The Nordic Folkboat is a small sailboat, rigged as a sloop. The design of this boat was the result of a competition held by the Scandinavian Yacht Racing Union in 1942, who were hoping to create an easily sailed and low cost boat. The competition produced no outright "winner " but, taking the best features of a number of the entries received, the organisers commissioned professional designer Tord Sundén to create a craft that met the goals of the design competition. The resulting boat went on to become an international favorite of sailors and still endures more than 60 years after its design. The first Nordic Folkboat was built in Göteborg in Sweden, and as of 2007, more than 4000 Nordic Folkboats are still sailing around the world.
The Nordic Folkboat, as initially designed, is constructed of wood in the clinker or lap-strake method of boatbuilding. The boat was designed to be built with oak framing and fir planking, although different builders used many different species of wood. The boat has an open cockpit and a low coachroof covering a small cabin usually consisting of two bunks and minimal storage furniture. The boat is rigged as a simple fractional sloop, with minimal standing rigging, consisting only of two lower shrouds, two jumper shrouds, a headstay, and a backstay. Despite the simplicity of the rigging, the mast is highly tunable, enabling the Folkboat to sail well in light and heavy air well beyond initial expectations.
In 1966, Tord Sundén introduced the carvel-planked “International Folkboat.” This design corresponded largely to the original, but it offered more comfort below deck, and it had a self-bailing cockpit. However, the term “International Folkboat” was too misleading and was forbidden. Today, the class is simply called “IF-boat.” The IF-boat was manufactured at Marieholms Bruk in Småland (Sweden) until 1984.
In 1968, the Folkboat successfully made the transition from traditional clinker timber to modern molded GRP (fiberglass) construction ... retaining the characteristic simplicity of the design. In 1975, Erik Andreasen, a Dane, introduced a GRP replica of the original design ... the mold being taken from his own Tibbe which won the Gold Cup that year. Weights and measurements were carefully preserved to insure level competition with wooden boats, and only an outboard engine was provided. The type is called the Nordic Folkebåd.
A newly-built fiberglass Folkboat is an exact replica of the original Folkboat ... and today, wooden and GRP boats race together. The class rules are administrated by the Folkboat International Association. The largest international regattas are: Gold Cup (an unofficial world championship), Sessan Cup (a team race), Kieler Woche and San Francisco Cup. There are active fleets in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, USA, Canada, Holland and Belgium.
In the 1950s, the Folkboat began to attract the attention of long-distance voyagers for its modest cost and seaworthiness.
In the United Kingdom, a large fleet has developed on the south coast, and the class is continuing to expand. The 2004 Folkboat Nationals were hosted by the Royal Lymington Yacht Club.
In the United States, an active group of Folkboats in the San Francisco Bay Area is organized as the San Francisco Bay Folkboat Association, which schedules various racing and social events such as the bi-annual San Francisco Cup Regatta. The San Francisco Bay fleet has been supported over the years by the Alameda, California boatbuilder Sven Svendsen, who was the first US builder of Fiberglass Nordic Folkboats.
The Folkboat is also a popular cruising yacht especially in the Baltic Sea area, despite its small interior size and lack of "heads".
The iron ballast keel represents more than half of this displacement making the Folkboat extremely stiff and seaworthy, and it is one of the smallest craft to have made regular ocean crossings and circumnavigations.