Paul Elvstrom came to south-west England and the Games regatta in Torquay and began an unequalled record in Olympic sailing: four consecutive gold medals. And to think the Danish Olympic Committee had misgivings about sending him because the 18 years-old Elvstrom could speak no English then and he retired from the first race, shy and sensitive, after a haranguing from the Finnish competitor in a port and starboard incident.
Elvstrom was competing in the Firefly, a two-sail, two-person boat designed by Uffa Fox and pioneer of hot-moulded plywood construction (for 'mass production') and an aluminium mast. After his shaky start, Elvstrom got stronger scoring 6-3-1-2-5-1-1 to clinch his maiden gold, dropping the jib and sailing with a reefed main to suit the blustery conditions which saw many capsizes. Indicative of Elvstrom's later inventiveness in gear and sails, he modified the Firefly's mainsheet, leading it from the transom, along the boom and down to a swivel jam cleat on centreplate case.
The Sixes were the only International Rule class maintained and joining the Firefly as debutantes were the Swallow and Dragon, two and three person keelboats. Another innovation was orientating the course to the wind direction to give perpendicular starts and upwind legs. A circle of buoys was laid, with three selected to form a triangular course, marked by smoke signals.
Swede Tore Holm won a third medal, a bronze in the Sixes whilst Adriaan Maas of the Netherlands won a bronze in the Star having previously won silver in the Snowbirds in 1932. The Stars were won by the son and father crew of Hilary and Paul Smart of the USA. If Britain had had its way, the Star would probably have not been included in 1948 as the new Tom Thorneycroft-designed Swallow was its baby. But with little international interest, other countries lobbied for the Star's inclusion with 17 competing compared to 14 Swallows.
Elvstrom's was not the only notable career to have started. Bahamian Durwood Knowles sailed for Britain, as Bahamas did not have separate representation. He sailed for Bahamas four years later and through to 1988. But what a debut. To reach the UK, Knowles shipped his boat from Nassau to Miami, trailed it to New York and would have missed his crossing on the Queen Mary but for a delay due to a bomb scare. Then in Torquay he was dismasted in one and disqualified in another.
Germany and Japan were not invited but a record 59 nations attended the Games though Anglo-Irish tensions run high. Independent since 1921 and named Ireland in its constitution, the Irish found themselves in Opening Ceremony running order as Eire which had British-rule connotations. J F Chisholm, Hon Secretary of the Irish Olympic Council threatened to withdraw his country but the storm passed.