In a previous posting I noted the existence of the Charlottetown Regatta Club in 1843 – perhaps the first notice of yachting organization in the Colony. By 1846 the event held by the Club had been extended to two days (some recent Charlottetown Race Weeks have lasted no longer) with a total of fifteen races; seven sailboat races, four rowing events and four canoe races. As in previous years it was a gala event and as Haszard’s Gazette pointed out it was a right and proper thing to do – Our insular situation will necessarily force us to be a commercial community whether we wish it or not and it is therefore but natural, that we should take pride in fostering a taste for a pursuit which is essential to our well-being and comfort. We have need of good sailors and good ships and these annual contests will do much towards creating and keeping up such a taste.
The 1856 notices contained a listing of the regulations for the regatta. It is an interesting combination of the procedural and the competitive. Some instructions such as the requirement that sails be hoisted only at the start are strange to us today. Others, such as the starboard tack rule have survived into present-day racing.
Regulations of the Charlottetown Regatta
1. Subscribers of Twenty Shillings, and upwards will be entitled to all the privileges of Members of the Regatta Club.
2. Boats, not owned on the Island, will be allowed to compete for the Club Plates., by the owners subscribing twenty shillings to the fund of the Club, and also the entrance money.
3. The Boats places at starting will be decided by lot; all sails will be lowered previously to starting.
4. No 2nd prize will be given unless three boats start.
5. Boats on the Larboard Tack must invariably give way to those on the Starboard; and in all cases where a doubt of the possibility of the Boat on the larboard Tack weathering the Boat on the Starboard Tack must give way; or if the other Boat keeps her course, and run into her the owners of the Boat on the Larboard Tack shall pay all damages, and forfeit its claim to the prize.
6. Any Boat throwing out Ballast after starting, will forfeit the race.
7. Extra sail to be used before the wind to any extent.
8. To prevent collisions during the Races, any entered Boat found sailing in the Harbour during the progress of the other sailing matches, will forfeit her chance in the race she is entered for.
9. Any Sail-boat using an Oar, Pole or Boat hook, during the race, unless for the purposes of booming out her sails, will forfeit her chance of the prize.
10. All boats intending to compete must be at Peake’s Wharf by 9 o’clock
11. Printed directions for the course of the different races may be obtained from the Secretary on the morning of the Regatta.
12. All disputes to be decided by the Umpires.
13. First class club Yachts to carry a flag at their masthead, red ground, with any device thereon.
14. Country boats to be distinguished by their private flags – any ground but red.
15. All entrances to be made on or before the 13th of August.
16. All boats considered country boats, where owners are not members of the club.
These rules appear to have been used for many years but by the 1880s Regatta notices included the information that the races would be run under the rules of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. With increasing competition balancing the ratings of different sized and rigged boats became an issue. When the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Straits was formed in 1937 classes unique to the area were developed. Today races which include different models of boats are run under the Performance Racing Handicap Fleet system (PHRF). The current Charlottetown Yacht Club is maintaining a tradition of competitive sailing which dates back over 170 years and is one of the oldest sporting activities on the Island.