After 39 years of handicap racing, the Nordic Folkboat could soon make it back to Skandia Cowes Week as a one-design fleet

At a little over 60 years old, the Folkboat is one of the most enduring and popular racer-cruisers afloat. Variants introduced early in the boat’s history diluted the fleet’s validity as a one-design, but recently the original Nordic Folkboat seems to have made a comeback. For the first time in 39 years, the fleet warrants a separate section in the results lists at Skandia Cowes Week, although they still race with ISC Class 9.

The Nordic Folkboat was the result of an international competition for a one-design racing boat suitable for weekend cruising in Scandinavia. No-one won, but designer Tord Sunden took the best points of all the plans entered and drew a 25ft clinker-built yacht with a 2/3 fractional rig and full keel. However, within 25 years two variants had been introduced, the International and British Folkboats, destroying the integrity of the one-design.

The impact of these variants on the one-design class was predictable and necessary – rules were tightened to keep the Nordic Folkboat strictly to the original specification. GRP hulls were permitted in 1977, but despite the new material very few departures from the original design have been made – to remain in class a boat must have reproduction clinker strakes and a wooden mast. British and International designs cannot compete with the Nordic Folkboat, and as a result the Folkboat was dropped from the Cowes Week one-design fleets in 1966.

The modern urge for bigger cruising boats has largely sidelined the Folkboat as a cruiser, leaving the field clear for a revival of the Nordic one-design. Of the six boats competing during Skandia Cowes Week, five are less than ten years old and sail with identical handicaps, while across the Solent at Lymington more than 40 Folkboats regularly compete. There is still room for the older wooden boats – 1963 British FolkboatChantalleis still competing with the others on handicap, but the foundations have been laid for a one-design revival at Skandia Cowes Week.

At Shepard’s Wharf yesterday morning, skippers Simon Osgood and Mike Shepherd were titivating their Nordic FolkboatsSo!andRiopreparatory to the day’s racing. Mike’s titivation was slightly more drastic – after a series of disappointing results, he had finally decided that the new rig settings and suite of sails he was using this week had failed to deliver, and was changing back to the original set-up. Meanwhile, Simon Osgood was sniffing the fresh north-westerly with delight, commenting: “It takes a bit of breeze to get a two-tonne keel moving, but with this weather we might be looking at a one, two, three for the Folkboats.” He clearly knows his craft – that’s exactly what happened, withSo!topping the table. Mike Shepherd summed up the race as “very close. There were boats broaching all around us, but the Folkboats just kept going.”

Osgood is a Folkboat fanatic – having raced a British Folkboat as a kid, he caught the bug and importedSo!from Denmark in 2001. He sees racing at Skandia Cowes Week as being the best of two worlds, with handicap racing in ISC Class 9 and one-design racing with the other Folkboats. But it’s the one-design competition that really captures his imagination – “ultimately, hopefully we’ll come back as a one-design class. We’re going back to the purest form of what we’re designed to do, which is a one-design, clinker built, Nordic Folkboat.”