Fredrik Tegnhed has a good Finn heritage even if he only came to Finn sailing later in life. Coming from the ‘Finn hometown’ of Uppsala in Sweden, he grew up alongside the Finn greats at the Uppsala Kanot Förening (UKF), Rickard Sarby’s home club. The Finn was in his blood from an early age, but he always thought he was too small and it wasn’t until the Finn 60th Anniversary Regatta in Uppsala in 2009 that he finally took the plunge and bought a Finn, and now, as for countless thousands before him, it has become a lifestyle choice for him.
“I grew up and learned to sail on the lake of Ekoln which is the most northern part of the bigger Lake Mälaren. Mälaren is connected all the way to the Baltic Sea via Stockholm. My first sailing club back in 1970 was Uppsala Kanot Förening where Rickard Sarby was active during his life. I started sailing the Optimist and my first coach was Boris Jacobson who was a famous Finn sailor and Olympian in the early days of the Finn. We young sailors got to hear all the time that Boris sailed every day, all year around, if it was open water – they taught us that training will make a difference.”
“I still like to every year participate in the USS (Uppsala Sailing Association) regatta before summer. I get to go to my home water and sail on the lake Ekoln. The Finn World Masters was held there many years ago but at the size it has now become it would not be realistic. It’s still my favourite place to sail, though I like going to new places.”
“Sailing in Uppsala amongst the Finn sailors, and being a smaller person I never even believed that I one day would sail the Finn. Then in 2009 we had the 60th year anniversary regatta in Uppsala. Rickard Sarby designed the Finn in 1949 so 60 years after that Uppsala organised an open Swedish Championship on the Ekoln water outside my old home club. My sailing friend Torsten Jarnstam, who also is from Uppsala and also from UKF but like me now lives in Karlstad, lent me one of his Finns. It was an older Vanguard that weighed at least 130 kg and was originally built for Larry Lemieux. The regatta was a success with sailors from several parts of the world and we had really strong winds. I was surprised that I was actually able to handle the Finn, though I tried to avoid gybing as much as possible.”
“Later that year just before Christmas I went to Denmark and bought my first Finn, a Devoti from 1996 with Wilke mast that was way too stiff for me and some North sails.”
He has sailed dinghies, such as the Europa moth, Laser, OK Dinghy and tried and tested Tornado, Fireball, RS Feva and some local Swedish boats like the C55 and 606. He has also raced on bigger boats to some extent and now the J70.
“In comparison to other one man dinghies, I believe the Finn is superior both as an athletic tool and how you can plan your tactics, based on the position you have above the water. I also enjoy the Oscar flag – free pumping rule (though I did not at the beginning), which I think strongly has driven the class to a level that separates it from the others in a positive way.”
And so it began.
“To me it’s kind of a lifestyle and also a very good way to stay fit, or a reason to do so. I believe it is so fun and rewarding to be able to train and compete locally on the waters here in Karlstad but also go abroad and meet the absolute best Finn sailors in the world and understand where the limits are and see how much more one can improve and get better. In lighter winds it’s fantastic just to go out on the water and cruise and be ‘high’ above the water compared to for example the Laser, which I sailed before. I think the Finn then gives you such a good overview of the situation on the water and it is really interesting to manoeuvre your way upwind through the wind changes and pressure differences. In the stronger winds the Finn will give you a strong smack in the face that keeps you humble for the task of sailing it. All in all I believe the Finn is a fantastic piece of equipment and I am sure that Rickard is smiling somewhere up in heaven when he looks down on the Finn fleet around the world today.”
In his first Finn World Masters in El Balís, Fredrik finished 11th to take the Golden Crutch, narrowly missing the top 10. In Skovshoved he finished 25th. In 2019 Fredrik also won the Swedish Championship in Marstrand.
Those who were in El Balís will remember the surprise on Fredrik’s face when he picked up the Golden Crutch. “I was standing at the prizegiving ceremony and had counted all the ‘buckets’ and realized there was only ten and I was the first outsider. I was very disappointed. I stood there with a beer in my hand chatting with Matt Visser, a long time Laser friend from Australia, and I did not really understand I got the Crutch until Matt kicked me and said it was me. For sure this was one of the best moments.”
Of the two events he has done, “Of course Barcelona for me beats Copenhagen since I finished 11th overall and I also won one of the races. Also the surroundings in El Balís were excellent and fun as well as the weather conditions warm and sunny. We had a great time there. Copenhagen was also good however I felt that the starting groups were too big. To me when we grow over let’s say 80 boats it is too many and the length of the start line is way too long.”
“A person can challenge him/herself at home on local water and become the champion there. In the Finn we have the opportunity to go out and meet other skilled sailors around the world. That challenge is fun, teaching and also inspires me to train harder and develop myself and my sailing skill as far as I possibly can.”
“I believe and also see that competition grows stronger year by year. I believe it’s a result of travelling around and meeting and sailing against other very skilled sailors. I really hope this will continue even though the Olympics no longer can be a driver for many sailors.”
What about this year? “Actually I don’t know yet. Some of my friends I have talked to are thinking about the Europeans instead. That is just after the Swedish nationals, which we have here on our waters outside Karlstad the week before. Just pack the boat and race down to Poland.”
He explains the class is slowly growing in Sweden again. “It is a little slow maybe but still the curve is pointing upwards. Last year two new guys from the Laser came into the Finn, Stefan Sandahl and Peter Overup. Really good guys and they are ambitious. They are training a lot and that’s really inspiring. We need to keep them humble towards us that are a little older in the class and beat them as often we can.”
He thinks the class has had a natural attraction for being the ‘biggest’ one-man Olympic class as well as the toughest. “To sail the Finn you are typically a little older and looking for the challenge to compete against others but also the social part after and around the races that the IFA managed so well to build over the years. It’s ok in our class to be a strong sportsman and have a ‘beer on the pier’ after the race. This to me is really key to continuing.”
“I believe we need to keep interacting with each other and meet and train together and exchange experiences and inspire as much as we can. From an IFA standpoint open organized training camps at good locations, for example inside Europe, where we can meet and train together would be one good example. I also believe it is key to keep the development of the materials and techniques as high as possible without this natural Olympic force that has driven the class for so many years. And ensure that we keep a high social positive spirit so other sailors outside the Finn notice all the fun we have, both on and off the waters.”
Outside of sailing he works as a sales manager for the Scandinavian region in the pulp and paper business. “My company supplies process solutions 100% focused on paper mills and paper production. It’s an everyday challenge to compete for the customer’s attention and attract them to our products and solutions. It’s a really rewarding and interesting job where I am also lucky enough to control my time and workdays and so I can find good opportunities to go sailing.”
Earlier interests in diving and flying gave way to sailing. “When I was young I watched everything with Jacques Cousteau, the diver, and was super interested in this. At the age of 35 I took my CMAS diving license and continued scuba diving for a number of years. I also have six take-offs and just as many landings as pilot student in a Cessna 172 but never finished the license.”
He believes the Finn class has a great future ahead. “ I am convinced that we need to keep up the development of the Finn and drive it as much a possible without the Olympic ‘force’. We also need to keep attracting good younger sailors into the class. Personally I would like to see gatherings like training camps, maybe an open European series that could attract some good sponsors and maybe there is some money to find there as well. Again I believe it needs to be as easy as possible to get to the venues. I also think we need to show that you don’t have to be one meter 95 cm tall and weigh more than 100 kg to sail the Finn. We have to show that it’s very possible to learn and sail the boat as a smaller sailor. Maybe there is some development on the equipment side needed that can make life at least a little easier for lighter sailors in over 18 knots.”
“I think that if the number of competitors keeps growing as in the last years, then we have to divide into smaller groups of maximum 80 boats or so. I also believe that maybe the length of one full week plus the days before can be a bit long. I prefer shorter races but maybe more of them and quick restarts. The social part is also vital so that you have time to meet and interact with the other sailors.”
In the future, “I would like to see an open European series and more training camps, and more connection to local national teams and developing these, helping to make good camps and spreading the techniques and skills from better sailors or teams. Maybe there is a possibility to send good coaches to local national team gatherings for enhanced training effect of these.”
“I am positive but also realistic. I do believe and hope the class will keep developing and continue being this strong and interesting boat that sailors want to try. Still I believe it will be a challenge. It will be interesting to see the Masters fleet in some years ahead when these guys that today are Olympic sailors are old enough to enter the Masters. It will for sure be a challenge for all the others.”