Sailing Canoe History, Zenith's History

Sven Thorell and Sol

Having the information from the International Canoe Association’s records that Zenith was designed by Sven Thorell was probably the most vital piece of information when researching her history. I was fortunate to buy a copy of the Index to Classic Boat January 1987 – December 2012. The index contained a reference to an article on the Canoes of Sven Thorell by John Leather (in the December 1997 edition, pp46-51)

Canoes of Sven Thorell by John Leather (Classic Boat, December 1997 edition, pp46-51)

This article gave the dimensions and lines plan for Thorell’s Sol design.

Perhaps Thorell’s favourite sailing canoe was the 17ft (5.2m) Sol. …..designed and built in 1913 in his Stockholm apartment. With 3ft 7in (1.09m) beam and 109sqft (10m2) sail, she displaced 660lb (300kg), and was raced by him with success in Class IIIB from the FKI canoe club in Stockholm

Canoes of Sven Thorell by John Leather (Classic Boat, December 1997 edition, p49)

Another piece of good fortune was finding that the Föreningen för Kanot-Idrott, FKI,  (Stockholm Canoe Club) has published an eBook, Kanotidrott: 150 år av glädje (Canoeing: 150 years of joy ). This eBook is FKI’s book on 150 years of
Swedish paddling and canoeing: from 1866 to today.

Although written in Swedish this eBook contains a number of excellent photos taken by Sven Thorell, including some of Sol

The dimensions of Sol given in the John Leather’s Classic Boat magazine article match those of Zenith. In order confirm suspicions that Zenith was a sistership to Sol I made contact in late 2004 with the Sjöhistoriska museet as the plans, catalogs of plans, records, manuscripts etc of Sven Thorell had been donated by his widow to the Museum of Maritime History in Stockholm. They had copies of Sol‘s plans and construction drawing and sent me photocopies. These confirmed that Zenith was indeed identical to Sol, apart from the rig. Sol is yawl rigged, Zenith has a Bermudian rig.

In recent years the Swedish Museum of Maritime History have digitised their collections, including the Thorell Collection and collection of Sol drawings

With it now obvious that Zenith and Sol shared the same lines it was time to resolve the issue of why Sol was yawl rigged and Zenith has a Bermudian rig. Another fortunate find was an article written by Sven Thorell himself at . This article has the following section


Icke heller kanotseglarna ha legat på latsidan. Litet trevande började man med att bygga segelbara paddelkanoter och några mindre segelkanoter på Rosengrens maner, men ganska snart fann man, att man inom klass(1) 3 B:s mått, 5,20 X 1,10 m samt med 10 kvm segelyta, hade funnit en bra segelkanot. Denna klass rönte således stort intresse och massor av konstruktioner ha sett dagens l Se under Kanotidrott, klassindelning. ljus under årens lopp. De verksammaste konstruktörerna ha varit Erik Nilsson, G. Högborg, A. Magnusson och undertecknad. I regel byggdes alla dessa kanoter av ägarna själva och de flesta ha varit utmärkt välbyggda och försedda med en hel del finesser. Omkring år 1915 började marconi-, eller som den också kallas, bermudasriggen att användas och naturligtvis voro masterna ihåliga. 

Sven Thorell, Segelkanoter

A rather basic Google translation gives:

Sailing Canoes

Neither canoe sailors have been lying on the batside. A little hesitant they started by building sailable paddle canoes and some smaller sailing canoes on Rosengren’s manners, but quite soon they found that within class (1) 3 B’s dimensions, 5.20 X 1.10 m and with 10 sqm sail area, had found a good sailing canoe. This class thus attracted great interest and lots of constructions have seen today’s see in Canoeing, class division. candles over the years. The most active designers have been Erik Nilsson, G. Högborg, A. Magnusson and the undersigned. As a rule, all these canoes were built by the owners themselves and most of them have been very well built and equipped with a lot of features. Around 1915, the marconi, or as it is also called, the bermuda rig began to be used and of course the masts were hollow. 

Sven thorell, Sailing Canoes

This does show that the Swedish IIIB Sailing Canoes did have Bermudian rigs after 1915, so if Zenith is a IIIB canoe she has been built using Sol’s lines after 1915

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