André Nelis, one of Belgium's greatest sailors, passed away on December 9th, age 77, after losing a long battle against cancer. The Finn class has lost one of its legends, a true icon of the class and a link back to the very beginning.
André was born in Antwerp and was one of the early superstars of the Finn class, with countless race and regata wins through his career.
He won the first ever Finn Gold Cup in 1956 from the great Paul Elvstrom and then won it again in 1961. He holds the joint record for the most consecutive Finn Gold Cup medals - seven in a row - as he took silver in 1958, 1959 and 1960 and bronze in 1957 and 1962.
He participated three times in the Olympics in the Finn class and won the silver medal in 1956 and the bronze medal in 1960. He also competed in 1964 where he finished 10th and was the reserve helmsmen in 1952 at the age of just 17. André Nelis belongs to the small circle of Belgian athletes that won more then one Olympic medal.
He bought one of the Borresen Finns used at the 1952 Olympics and used that up until 1959.
He later built the first fibre glass Finn and used it to to win the 1961 Finn Gold Cup. His design, the HVM Finn, was a successful and prolific Finn design in the 1960s with more than 300 built.
After his sailing career, André became a successful sail maker; he started in Sneek with Gaastra in the 1970s. In 1973 he started the first North Sails offshore site in Europe, together with Joep Straus. André participated frequently in yacht regattas and remained a fierce competitor until the very end.
IFA send its sincere condolences to his family and friends.