Former FISA vice-president Claude Hess has died at the age of 84 ©FISA

Claus Hess, a leading figure in the International Rowing Federation (FISA) in the 1970s and 1980s, has died at the age of 84.

An international oarsman in his own right, Düsseldorf-born Hess moved into rowing administration at a young age, acting as a key confidant and ally of long-time FISA President Thomi Keller in his efforts to expand the sport and modernise the Federation.

He could have been a candidate to replace Keller when he decided that he would step down in 1990, after 32 years at the helm.

Hess took the view, however, that Keller’s successor should be another Swiss national.

This duly transpired when Denis Oswald was elected to take over after the 1990 World Championships, in a process presided over by Hess as FISA vice-president.

Keller’s untimely death meant that Oswald, who remains a prominent International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, ultimately picked up the baton earlier than expected in October 1989.

A graduate of the University of Würzburg, Hess competed for a united German team in the coxless pairs at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, reaching the semi-finals.

Claude Hess competed as part of a united Germany team at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne ©Wikipedia
Claude Hess competed as part of a united Germany team at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne ©Wikipedia

Three years later, his career as an athlete reached its apogee when he was part of a German coxed four that won a comfortable victory in the European championships in Macon.

At the age of 32, he took over as President of the German Rowing Association from Walter Wülfing, a role he retained until 1983.

His rise to prominence within FISA began in Mexico in 1968, when he was elected to the Federation’s Technical Commission, defeating a candidate from the Soviet Union.

The following year, as part of a wholesale restructuring of FISA, Hess was handed responsibility for competitive rowing.

This was also when FISA’s Women’s Commission was established, with his strong backing, leading in 1976 to women’s rowing events making their first appearance on the Olympic programme.

His wife Helga, who survives him, also became a well-known figure in FISA circles.