The current facebook page for the Summerside Yacht Club proclaims this to be the 50th anniversary of the club. While that may be so in its latest incarnation, organized pleasure boat sailing in the area has a much longer and richer history than the Facebook banner boasts.
The first mention that I have found dates from 17 May 1901 when a note in the Summerside news page of the Charlottetown Guardian called on all interested to meet to form a yachting club.
There are a few good sailing boats in Summerside quite a number of yachtsmen and many lovers of the sport so that all that is wanting is that the interest be awakened. It is not necessary that anyone joining a club of this kind should take part in regattas or be a yachtsman, but the more support that is given the organization financially or otherwise the more assured is its success. With a harbor like ours there is splendid opportunity for regattas and with practically no other sport in the coming summer months, there is every prospect for a great deal of enjoyment along this line.
By 3 June 1901 the St. John Sun was able to report that the club had indeed come into existence with Capt. John L. Reid as Commodore, H.T. Holman – Vice Commodore, P.D Grady – Rear Commodore, A.C Saunders – Secretary, and Neil MacLeod – Treasurer. The first regatta was held the same year and the event included boats from Charlottetown. Club rooms were obtained by the following year and the Dominion Day Regatta was for many years a part of Summerside’s annual calendar. In 1905, for example, the event included Class A (boats 25-30 feet on waterline) Class B (20-25 feet) Lobster Boats, and a two-oared working boat rowing race.
The Dominion Day Cup was the premier event for the largest yachts. In 1905 it was held by the Souris-built Zephyr which dominated yacht racing in Prince Edward Island for many years. This trophy, like so many of the early yachting trophies is among the missing.
As was the case in Charlottetown interest in competitive sailing waned following the Great War. It was revived in the late 1930s and in 1937 the Summerside Yacht Club staged what was referred to as the “first annual regatta” although it appears that one had been held the previous year with boats from Shediac, Charlottetown and Borden vying with the local craft. By 1937 a number of trophies had been donated for the several classes including the R.T. Holman Cup and the George Bishop Cup. Some of the successful Summerside boats active during the period were Ray Tanton’s Woodpecker, Robert Fraser’s Mayflower, and Capt. James Stright’s Goldfinch.
Summerside boats continued to be active in the Northumberland Straits Yacht Racing Association regattas in the late 1940s but once again interest dropped off only to be revived again in 1955 when once again a meeting was held to form a Summerside Yacht Club. The promoters of the club hoped that a section of Holman’s Wharf could be used to erect a club house and build a s slip. At the time it was estimated that there were about 20 boat owners in the Summerside area. The 1955 officers of the club included Edgar Cannon – President, W.E. Smallman – Vice President, Harold Gaudet – Secretary-treasurer.
Given the tangled and confusing history of boating in the area a well-researched history of sailing in Summerside would seem to be in order. It might be well to invoke philosopher George Santayana’s adage “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
At any rate – happy anniversary to the Summerside Yacht Club – however many years it may celebrate!