The Prince Edward Island Regatta Club is another in a series of organizations that have come and gone from the sailing scene on Prince Edward Island. To date we don’t know exactly when it started and ended but we do know that an annual regatta was a part of the harbour activities until well into the 1870s or early 1880s. The earliest detailed account of the Regatta located to date is from 1843 when the weekly Islander newspaper devoted a considerable portion of the local news content to the regatta in the editions of 21 and 28 July 1843.
The event had been advertised for weeks in advance. But on the day itself the weather did not co-operate. The Islander writer, however phrased it somewhat differently “Had the weather yesterday been as propitious as the gentlemen who had undertaken the management of all connected with the expected amusements were indefatigably active to secure to the public every possible gratification which such sights with their ‘appliances’ can be made to afford, there would have been no alloy to the satisfaction of the spectators, nor any disappointment to the members of the Club.”
Because of the soft rain continually falling in a wind-less harbour only the rowing races (including the races for Indian canoes) were held on the appointed day and the sailing races were held over until the next day. The Indian Canoe races were to continue as a fixture of the regatta well into the 1870s. The following day, under a strong westerly wind, the full slate of sail races was held with the most interesting being the race for the Ladies’ Purse. The prize was, in fact, a lady’s purse of purple silk velvet, beautifully embroidered and which contained nearly ten pounds in prize money. The Islander carried a detailed and breathlessly enthusiastic account of the race in which ten boats had been entered.
On starting, the Casa Rasa and the Sea Bird took the lead but on rounding the first station-boat, the Little Mary shot ahead and to windward of all, the Castle Rasa second, hard pushed by the Dart and the Sea Bird. Owing to the accidental loss of her shrouds before leaving the wharf, the Tam O’Shanter’s mast went by the board shortly after rounding the first station-boat. About the same time the Dolphin carried away her main boom and bore up, the Sea Bird also lost her jib. After rounding the second boat, the Rico appeared to be between the Little Mary, the Sea Bird and the Castle Rasa – the Dart and the Harp being a considerable distance behind the rest, in sporting phrase “no-where.” The Little Mary rounded the last boat about two hundred yards before the Sea Bird which was closely followed by the Castle Rasa. About a quarter of a mile from the wharf the Sea Bird forged ahead of the Little Mary, and won the race by a boat’s length.
The purse was presented the following day at Government House and Governor Sir Henry Vere Huntley (who had ben a long-serving naval officer) , the Patron of the Prince Edward Island Regatta Club, announced that in 1844 he would present a purse of twenty pounds on a plate of the same value to the Regatta winner.
The editor of the Islander was fulsome in his praise of the Regatta organizers and of the Regatta itself as a highlight of the summer’s activities.- for something to be “unobjectionable” must have been high praise indeed!
The amusements afforded by a Regatta are, in our opinion, the most unobjectionable of all public entertainments. Such an opinion, we believe, is pretty generally entertained; and when the gentlemen to whose spirit the public stand indebted for the pleasures of yesterday and today, shall, at some future time, again solicit the easy contributions of the community to equip them for a like enterprise we feel certain that, not only thanks for the past, but ammunition for the future, will be plentifully showered upon them from every quarter …
In other words.. the organizers did a good job.