Eight Bells: Knud Wibroe

Published on February 26th, 2024

Knud Wibroe, 97, passed away on February 12, 2024. Knud was born on September 26, 1926, the youngest of six siblings, in Aalborg, Denmark. His parents were Kirsten and Frederik Wibroe.

Knud had a wonderful childhood with his siblings: two girls and four boys. He grew up on the water and seriously took the helm when he and his “twin” brother, Niels-Ib, were given a boat by their parents at 16 years old.

Knud said: “As a boy, I sailed up and down the Limfjord, loving every moment of it.” Knud became a long-standing member of the Royal Danish Yacht Club and its ambassador in San Francisco.

Knud served in the Danish Navy for 18 months. He then spent two years at his first engineering job in London. He married Kirsten Vedel Brandt, his hometown sweetheart on July 18, 1953. The newlyweds immigrated on an ocean liner to New York and continued directly to the San Francisco Bay Area.

In 1955, Knud founded his own engineering firm with a machine shop in Petaluma and an office in The Mechanics Institute in San Francisco. In 1990, Knud and Kirsten built an addition to their Sausalito home, where he worked with one colleague until he retired at the age of 88.

He had designed and manufactured spray dry machines to take waste materials and make animal feed bi-products (yeast from breweries, sugar from gum factories, blood from slaughterhouses, algae from crop circles, onion skins, ethanol etc). He shipped his products worldwide.

Though he always loved his work, his first priority was his family, with sailing a close second. In 1955, Susanne was born, followed by Claire in 1960, and their son, Peter in 1962 (died in 1962). As Knud was always home for dinner at 6:00 p.m., loved many family trips to Denmark in the summertime and skiing in the U.S. in the wintertime, Knud was a true family man, with deep love for his wife, Kirsten.

Admittedly, there had to be made room for sailing. Knud’s first boat, like all his boats, was built in Denmark and shipped to the U.S. in 1957. It was a beautiful 8-meter sloop, Scandia; then Folkboats and finally Knarrs. Knud’s wooden Knarr, Snaps III – in which he won the IKC in San Francisco in 1971, continues to sail to this day. Keeping a 60-year-old wooden Knarr ready for battle is, according to Knud himself: “Just a matter of being very kind to her.”

Knud was instrumental, with a friend, to begin the exportation of Knarrs from Scandinavia to the San Francisco Bay. Knud believed that the time had come to establish closer personal relations with the Norwegian and Danish Knarr sailors. The Wibroe family spent the summer of 1965 in Denmark, and he invited the Danish Knarr Admiral and his wife to dinner to discuss the possibility of arranging some competition between San Francisco and Denmark.

Knud’s success in taking first place in the 1966 KDY 100-year centennial regatta (as the only U.S. skipper) laid the foundation for the International Knarr Championship (IKC). They decided to make it a round robin regatta in which each skipper and crew rotated boats with each daily race, which is unique from all other yacht racing regattas. Since its creation, the IKC rotates between Bergen, Oslo, Copenhagen, and San Francisco.

As Knud reminded in his IKC 50th anniversary speech: the original motto “It is not the game, but the way it is played” must continue in the Knarr fleet.

Knud’s love for sailing was contagious and his many friends came to love it too. He and Kirsten were fortunate to sail around the world, race and vacation, often aboard some of the fastest, largest and most magnificent sailing yachts ever built to this day.

Knud is survived by Kirsten, his wife of over 70 years, his daughter. Susanne (with her children, Katia and Igor) and Claire (with her husband, Paul Traub and their children, Eric and Lily).

A Celebration of Knud’s Life was held at the St. Francis Yacht Club, on Friday, February 23, 2024.

Source: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/sfgate/name/knud-wibroe-obituary?id=54395942

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