Eight Bells: Erik Thorsell
by Per Gothlin
Erik Thorsell, Sweden (1949-2021), was one of the best Snipe Sailors in Europe during the heydays of the class (60` and 70´) a time when colorful sailors, huge line-ups and glamorous racing sites made the snipe, with her sharp but neat lines a darling at any regatta.
Friends called Erik “Champ”. Like other Swedes he won Nordic and National championships, but Erik did something more, he won a bronze medal at the Worlds in 1973 in Malaga, Spain – and no other swede has done that before or after. His achievement was equal to Pelle Petterson`s first gold medal in Star Worlds in 1969.
Erik was the true trimmer of snipe, always discussing (in his distinct and charming westc oast accent) how to make the boat go faster.
He was always moving fittings. Probably Erik was one of 3M:s biggest shoppers:). A roll of tape in his pocket was as important as the measure-stick.
Erik started racing in a lapstrake flat-nose west coast dinghy (GKSS eka), soon moved to OK-dinghy and 1967 to a snipe (named “Little Barr”, perhaps as a homage to Charlie Barr, the famous skipper aboard J-boats like the magnificent Reliance 1903).
“I grew up, Erik tells in an interview, on the same street as older top sailors like Lasse Molse and Sven Hansson. Saw them fiddle about in their snipes outside my window. The Snipe was simply the boat you dreamed to compete in. Think about all the fun we had with the snipe and how I miss the unpretentious races at the club.”
Later in his career he sailed Soling and Star on high level. During the Swedish Americas Cup campaign 1977 he often was helmsman on the trialhorse Constellation and the contender Sverige.
Erik was such a nice guy to hang out with. Kind, committed, full of knowledge and interesting opinions such as which direction Swedish sail racing should be going.
As said, Erik sailed on many boats but whenever we met it was the memories from the snipeclass he liked to talk about. It could be Ted Wells old book Scientific Sailboat Racing, or loose rigging versus tight rigging, or todays youth racing which favors traveling around over local club sailing.
1991 he designed and produced the 2-man dinghy “Tvåkrona” (twokrona, krona is the Swedish monetary). The boat soon became, and still is, the no 1 sailing dinghy at clubs and sailing schools.
Per Gothlin, Stockholm, ex National and North European Secretary, ex Snipe sailor (a Has Been/a Never Been)