21st February 2019
Finnish Sailing and Boating Federation, press release.
With coastal waters, heltered archipelago and the number of lakes in the six digits, Finland offers plenty of locations for boating and sailing. Clubs and associations can be found all over the country. A special form of recognition for this type of comradery among boaters, is Finland’s unique system of yacht club ensigns. To date 365 Finnish club ensigns have been approved to be flown in place of the national flag. The number keeps rising as all registered boat associations are eligible for an ensign of their own.
The Finnish yacht club ensign is a white and blue Finnish flag defaced with a thinner white cross atop the blue Nordic cross and a club emblem in the canton. The design was adopted by the decree on the flags of yacht clubs, issued on the 18th of February 1919. The new flag design combined elements of the Russian yacht club ensign, used in the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, with the Finnish flag adopted the year before. A task not too difficult, as the Russian yacht club ensigns with a blue cross on a white background had become associated with Finnish yachts.
The oldest club emblems are coats of arms of provinces and towns. Some later designs employ letters and highly stylized motifs. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the legislation on the Finnish flag was revised. There were plans to abolish the club ensigns, among other flags based on the national flag. In the end only the yacht club ensigns prevailed. Under the subsequent decree on the flags of pleasure crafts, new club emblems were more thoroughly vetted. An accompanying statement from the State Body of Heraldry experts was required on new ensign applications. Nowadays, only emblems adhering to the rules of heraldry are approved.
In 1992 the joint flag committee of the National Boating and Sailing Federations was set up. It was given the task of helping clubs to apply for an ensign and making sure new emblems meet heraldic requirements and are distinguishable from other emblems. With such a large catalogue of approved emblems, some imagination is needed when creating a new club emblem. One can only tell apart so many anchors or ship’s wheels.
Today the committee is a part of the Finnish Sailing and Boating Federation and pertains to matters of nautical flag etiquette and yacht club ensigns. 2019 marks the centenary of the yacht club ensigns of independent Finland. To celebrate the Finnish Sailing and Boating Federation built a grand flag display to the annual Helsinki Boatshow.
The federation also published a new edition of the Boater’s Flag Handbook, with all the club emblems. A collection of ensigns was also gathered and donated to the National Maritime Museum.
In a few months, the ice sheets on the Finnish coast and lakes will melt and the fittest tribute will begin, as the Finnish yacht club ensign will be proudly flown for its 101st yachting season!