Sunday, February 13, 2011
Most racing sailors will say we are familiar with Paul Elvstrøm's famous quote about how you haven't won if, in doing so, you have lost the respect of your competitors. But are we? Do you know what Elvstrøm actually said, and where and when he said it?
Naturally, to answer a question like that anyone in 2011 will immediately reach for the Google. But the answers you find on the Interwebs may surprise you.
Sailing World in 2002 said that the quote is, "You haven't won the race, if in winning the race you have lost the respect of your competitors."
Mike Noone of Nockamixon Sailing Club wrote in 2009 that the quote is, "Winning is no victory if, in doing so, you lose the respect of your competitors."
Some dude called flaursen wrote on the Hydroracer forum in 2007 that the quote is, "If in the process of winning you have lost the respect of your competitors you have won nothing."
And in my favorite online sailboat racing simulator SailX Elvstrøm is usually quoted as saying, "One has not won, if, in the process of winning, one has lost the respect of one's competitors."
You will find several more variations out there if you look around.
Who is right. What did Elvstrøm actually say?
And while we are at it, can we all agree how to spell his name. Several sources spell it as Elvström. But the guy is Danish. And there is no letter ö in the Danish alphabet.
One strange thing I have noticed is that nobody who use this Elvstrøm quote seems to cite when and where he said it. There is never a reference to the original source so that we can verify what he actually said.
So what's going on here? Did Elvstrøm actually express this sentiment several times in several different forms? Or did he say it once, and everyone has been paraphrasing it and garbling it ever since?
Or did he actually first express this thought in his native Danish and what we have are several different translations into English? Indeed, this excellent interview with Elvstrøm on sailpower.com reveals that at his first Olympics in England in 1948 he didn't speak any English at all.
It's a mystery.
Elvstrøm wrote a few books. Is the quote in one of those? I have an old version of Paul Elvstrøm Explains the Yacht Racing Rules. (Yes, possum, they really were called the Yacht Racing Rules back in 1981.) But I couldn't find the famous quote in there.
Can anyone solve this puzzle? What did Elvstrøm actually say, and when and where did he say it?
Posted by Tillerman at 10:58 AM