September / October 2021

Tore Holm

Sweden’s master of the rules
Tore Holm

Knut Holm (center) with sons Tore (left) and Yngve at the 1919 Sandhamm Regatta in the Stockholm Archipelago. Tore and Yngve sailed the 40-Square-Meter BIMBI, designed and built by their father, while Knut sailed MAYFLOWER VI, designed by Tore. Between them, they won six out of 15 possible trophies in a fleet of 88 boats.

Knut Holm had a grandstand view of the 1887 AMERICA’s Cup defender trials. Standing in the rigging more than 60' above the deck of the 100' MAYFLOWER, winner of the previous year’s cup, he could see every tack and sail adjustment of her rival, VOLUNTEER. His job was to make sure the topsail set clear to leeward, without getting tangled up in any rigging, but in between tacks he cast an anxious eye on the two boats, as VOLUNTEER slipped steadily ahead in the light airs. Despite his boat’s defeat, he must have felt on top of the world as MAYFLOWER sliced through the waters of Lower Bay, New York, with Staten Island and New York City rising to the north and the empty Atlantic Ocean to the east. At that moment, anything must have seemed possible for the ambitious 23-year-old from southern Sweden.

Knut had arrived in the United States seven years earlier and had worked as a seaman on American cargo ships before becoming a U.S. citizen in 1886. He had performed in a Swedish opera in Chicago and possibly worked as a boatbuilder at the celebrated Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol, Rhode Island. And yet, despite being fluent in English and having good prospects in this rich, exciting country, the following year he decided to return to his native Sweden. It was almost as if he had seen into the future from the top of that mast and realized his destiny was to go home and establish a great boatbuilding dynasty—a father-and-son lineage that would yield hundreds of beautiful boats and countless race wins. Rather than being small fish in the big American pond, he and his son, Tore, would become big fish in the smaller Baltic pond before swimming out into the world.

Back in Sweden, Knut worked for several years in sailing ships before settling down at the age of 30 in his childhood home of Gamleby, 110 miles south of Stockholm. There, like his father before him, he skippered the coastal ferry to the Swedish capital before becoming harbormaster. He married and had three children, Yngve, Tore, and Magda, all born between 1895 and 1898.

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