and sponsorship business and relished the involvement.

“He was always at the forefront of any decision and he ran it as a pure business,” comments Golding. “He loved looking through the books and at how we were controlling costs and would sometimes call personally and ask why we had bought such-and-such a fitting in such-and-such a place.”

To Golding, his wife Andrea (who was part of the Group 4 Challenge crew in 1996 and thus also part of JPS’s longstanding crew family), Philip-Sorensen is a great and sad personal loss. They consider that he brought them together and their son Soren is named after him.

“He has been such a fantastic support. He followed every twist and turn – and there were some fairly big twists and turns,” says Golding. “He drew enormous pleasure from being involved with a driven group of people aiming towards some sort of sporting excellence.

“He enjoyed being with lots of people, he liked the family feel [of solo sailing], the positive relationships with other skippers, the culture between the teams that was not aggressive or adversarial off the water, and his involvement did some really positive things inside the business.

“He had a vision of how the projects could be made to work commercially and his backing was the beginning of what’s become a large contingent of UK boats.”