Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Volvo Ocean Race : Memories of Magnus Olsson

Magnus "Mange" Olsson, skipper of Ericsson 3 in the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race

Roger Nilson sailed 80,000 miles around the world with his friend Magnus Olsson over three separate Volvo Ocean Race campaigns, with Drum, The Card and Intrum Justitia. Here, Nilson gives his own poignant tribute to Magnus, following his passing at the weekend.

by Roger Nilson

Now that Magnus has left this world, it feels much less colourful without him.

In the summer of 1976 I was invited to navigate the "trial horse" for The Swedish Challenge for America's Cup. When I arrived to the project base for the first time, I could hear the most contagious laughter somewhere in the distance. When I got closer, it was obvious who it belonged to – Magnus "Mange" Olsson. His spirit was unique and I was, from there on, lucky to race offshore with him for many years to come.

In August 1985 we lost the keel of Simon le Bon's Maxi Drum during the Fastnet Race. Drum was towed into harbour, upside down, as a wreck with no mast, most sails lost and the hull full of diesel. Most of us had lost all hope in starting the Whitbread, only six weeks later. Magnus was supposed to join the project after the Fastnet and as things were, I was sure he would never turn up. I had started looking for work as a doctor again and felt out of energy for the project. But, before I left Falmouth, Magnus magically appeared at the dock, filled with his tremendous positive energy and that large familiar grin on his face. After taking a good look at the mess he exclaimed:

"Guys, this is a great and interesting challenge. It looks pretty bad but I'm sure we can get her ready for the start."

His enthusiasm turned many of us around. Magnus's energy and his attitude really helped us to get on track and amazingly enough we got to the start. Mission impossible accomplished. His perseverance to never give up was a major contributing factor to the success of the project.

When we got The Card Challenge up and running in 1988, Magnus was my obvious choice as the co-skipper. It was a job he handled fantastically and we became the first Swedish boat to finish the Whitbread.

Before the race, we had a very bad collision and lost three metres of the bow. During the stopover in Uruguay, our foredeck crew had a fatal motorbike accident and during the Auckland start, we lost our mizzen mast. It was a tough project and Magnus was always by my side – trustworthy, honest and a super-skilled sailor as well as technically superb. We even achieved a good sportive result and had very satisfied sponsors. The project became a benchmark for Swedish commercially financed large sailing projects and Magnus's contribution to the success was instrumental.

Magnus and I have spent around 80,000 nautical miles at sea together and I feel that this created a special bond between us. We´ve had many a fun time, and shared laughter, as well as hardship. We made serious decisions, at times arguing, but always with respect for each other's opinions. Sometimes in crucial moments, there´s been tears to ease the pressure. This created a special friendship and a strong connection between us.

I am forever grateful to have had Magnus in my life. He has made a tremendous difference for me as well as for many others. I will forever remember our many shared hours under star-filled skies or in stormy nights, never knowing what lies ahead, enjoying that moment on our beloved oceans.

Magnus has meant a lot for me. I have learned much from him both as a human being and as a sailor. It feels unreal that he leaves this world so much earlier than expected with thousands of close friends and supporters in deep sorrow. Two days before I got the sad news I had a strong daydream that we once more would head out together over the large oceans.

I loved this man and he will always have a special place in my heart.

My deep condolences to all of his family and close friends.

This poem by Robert Burns paints, in my opinion, a good picture of this beautiful, fine man, now missed by so many. He will be in mine and many other´s thoughts and hearts forever.

An honest man here lies at rest

As ever God with his image blest.

The friend of man, the friend of truth
The friend of age, the friend of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warmed,
Few heads with knowledge so informed:

If there´s another world, he lives in bliss

If there´s none, he made the best of this.

Roger Nilson, Stockholm

Volvo Ocean Race