Vale Trygve Halvorsen

  • Club
  • NEWS
  • By Louise Bashford
  • 11 Nov 2014 12:17:00
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Magnus & Trygve Halvorsen with one of their winning Sydney Hobart trophies. Pic courtesy CYCA archives

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Trygve Halvorsen, an Australian ocean racing legend, boat designer, boat builder and member of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia since 1946, passed away peaceful on Saturday November 8 after a short stay in hospital, he was 94.

Trygve become Rear Commodore of the Club in 1953, and with his brothers, particularly Magnus, was a yachting pioneer. The Halvorsen brothers’ name was synonymous with the CYCA and the Sydney Hobart as designers, builders and hardy, winning yachtsmen.

Born outside of Arendal in Norway, the Halvorsen parents and seven children moved to Australia via South Africa in 1925. Trygve was five and his father established the family boat building business at Neutral Bay in Sydney, which he expanded to Ryde in the late 1930’s. Trygve and his brothers were to later take over the business. 

Saltwater entrenched in his veins, courtesy of sea captains and ship builders on both sides of the family going back four generations, Trygve, with Magnus designed three Sydney Hobart overall winners which were built by Halvorsens. However, Trygve first sailed the Hobart race in 1946, on Saga with older brother Bjarne, and finished second to Christina. Both were designed by Trygve’s father, Lars.

Trygve’s first time as skipper in the Hobart race was rewarded when he helmed Peer Gynt to third overall in 1947. Peer Gynt’s hull was designed by Magnus, Trygve did all profile layouts and engineering, and the family built her. They also won the 1,512 nautical mile Trans-Tasman race to Auckland race in 1948 and 1949 with her.

Trygve skippered three yachts to victory in the Sydney Hobart; Solveig (won in 1954 after taking line honours the previous year), but Trygve had Stan Darling skipper it in 1954, as he fell ill on Boxing Day and could not sail. Anitra V won in 1967 and Freya won three in succession from 1963 to 1965. “We had a feeling it would win,” Trygve was to later say.

With his brother Magnus (two years his senior) navigating each yacht, they could do no wrong. Nobody else in the history of the race has equalled Freya’s trio of victories and it is unlikely they will.

In an interview with Peter Shipway at the CYCA, Trygve said all their yachts were cruisers as well as racers. Freya, for instance, had her keel was lengthened for cruising; her hull form did the work of making Freya go fast. Trygve said, “She was sea-kindly. She had a short rig and was fitted out for cruising.”

In October, Trygve and Magnus generously re-dedicated the Iron Pot Trophies they won for Freya’s victories in 1963 and 1964, adding to the 1965 trophy they had re-dedicated to the CYCA many years ago. It was, they said, to help the Club celebrate its 70th race edition.

In recent years, the CYCA has honoured those yachtsmen from the early years who placed top three in its signature race by asking them to fire the start, five minute and 10 minute signals from the Club’s cannon, which herald’s the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart each year.

As a result, Trygve and brother Magnus have been invited many times. They were invited to fire the start cannon for the upcoming 70th anniversary race, to recognise the 50th anniversary of their hat trick of wins with Freya. Instead, Trygve will be uppermost in many sailors’ minds that day when the blast is heard to send the fleet on its way.   

Apart from the Sydney Hobart, Trygve (and Magnus) represented Australia internationally. In 1965, the CYCA was the driving force in establishing an Australian presence at the Admiral’s Cup. That year, Trygve and Magnus represented with their double-ender Freya, along with Caprice of Huon and Camille, following selection trials in Sydney. The team finished second.

According to Trygve, Australia’s first challenge came about when he and other CYCA members Bill Psaltis and Norman Rydge were having a beer. Discussing other sailing matters, Bill said, “Let’s go for the Admiral’s Cup.” Trygve was deputised to visit England on behalf of the AC committee to “check things out”. The rest is history.

Trygve also sailed on Gretel in the America’s Cup. It was Australia’s first taste of competing in the Cup and the first challenger to win a race, which they did against the USA’s Weatherly.

The Halvorsens built Gretel and Sir Frank Packer contacted Trygve and asked him to become involved in the syndicate. He was asked to teach the crew about maintenance and was in charge of maintenance, towing and looking after Gretel and three support boats. As well, he was one of two helmsmen during the Cup, joining Jock Sturrock. 

Trygve and Magnus (who at 96 resides in a nursing home in Sydney) are among the most successful ocean-racing yachtsmen ever to have sailed out of Sydney Heads, and their names are known by anyone with an interest in boating.

Trygve and the Halvorsen brothers became an institution on the waterfront, both in in NSW and around Australia, where many of their yachts and cruisers are still on the water today.

Magnus and Trygve won four Trans-Tasman races between 1948 and 1961 with their yachts Peer Gynt, Solveig and Norla.

In 2000, Carl, Magnus and Trygve, Halvorsen were awarded the 2000 Australian Sports Medal in recognition of all they have contributed to boating.

Trygve was a wonderful representative of the CYCA and all it stands for and was highly respected worldwide. We will miss him greatly.

Trygve is survived by his wife, Noreen (also 94) and daughters Nina and Erica. Our deepest sympathies go to them and his brother Magnus and the extended Halvorsen family.

Di Pearson

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