How international is the IF?
When Tord Sundén, the man who developed the polyester version of the Nordic Folkboot, started the construction in 1967, he called her ‘International Folkboat’. The Swedish Yachting Association was of the opinion that there was already a ‘Folkbat’ and did not accept the name.
After various discussions, in 1970, the name was changed into ‘IF-boat’. Now, at the 50th anniversary of the International Folkboat, it is interesting to see how international the IF has become. How was this anniversary celebrated in different countries?
The IF made its maiden voyage on the 5th of February 1967. Designer Tord Sundén and his sons Store and Jörgen sailed along the snow-covered beaches of Längedrag near Göteburg. That first year 27 boats were built in Marieholms Bruk. The highest production was between 1974 and 1976, in 1975 some 552 boats were built. Approximately 3500 IF’s would eventually leave the shipyard in Smälland, 3488 to be exact because the last boat, which was built in December 1984 had sail number 3488. Surely there must have been more boats built because the boat was also constructed under license in Australia.
About 2200 of the IFs built in Sweden were sold in the country itself. The rest went abroad, mainly to Germany (390), Denmark (325), Norway (135), USA (125), Switzerland (120) and Australia (100).
Also in the Netherlands many IF’s were sold. In the early sixties, Ernst Jongstra heard at a trade fair that the Marieholm’s import license in the Netherlands would soon become available. He immediately travelled to Sweden to speak with the management. He does not recall how many boats he eventually imported: “it must have been hundreds”. The boats did not make their first miles over water but by rail and by road. The former importer told: “the shipyard in Sweden put the new boats in crates and on the train to Amsterdam; then near Artis zoo the boats were loaded onto a lorry and brought to Monnickendam. There, in the Gouwzee marina, the boats were launched and finally delivered to the customers. In the heydays there was a transport every week. Later on the boats were transported by road all the way from Sweden to Monnickendam”. Then in 1977, following the takeover of the Marieholm factory by Albin Marin, Jongstra discontinued the import.
At the end of the 1980s the Marieholm IF had been almost forgotten, until one of the first IFs imported in the Netherlands was offered for sale at Doornbos Marina in Loosdrecht. Pieter Hoogenbirk recalls: “I think she was from the 1970s and was painted over several times; She was now white with a light blue anti-slip deck. We were very surprised of the interest generated by the boat.” They went on to gather information in Sweden where it appeared there were many IF’s still sailing and for sale. Sweden just crept out of an economic crisis and the prices were attractive. Pieter Hoogenbirk and his business partner Leo van Velzen went to Stockholm and acquired second hand boats which they transported in big numbers to The Netherlands.
One of the buyers, Frank Jurgens, who kept his IF in the marina at Doornbos, conceived a plan to set up a club or an association for IF owners, and during the first meeting he asked to be allowed to organise sailing races. This is how the Dutch Marieholm Association came into being in 2001.
The Dutch Marieholm Association now has 243 members, most of which own an IF, a M26 or another Marieholm type. We think that half of the Dutch Marieholm owners are members of the association, and it is estimated that there are between 450 to 500 Mariehom’s in the Dutch marinas. The interest in racing the IF is growing; this year the IF’s took part in 3 different major sailing events. There is currently a core of 10 teams participating in the Winter Series held at the Kaag Yacht Club, and the IF has its own class start during the Kaag-week summer event.
The Marieholm Association celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Marieholm IF by displaying an IF at the HISWA Amsterdam boat show in March 2017. The boat attracted a lot of interest, and many visitors wanted to step on board for a peek. In September, during the event ‘Hiswa on the Water’, an IF was on display on a prominent position in the water. At the end of June, during the summer event of the Dutch Marieholm Association, the target of gathering 50 boats was not met, nonetheless a total number of 35 participating boats was a record. The digital water sports magazine “Zilt” was also present at the summer event and dedicated an article to the IF, portraying different association members. Photographer Klaas Wiersma made a nice promotional film.
The origin: Sweden Sweden still has the largest fleet. According to a video on the website of the Swedish Sailing Federation there are around 1800 IF’s still sailing. The IF was recognised in Sweden as a one-design class already in 1970, and races with forty boats were no exception back in the 1980s. Marek Janiec is the chairman of the Swedish Federation which bundles four regional associations, with a total of 442 members and 345 measured racing boats. The regional associations organise competitions and lectures, the federation provides the website, knowledge database and the magazine ‘Medvind’. Since the Scandinavian languages are related to each other and each can read each other’s language, the Danes and the Norwegians participate in ‘Medvind’, the magazine is therefore trilingual. The regional associations are located on the west- and east coast of the Bothnia Gulf (the northern part of the Baltic Sea), and along the southern tip of Sweden. The competition is organised regionally. The championship, where only measured boats can participate, changes in turns. The Marieholm MS/AC 20 has its own active organisation.
Two IFs were on display at the Stockholm Boat Show in March 2017. The Sjöhistoriska Museum displayed the partly restored S1, being the boat with which Tord Sundén made its maiden sailing trip, and the Swedish Federation was there with a boat in racing trim (see MarieTeam 2016 and elsewhere in this magazine). There was a promotional flyer, and the Swedish version of the ‘Practical Boat Owner’ magazine issued a special glossy booklet on the IF. Videos and activity announcements were made available on a dedicated page of the new website. The main event was the Swedish championship with a festive dinner, where some members of the Dutch Marieholm Association were invited as special guests.
Norway and Denmark The Norwegian IF club exists since 1971, and has 112 members; this makes it the biggest keel boat association in Norway. According to chairman Morten Mero, there are about 350 IFs sailing in Norway. The association is very active is invited by king Harald to participate in the royal regattas. The Norwegian’s championship took place in August in the Oslo’s bay, and it was all about the IF’s anniversary, with 26 participating boats.
In Denmark the IF is sailed as one design class as from 1973-1974; there are 300 boats and the association has 115 members. The yearly championship was sailed in August in Præstø (Southeast Seeland), and there have been no specific activities for the IF’s anniversary.
The German IF Association has 146 members, of which 10% are supporters, family members and people who have sold their boats. In 2017 39 boats took part in the national competition. The competition is divided in three regions: Berlin, Baltic and Lake Constance. The points scored in the various regional races count towards the competition. According to a rough estimate by chairman Martin Meyer there are around 200 Marieholm’s in Germany, the majority of which are in the lakes nearby Berlin.
In Lemkenhafen, on the Baltic Sea, the anniversary was celebrated with a regatta together with the skerry cruiser class of the ‘Rank und Slank’ organisation. There were 19 IF’s present, including one from Sweden and one from Denmark. There were 6 more boats registered which didn’t show up due to bad weather conditions. The magazine Yacht wrote an article on the IF and the regatta. Back in 1967, this magazine published a sailing test that was very important for the success of the IF.
United Kingdom, Australia and United States of America
The British fleet is concentrated in St. Mawes’s Yacht Club in Cornwall. In May 2017 six boats competed in the Championship, along with two other sailing classes.
In the list of the Australian Folkboat Association are 144 boats: 6 M26s, 1 IF and the other boats are Nordic Folk boats or similar Stella’s.
In the USA the boat is well known and there are some IF’s and M26’s to be found for sale, but there is no association as such.
Of the 3,500 boats built, we can roughly estimate some 3,000 to 3,100 still are sailing. After 50 years that seems unbelievable. The figures show a promising picture and say something about the quality of the IF.
Most of the boats still sailing are concentrated in Sweden, as there they have the best knowledge about the boats, and innovations arise because of the intense racing activities. The Dutch Marieholm Association is a serious party, with 240 members and a growing competition segment. It is impressive how important an association and knowledge exchange are. In countries where 10 to 20 years ago there were boats but no association, the boat has now disappeared from the scene.
This spring an IF with Czech Republic flag was spotted in the port of Terschelling. Given the current prices it is no surprise that the boats ‘disappear’ towards the Eastern European countries. Should we, like Sweden in the late 80s, worry about the loss of our ‘heritage’? Is the time ripe for an International Folkboat organisation? And how do we keep the IF in the spotlight?
The activities for the IF’s 50th anniversary were therefore a good promotion, even though not all targets were met; for example, the event did not attract much attention from water sports magazines as we hoped. Fortunately we have other ways to achieve our goals: raise enthusiasm in young people, gain visibility in the racing circuit, create beautiful photo and video material for social media and, finally, our own magazine, the MarieTeam; share it with everyone for reading. Yet, the best promotion is you, the proud owner of a Marieholm. Take good care of your boat, sail her and enjoy.
Board member of the Dutch Marieholm Association
Translation Franscesca Musina