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Harry Anderson about the Harry Anderson Course

Published on November 4th, 2014

There’s only one race course in the sport of sailing named after a person… the Harry Anderson course. Now at 93 years, Harry was inducted this year into the U.S. National Sailing Hall of Fame. Here Harry explains the genesis for the course…

HARRY ANDERSON THUMBSome years ago, I was on the Centerboard Boat Committee at the International Yacht Racing Union (before ISAF). It was about 1970 when the committee decided to replace the Finn for the Olympic Games. The Olympic single-handed boat was supposed to change each Olympiad, but the Finn had a tight grip on the event, so we decided to hold a contest in Medemblik on the IJsselmeerin to consider other boats.

We had about 20 different designs attend. I recall how Paul Elvstrom designed a Finn with a trapeze going to the top of the mast. Instead of going under the bloom when he tacked, he run around the mast. And we had quite a few sailing canoe-type boats.

But the IJsselmeerin is shallow, and when the wind came up so did the sea conditions, and we wanted to see all the boats at the same point of sailing. So I devised what has become the Harry Anderson course, After you go upwind, the course has a broad reach, and then a gybe mark which then sends you on a tight reach back to the middle, and then a starboard turn for a short downwind leg, and then upwind again. Since downwind was not very exciting for a single sail boat with no spinnaker, this course made the contest more interesting.

I brought the course back to the states, sometime after 1970, and started using it at Yale University. It caught on in college racing… they loved it. The frostbite fleets used it too. Where before most race courses were windward-leewards or triangles, the variation within the Harry Anderson course, breaking up the offwind leg with three points of sail, proved to be more interesting.

I have a diagram of the course that will be going on my grave headstone.

harry anderson course

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