International Canoe Worlds 1978
The Canoe World Championship, held only once every three years, was won at Fiskeboda, Sweden, by the outstanding young Swedish Canoe Helmsman Martin Gullberg, with five firsts and a second in the seven race series. Second place was taken by Steve Clark of the USA. Peter Hunter was the best placed British helmsman in 5th place.
The event began with three idyllic windless days in which none of the three races attempted lasted beyond the 1 1/4 hour time limit set for completion of the first four-mile triangle. British hopes at this stage appeared to rest with Eric Twiname who was up amongst the first three in two of these abandoned races.
The first race proper began in a steady force 2 wind in which Gullberg took an early lead which he extended throughout the race in what was to become a familiar pattern. Steve Clark crossed the line second with fellow American Chris Converse picking up third place from Twiname, who capsized during his final tack to finish.
The second race was held in a F3-4 and Gullberg's upwind speed again proved untouchable, giving him another comfortable win with T Kullander of Sweden second and Twiname 3rd.
The following day, with a westerly F4-5 whitening the lake, the organisers had the notion of having the fleet sail 3 races to make up for the lost days. By the end of a long hard day Gullberg had virtually clinched the championship with two more wins and a second place. Clark was the man who beat Gullberg in the second race of the day, using his three stone weight advantage over the 11 1/2 stone Swede to produce more windward boat speed in the stronger wind.
But weight differences between helmsmen were not too important, because Chris Converse, a lightweight, took third place in the third and most gruelling race of the day, leaving many heavier men behind. Agility and fitness counted more than weight. Gone are the days when Canoe helmsmen could hope to win major championships seated placidly on the end of their planks: the boat must be sat out with feet hooked under the sliding seat and the helmsman's bottom draped over the outer end.
Peter Hunter fared better on this second day with a third, a fourth and a fifth, but Twiname fared poorly in the stronger wind with a 5th, a 6th and a retirement.
When Gullberg won the first of the two races of the final day, with the wind again gusting to the top of F5, he had no need to sail the final race. Clark's second place in this race virtually assured him of second overall. Peter Hunter's 3rd place left him with some hope of 3rd overall, while the best Twiname could hope for after an indifferent morning race was 5th.
Clark took his leave of the fleet soon after the start of the final race and sailed further into the distance as the race progressed. Philip Davenport of Stone SC for the first time in the championship showed his heavy weather worth by taking second place. Peter Hunter retired and had to be content with 5th place overall. Eric Twiname's lack of heavy weather experience in a Canoe again showed, though not before he had climbed to third place by the start of a run which was more than averagely entertaining to spectators. L-E Lundgren of Sweden took third place in this race, which also placed him third in the Championship.
Martin Gullberg had a totally perfectionist approach to his boat rig and his racing, which was certainly of the very highest level.
The British challenge for the NYCCC Cup was dropped after the participants had reflected that the only wind in which any of them might have beaten Gullberg was too light to complete a race in.
This report first appeared in Yachts and Yachting Magazine and has been lightly edited. Author unrecorded.