A Century of Spithead Racing

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Guardian 21 August 1907 p. 3

During the summer’s racing season at the Charlottetown Yacht Club there are usually a couple of evenings (especially early in the season with several hours before darkness) when the winds and tides are just right and the assembled skippers and crews waiting on the veranda for the course for the evening to be posted agree that “it would be a good evening for Spithead.”  It is a much favoured course – through the harbour mouth leaving Battery Point Buoy to port, past Blockhouse buoy and four miles out to Spithead Buoy and then back to the finish line at the Club.  It is a longer than usual course and calls for a stiff breeze and the race being dependant on the breeze, the course can never be called too far in advance. Often the conditions outside the harbour are very different from the wind and waves usually dealt with and as in the earlier race described below this difference in conditions can favour different boats.

Black buoy 1005

Detail from Chart of Hillsborough Bay 1886 edition

What few of the sailors of the CYC fleet realize is that the Spithead course for the yacht race was in use more than a hundred years ago. What we now call Spithead Buoy was placed at the end of the reef running east from St. Peter’s Island in the late 1830s. It was marked by a Black Buoy and for most of the 19th century the mark was simply known as “the Black Buoy.” The Buoy was part of a series of navigation marks which included a buoy marking Fitzroy Rock and another on Battery Point.  Conspicuously absent from early charts is a buoy marking Blockhouse point, Instead of a buoy the correct and safe line into the harbour through the narrow harbour entrance was identified by leading marks including the conspicuous Dockendorff’s Barn on York Point and church steeples in Charlottetown. For some of the evening racers it is as far as they will ever get from the security of the harbour and the longer course makes a pleasant change from the usual parade around the marks inside Charlottetown Harbour.

In 1907 the race was advertised well in advance. However on the appointed day it had to be be postponed for a week owing to light winds. It is clear from the advertisement (illustrated above) for the race that it had been held the previous year and the cup for the event had been won by the sloop Micmac, the cup having been put up again for the 1907 race.  The Guardian covered the competition.

A splendid breeze greeted the yachts entered for the race over a course inside and outside the harbor on Saturday afternoon.  The entries were  – Micmac, Capt. Gaudet; Charlotte, Capt. Rogers; Vinco, Capt. Prowse; Grace  Darling, Capt. Moore

The course was from Marine and Fisheries Wharf to Hillsborough Bridge, thence to entrance to, North River thence out the harbor to Black Buoy, thence back to North River, thence to Marine and Fisheries Wharf.

The struggle was between the Micmac and the Charlotte, the latter very nearly robbing the former of her laurels. In the rough water outside the Charlotte was more than her match but the smoother water the Micmac scored. The finish of the race was most exciting, the Charlotte and Micmac turning the last stake boat together. The Micmac then drew ahead, finishing by a short lead. Grace Darling was third.

A number of lobster boats accompanied the sloops and showed a lot of speed.  

The advertising suggests there was a bit of a rivalry on the waterfront between the Charlottetown Yacht Club and the older Hillsboro Boating Club. Because of weather postponements the latter organization had their annual race for the Hillsboro Cup on the same weekend with several of the same boats such as the Micmac (with Capt. Pineaud instead of Capt. Gaudet) and the Charlotte in competition.  For the Black Buoy race there was no entry fee but neither was there mention of prize money. The Hillsboro Boating Club race had a $2.00 entry fee but besides the Hillsboro Cup for the winner, second place would be awarded $10 and third garnered $5.00. Because of light winds the Hillsboro Cup race was not completed and had to be re-staged on the morning of the following Labour Day.

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2 thoughts on “A Century of Spithead Racing

  1. Faye Pound

    Hello Harry,I love this material about the harbour and congratulations on a very entertaining and enlightening product. There is a story in the History of Alexandra under “Judson” family history of entertainments about a race local men had in the Ch’town Harbour where a man was killed. I recall no more detail than that but though you might find it of interest – and that around WW1 the Judsons were asked onto a German vessel and treated to a drink – around the mouth of the harbour. Baird Judson or Patsy (Judson) Smith could speak to the second story as they told it to me. Take care,Faye

    Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2015 13:04:17 +0000 To: fayepound@hotmail.com

    Reply
    1. sailstrait Post author

      The race where the sailor was drowned was the subject of my post last week. You can search the site for Judson to find it.

      Reply

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