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International Folkboat

International-Folkboat

Because she sails upon a confused sea of misidentification, it’s a good thing the International Folkboat is a stout, seaworthy design. It’s neither a Nordic Folkboat nor an English or a German one. The Nordic Folkboat came on the scene in 1942. The International Folkboat, which came later, often lives in its older sibling’s shadow.

While the clinker-built, lapstraked Nordic Folkboat’s design has a murky provenance, the International Folkboat does not. In 1967, the Swedish company Marieholms Bruk commissioned designer Tord Sundén to design a fiberglass version of the Nordic Folkboat. Sundén was the man who during World War II had been tasked to incorporate all the best features of a design competition into what would become the Nordic Folkboat. His International Folkboat was an immediate success, even though in Europe it had to be renamed the IF because the Swedish Sailing Association objected to the similarity to the Nordic Folkboat name.

The IF earned a one-design class certification, and active racing fleets were established all over the world. About 125 IFs were shipped to the United States. Besides racing, IFs were also used as daysailers, and even as overnighters, as long as people were willing to squeeze into the cabin’s 4’8’’ headroom. Practical Sailor magazine once described the headroom as “ideal for those wonderful creatures of Scandinavian folklore: elves.”

The all-purpose sloop featured a full keel, skeg rudder and fractional rig. With a 25’10’’ LOA, a 4-foot draft and a ballast keel of 2,750 lbs., which represented more than 50 percent of her nearly 5,000 lb. total weight, she quickly won sailing hearts because of her stability and sea kindliness. Reviews and regatta recaps praised her ability to stand up to nasty weather while being quick footed in light airs. Aesthetically, she was admired for her elegant lines and graceful overhangs.

Down below, there were two berths forward and two more in the main cabin. There was a stove and a head as well as storage to port and starboard. Masts were of extruded aluminum and all boats were tiller steered. Propulsion was a single-cylinder inboard or an outboard, which was either mounted on the transom or in a well. The cockpit featured a self-bailer.

The IF inspired other designs. Perhaps the most famous iteration was used by Tanya Aebi who at age 18 sailed solo around the world in a Contessa 26, which is widely considered an IF hull with a different cabin trunk configuration.

Ultimately, more than 3,400 IFs were built in Sweden. Production ended in the mid-1980s, but in 2017 there were still 1,800 IFs sailing in Sweden. In the United States, the IF was particularly popular on windy San Francisco Bay. Recently, the IF has seen a resurgence. In 2018, Seacamper, a German builder, put the boat back into production. 

This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue.

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