I guess Australian sailors are less surprised. The Halvorsen story about the immigrant family from outside of Arendal, Norway, leaving bankruptcy behind and becoming a major part of leisure boating, both by motor and wind in New South Wales, is well known in Australia. Among the better sources for this amazing family history is the book “Wooden boats, Iron men. The Halvorsen story, by Randi Svensen, Halstead press, 2004.

5,5 with King Olav

The Halvorsen family made a long list of good looking, fast and very sturdy small double-enders, besides World Champion 5,5’s (one of the brothers became World Champion in one of them, and the Crown Prince of Norway, the late King Olav, sailed a Halvorsen-build 5,5 in World Championships at least twice), and a Dragon …

The Halvorsen’s participated in the Sydney to Hobart race most years from 1946 to 1965 and became Line Honours winner or overall winners at least seven times besides becoming number two or three years they did not made the line or overall first. Anitra for instance won in 1957 and became second in 46, 58 and 1959. And Peer Gynt won the Trans-Tasman race to Auckland (a race of 1,512 nautical miles) in 1948 and 1949, and became third in Sydney to Hobart in 1947. In 49 the yacht was sold to San Francisco where it won the Winter Point Score on San Francisco Bay. (Point is – Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen was magnificent sailors, but other sailors did it well in Halvorsen designs too.)

Freya – 3 time Sydney Hobar winner
The most famous of the Halvorsen double-enders is Freya. She became the overall winner in 1963, 64 and 65. She was thirty-eight feet nine inches long, with a beam of 11 feet. She was planked in Douglas fir with glued spline, upon glued Queensland maple laminated frames. Her deck was fiberglassed plywood, and her spar was a deck stepped aluminium mast. Her rudder tapered to a feather-edge. Australian National Maritime Museum is supposedly holding the line-drawings and specifications of Freya.

Tell me all about it if you know something more.

Randi Svensen quotes Magnus Halvorsen about Freya:

“Her long deadwood gave her the underwater body of a contemporary 50-55 footer. She had that feeling of a much bigger boat at sea. With her large vertical rudder there was perfect control. She responded to the helm at all times. Never did she broach to! Today’s sailors would find that unbelievable. She carried a shy spinnaker longer than any competing yacht. Indeed, a spinnaker could be carried until it was aback, without rounding up. Freya could also carry full sail to windward in 30 knots of wind.”

8+ knots consistent

The conditions of the Sydney Hobart varies from hurricane force winds to no wind at all – but still Freya used 3 days, 10 hours in 1965, 3 days, 5 hours in 64 and 3 days, 6 hours on handicap in 1963. Which is astonishing consistent on a 628 nautical mile long race in all sorts of conditions – and even more amazing, her mean speed was more than 8 knots. The Halvorsens must have pressed Freya above her theoretical speed at all times and in all conditions.

Freyas speed would have made her high up on modern list. She would have won in 2004, 2003, 1993, 1988, 1984, 1981, 1978, 1977, 1976, 1974, 1970, 1968, 1967, and 1966. The last two years the winners have been doing the Sydney Hobart in less than two days. But Freya would still be doing better than most yachts given the same speed as during her three consecutive winning years.

Amazing! What a double ender! And remember all of the Halvorsen race contenders was built both for cruising and racing. The Halvorsen thought of  comfort, security and speed. Both Halvorsen brothers disliked modern racing hulls and the very idea of using men as ballast.

The first photo is of Anitra on the Sydney to Hobart race in 1959.

The second is Freya showing her “shy spinnaker.”

The third is Freya going hard windward.

The Kaskelot takes you topside


Hi. I’m the author of Wooden Boats, Iron Men – the Halvorsen Story and I happened upon your website recently. I noticed that you said you were researching my uncles. Much of what is in the public domain is incorrect (with the exception of my book, which was written in full consultation with my uncles). If you plan to publish anything, feel free to contact me and I’ll try to check for accuracy.
Har det godt.
Randi Svensen

    Mr. Svensen. Is your uncle the Magnus Halvorsen of Gretel America’s Cup fame. I have a Sports Illustrated cover with Gretel on it and I was trying to track down Mr. Halvorsen to see if he would sign it since he raced on the boat. Any help would be appreciated. You can contact me at hong_kong_kevin@yahoo.com. Thanks.

Dear Randi Svensen,
thank you for your interest and thank you for your book. I truly had a good time reading it. Everytime I pass by Grimstad and your familys heritage I think about your family and your history.
I mentioned researching your uncles, but what I meant was finding out what they actually did to make Freya and the other rather small double enders so fast. What was their philosophy and what did they do engeneringwise to be “kings” of Australia sailing for so many decades? What happended to the double enders? Why are double enders out of fashion? And I miss knowing more about the 5,5 building and sailing in Australia. Ther must be more and better photos then I have found of the double enders from so many amazing races.

Well, good to hear from you. The world of cyberspace is truly small and suprising – I am happy you found my little blog among the 9,2 million bloggers out there.

Ha det godt du også, Espen Reiss Mathiesen

I have a photo of the now king of Norway when as crown prince he and his crew were in San Francisco Bay for a one ton race I think it was, but I’d have to check the type of race that it was. My father, an excellent and avid sailor himself, took the prince and one or two others out in the Boston Whaler to talk about the tide fluctuations etc.
As it was the crown prince and his crew came in 2nd or 3rd in a field of 15 boats.
There was a quick snapshot taken as it continued on the tradition of my father’s father (my grandfather) who had represented Norway when King Olaf was king and their photos were taken at the 1939 Worlds Fair on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Later that day or soon after the King of Norway, his wife and the King and Queen of Sweden dined at the home of my grand parents in Oakland, CA.

Hi Elin,
What a wonderful memory and story for you and your family!

I don’t know the story of the royal family well enough to know what King Harald raced in the San Francisco Bay. But if you copy your photos – or you might just take a snapshot preferably by a good camera or in worst case with your smartphone – you may e-mail them to me. Please include as much information as possible about date and place. I will then contact the Castle or the Royal Sail Club – KNA (Kongelig Norsk Seilforening) in Oslo and ask them for further information.

Possible something fun might come out of this enquiry. Quite often both the royal Castle and the yacht club might have unpublished photos of the event that might include both the King/Crown prince and your family.

Two years ago I was a visiting scholar at university of California at Berkeley and sailed old Norwegian buildt Knarr’s in the bay! What a small world Elin!

Yours, Espen Reiss Mathiesen/Hot Shot Kaskelot

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