40th anniversary for Sweden in Americas Cup '77

America’s Cup is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious sport events, bringing together the best sailors and the latest technology from the world of yachting since 1851. First time Sweden challenged was in America’s Cup 1977 and Göran Rutgerson, who is the founder and the chairman of Rutgerson Marin, was part of the crew. Here he tells the story.

The Swedish challenger, an aluminum R-12, was designed by Pelle Pettersson and funded by a syndicate with members from the Swedish industry including the Swedish King himself. The boat, which was special in many ways with its pedal-powered coffee grinders and tiller steering, was baptized to “Sverige” by Queen Silvia. The name is the Swedish word for Sweden, and is pronounced Sve-ree-yeah!

Other than myself and Pelle Petterson, who was the skipper, the crew consisted of today’s legendary sailors like Magnus Olsson, Gösta Holmin and Stellan Westerdahl. At the time, we were all young and eager, but did not have much experience compared to many of the other participants. Considering this we did well in the challenger trials, beating “Gretel II” and “France” but eventually lost in the finals against “Australia” with only a few meters after an extremely intense race. 

In 1980 we were up for challenge again, with a more experienced team and a rebuilt boat. This time I was not sailing myself. I was part of the shore team helping with equipment and fittings. Unfortunately, we did not make it all the way this time either. The boat was fast but the Swedish sail cloth was not as developed at the time. As challengers, we were not allowed to use the American sail cloth which was the best. But we sure had a lot of fun.”

Göran Rutgerson never got to bring the America’s Cup home to Sweden, but he gained something else from his involvement in America’s Cup. Lots of experience and a great network that played a significant role in his company’s international expansion for many years to come. Rutgerson is today, 40 years later, still one of the most well reputed brands in the world of yachting and more than 85 percent of the products go on export.

Enjoy the pictures from the challenge trials below, borrowed from the book Newport and the America’s Cup Challenge ’77.

Sweden’s challenger Sverige was designed and skippered by Pelle Pettersson. Göran Rutgerson to the right with white t-shirt.

Each yacht was measured and weighed carefully. Sverige´s mast turn out to be to long, and is hastily cut off by Göran Rutgerson.

Australia vs Sverige

Pelle Pettersson directs the tuning of Sverige’s rigging following a dismasting in the third race. Göran Rutgerson to the right with black shorts and beard.

Swed’n Tender, “Gothenburg humor” in English.

Sverige’s crew was young and eager, and fought hard. Göran Rutgerson to the very left in the photo.

Australia leads Sverige as the yachts approach the finish line – typical of the closeness of their racing in the final elimination series.

The rebuilt version of Sverige from the America’s Cup Challenge in 1980. ©Paul Mello/OUTSIDEIMAGES.COM

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