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Remembering HRH Prince Henrik of Denmark

by Dan Ibsen 19 Feb 07:04 GMT
HRH Prince Henrik © Dan Ibsen

His Royal Highness Prince Henrik passed away on 13th February 2018 at the age of 83, and stayed for the last time at Fredensborg Castle, surrounded by the royal family.

The Royal Danish Yacht Club and the sport of sailing lost a respected ambassador and committed pioneer who, with his presence, his interest and passion for nature, the boat and the water, brought the pleasure of sailing life far beyond the sailing community's own reach.

Just the encounter with nature, the experience and the freedom of the water, combined with the excitement, concentration and tactics in a race, was appealing to the Prince, who over the years participated in a multitude of racing at national and international level. The Prince also enjoyed the comradeship before and after sailing, which he always emphasized as one of the very valuable aspects of the sport.

Honorary Chairman through 44 years

HRH Prince Henrik replaced HM Frederik IX in 1972 as the Honorary Chairman of the Royal Danish Yacht Club. After 44 years as Honorary Chairman, Prince Henrik in 2016 – the club's 150th year anniversary – handed over the leadership to his son, and sailor, HRH Crown Prince Frederik. This means the continuation of a tradition in the royal family, dating back to King Christian the IX, who became a protector for RDYC in 1891.

At the same time, Prince Henrik was rewarded RDYC's Merit Medal in Gold due to his extraordinary effort for RDYC and to help spread and develop sailing, and thus for his long-standing work in Danish sailing since 1967.

Bringing new vitality to boat classes

Prince Henrik's commitment to sailing began in 1967, where RDYC donated a one design keelboat, 'Knarr' as a wedding gift to the Royal couple. Crown Princess Margrethe was sailing on Triton, but it was Prince Henrik, who became excited by sailing and later sail racing. Prince Henrik was very involved in giving the Knarr class a new vitality, and competed regularly in national races and attended in the International Knarr Championship in the Danish team.

Prince Henrik's great commitment to Danish sailing was in his deep love of the Dragon class, which he helped to reboot at a meeting he held at Fredensborg in 1982. The Dragon Gold Cup was sailed in Skovshoved, north of Copenhagen the following year. The Prince's entrances in the class drew great attention to the Dragon who received a renaissance in Denmark and internationally after joining the Olympics for the last time in 1972.

The Prince showed great talent as a skipper with many great national and international results, including the European Bronze medal in 1987. He participated in many Danish competitions, Danish Nationals, Nordics, Europeans, Worlds and Dragon Gold Cups.

Prince Henrik has been the owner of six Dragons, the last one was the famous "White Lady" in which the Dane Ole Berntsen won gold in Tokyo 1964. The Prince ensured that the famous boat came back to Denmark in 2006 after 37 years abroad.

Initiator of racing events

The Prince was also the initiator of the 'Prince Henrik Silver Trophy', a competition in Dragons between the 4 sailing clubs: the Royal Danish Yacht Club, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, the Royal Yacht Squadron and the Cercle de la Voile d'Arcachon, sailed for the first time in 1988. The Prince participated in his last race at the age of 78, and this was Prince Henrik Silver Trophy in Hong Kong, where he helped secure RDYC and Denmark a distinguished second place.

The Prince also took the initiative that the Dragon Class again got its own start at Régates Royales in Cannes, where HM Christian X was a keen participant in the 1920s and 1930s.

A free room on the water

The Royal Danish Ship often visited racing events in Denmark, and Prince Henrik invited the sailors on board for a pleasant and friendly social event, thus making a very special frame around events. Prince Henrik also, as RDYC's Honorary Chairman, introduced a tradition with a reception at the Royal Ship 'Dannebrog' every two years for RDYC's partners, sponsors and donors.

"Sailing is about comradeship, the elements and sailing, not always winning," said Prince Henrik in his speech at RDYC's 150th anniversary.

Prince Henrik's commitment to sailing was also a free space in his life, where he could be himself together with good sailing friends. He always talked about his many sailing experiences, the joy of sailing, getting the boat to sail optimally, crew cooperation in the boat, and not least about the companionship, before and after sailing activities. The prince was very interested and inclusive and spoke with all sailors.

The involvement in the Dragon class was further enhanced by Crown Prince Frederik choosing the same class for his racing, where father and son competed against each other.

Broad involvement in sailing

Prince Henrik was involved in many aspects of sailing, and showed his broad interest and respect for the many facets of the sport.

In the mid-1980s, Prince Henrik initiated sailing's first elite training centre close to Aarhus City, which has since helped to foster many international medallists in Danish sailing.

Prince Henrik was the Protector of the Danish 12m project, which focused on Danish participation at the America's Cup in 1992 under RDYC's burgee. The dream of Danish participation in the America's Cup never fulfilled, but the project generated a lift to Danish sailing, and the match race culture in Denmark developed rapidly over the years to produce some of the world's best match race sailors. Since mid 1990s RDYC has organised the Nationals, Europeans, Worlds and a World Match Race Tour event in front of Skovshoved Harbour in the northern part of Copenhagen.

Prince Henrik was the patron of Denmark's Museum for Pleasure Boats in the Danish city Svendborg, where he participated in the opening of the museum at Valdemar Castle in 1996, which has now moved to the central location in Svendborg, close to the city centre. One of the most complete museums of this kind in Europe.

In 2004, Prince Henrik, together with the Royal Family, hosted an event at Christiansborg Castle for sailing representatives from all over the world when the Danish Sailing Federation hosted the World Annual Meeting in Copenhagen for the International Sailing Federation, now World Sailing.

Prince Henrik has also visited the Danish Olympic sailors during the Olympic Games on a number of occasions, most recently in Weymouth in 2012, where he from a VIP boats was following the intense battle for gold between Danish Jonas Høgh-Christensen and Britain's Ben Ainslie, and afterwards met with all that Danish Olympic Sailing Team in the Danish "meeting point".

A great era is over

Denmark has lost a well-respected, lovable and colourful Prince. The Royal Danish Yacht Club and the sailing sport has lost a popular, moody and engaged sailor as well as a good sailing mate, with a big heart for the sailing sport.

A great era is over and we can bring it forward as Prince Henrik has taught us: To be curious, to be well-oriented, to be critical, to being in the present moment, easy to a laugh, to be festive, to be generous, to be a devoted friend, to make an effort and to be yourself.

RDYC and sailing will all miss Prince Henrik as our honorary skipper and a great friend of sailing.

Honour the memory of HKH Prince Henrik.

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