Mac Irwin and the origins of Northumberland Strait yacht racing

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Class 3 yacht “Mic” owned by Simon Paoli in a stiff breeze – Charlottetown Harbour about 1936

The 1930s saw a quickening of interest in yacht racing in towns all along Northumberland Strait. Yacht Clubs had been founded or had had re-organizations in Pictou, Charlottetown, Borden, Summerside, Amherst and Shediac.  Several clubs had regattas and regular club racing and visiting boats from other clubs were always welcomed at the local events.  However it was a loose arrangement. There were no standard classes and attempts to introduce handicaps were not always successful.

A movement to formalize racing began in Shediac  and in February of 1936 a meeting was held in Moncton which resulted in the creation of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait. Each of the Yacht Clubs on Northumberland Strait was represented on the new organization’s executive and Mac Irwin of the  Charlottetown Yacht Club was elected vice-president.  In an interview with the Charlottetown Guardian Irwin noted that standardizing the classes would end the “wearisome task of setting handicaps and the unpreventable dissatisfaction which usually follows handicap races.”  Irwin noted “… there was nothing friendly about the “friendly”  competitions rival clubs used to hold.”

Irwin, who had built a large number of sailing and motor craft in his workshop at the rear of the Irwin Print building on Richmond Street, was asked to submit a design for the organization’s “model yacht.”   His proposal for the “Mic-Mac” class was accepted as the association’s standard.  By the end of May 1936 the first boat built to the new design had been launched in Charlottetown. The Mic was owned by Simon Paoli and the boat had been built by Irwin himself.  At the time of her launch Irwin had a second boat, later to be called the Mac under construction for his own use. Other boats were being built in Summerside, Pictou and Shediac. All were expected to take part in the 1936 season’s racing.


Commodore Fred Morris’ motor cruiser “Elizabeth” prepares to tow Class 3 yacht “Mic” about 1936.

With the development of a standardized design the new boats became class 3 of the  Yacht Racing Association’s measurement system.  The “Mic-Mac” boats measured 22 feet overall with a 16 foot waterline, 6 foot beam and had a hollow spar rising 28 feet above the deck. The racing boats displaced 1600 pounds with 600 pounds of the weight being in the lead keel.   The craft carried a maximum 200 sq.ft. of canvas.  Spinnakers were not allowed in the class.  Crew was limited to three.  While there were older boats in Class 3 any new boats had to strictly abide to the measurement rules.

In the years between 1936 and the outbreak of the Second World War there was active racing competition on the Strait. Except for the largest classes boats were usually towed to the regatta ports. Almost all activity, except at the club level, was suspended for the duration of the hostilities although races under the banner of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait were continued beginning in 1947. By that time however the popularity of the Class Threes had been eclipsed by the popular Snipe boats which were smaller and easier to build.





10 thoughts on “Mac Irwin and the origins of Northumberland Strait yacht racing

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