Flying Dutchman – Soundings Online

Illustration by Jim Ewing

The legendary Vliegende Hollander, or Flying Dutchman, is a fabled ghost ship associated with the 17th-century myth that it is doomed to sail the seas forever and never reach port. The modern Flying Dutchman, while legendary in its own right, is a bit different, considered by many competitive racing sailors to be the fastest double-handed dinghy in the world.

Designed in the Netherlands in the early 1950s by Uus Van Essen and Conrad Gulcher, the Flying Dutchman Class boat, with its then-revolutionary rig, can hit 20 knots on the race course. During its 30-plus years as an Olympic class, the two-person monohull challenged skippers and crew while thrilling audiences across the world.

The centerboard sloop carries a Bermuda rig with a 110-square-foot main sail, a 90-square-foot jib and a big, 230-square-foot spinnaker. Construction methods over the years have run the gamut from cold-molded wood to a composite of carbon fiber and Kevlar. The rig is so adjustable that class historian Henry Clay Ericsson called it “a tuner’s mecca, being chock-full with ropes and pulleys.” The genoa halyard, the shrouds and the mast rake can all be adjusted while sailing.

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