A Brief History of Snipe in Finland

A Brief History of the Snipe Class in Finland by Henry Heffe Ericsson

The Snipe arrived in Finland in the late 1940s, to Vaasa on the Gulf of Bothnia. It quickly spread from the coast to the inland lakes, including industrial towns such as Mänttä and Varkaus. In the 1960s and 70s, the Snipe was the largest dinghy class in Finland, with no less than 24 active Snipe fleets throughout the country. In the SCIRA Point Score system for fleet racing, Seppo Raatikainen of the Kotka fleet in 1963 actually won the Hugh Reichner Trophy for the highest point score in the world.

In those days, most Snipes were amateur built of wood, while more demanding owners turned to Yrjö Halén in Turku for a splendid wooden snipe. Fibreglass construction was pioneered by Marino in the 1960s, while the breakthrough came in the 70s by the Skipper snipes from Denmark. It was quickly followed by several domestic brands, such as Svante Boats, Vamos and Wico. The Snipe class still has a dedicated band of followers in Finland. Today, the six remaining Finnish Snipe fleets reside in Helsinki, Tampere, Turku, Pori, Lappeenranta and Oulu.

The domestic Snipe championship has been keenly fought every year since 1950. The legendary Snipe family Bjurström has taken an incredible 16 titles, with 14 of them going to Håkan Bjurström, one to his brother Rikard and one to his father Nils-Erik. Other Snipe phantoms include Claus Carpelan (7 wins), Jukka Niiniranta and Stefan Winqvist (3 each), Ville Aalto-Setälä, P.A. Lindholm, Tero Porlamo and Carl-Christian Trapp (2 each).

Finnish sailors have also participated actively in international snipe racing. Juhani Salovaara and Erik Aikala placed second in the Europeans 1962 at Mallorca. Peter & Håkan Bjurström were runner-ups in the Hanko Europeans in 1974, and third at the Worlds 1975 in Uruguay. Håkan and his wife Laila took a second place at the Europeans in Marstrand in 1984. With his brother Rikard at the jib sheets, he also gained a second place at the Tönsberg Worlds in 1991 and a third at the Kokkola Europeans in 1992. Kimmo Suortti – Juha Hyttinen won the Junior Worlds in San Remo in 1973, followed by Heikki Haimakainen – Timo Karlsson in Kokkola 1975.

Finland has hosted its share of international Snipe events. The Snipe Europeans in 1974 organized by HSF in Hanko were followed by the Junior Worlds at GSF in Kokkola. The election of Per-Ole Holm of GSF to Commodore of SCIRA culminated in the arrangement of the Europeans 1992 in Kokkola. The organizing tradition is kept up by Segelförening i Björneborg as the host of the 2006 European Championships.

Clearly, it is true that classes come and go, but the Snipe lives forever…

- Henry Ericsson (2004)
press officer | National Secretary 1974-76 | Honorary member of SCIRA Finland