Skippers Series – Finding the best sailors 1950 style

Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait Class 3 boat probably Zenith

Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait Class 3 boat probably Zenith

Long before Charlottetown Race Week was inaugurated Charlottetown Harbour was the site of an annual regatta. In 1950 this took place at the end of August when, over a two-day period 16 races were run off – an impressive record compared with the dozen or so races over three days in the modern Race Week(end).

On Saturday three races were held in each of the two divisions: Snipes and the pre-war Mac Irwin-designed Class IIIs originated for the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait.  Irwin, with crew of Bud Atkinson and Fred Small won the Class III championship with his Zenith. Onawa, sailing out of Montague and skippered by Eric Coffin with Gordon Coffin as crew came second with Naiad – Wallie and Gwen Sharpe third. Other Class III boats included Jeep – Avon Andrew and David Andrew, Mic – Louis and Simon Paoli and Argo Sandy and Mrs.(!) MacDonald and Jack King.

The snipe fleet racing in Charlottetown Harbour

The snipe fleet racing in Charlottetown Harbour

Mac and Doug Johnson of Montague took the Snipe trophy with their boat Monty. Second was Sinbad – Bob MacLeod and Elizabeth Martin. Third Scout – Ron Smith and Roy MacDougall. Rounding out the fleet were Dingbat – Ralph and Margaret Dumont, Surf – Clive Stewart and Fleur Hillion and Wings – Ian Rankin, Louis Sadler, Anne Rankin and Lynn Burnett.

The more interesting competition took place on Sunday when 10 races took place in the harbour – under somewhat different rules. The “Skippers Series” was a series of races which addressed the issue of “fast boats” versus “slow boats”.  In this series crews sailed, not just their own boat, but the boats of all of their competitors in the class. They rotated through the fleet each one sailing all the boats competing, not just their own.  The object was to find the best sailors not the best boat.  The results of each race mattered less than the overall placing across the series.  The trophy for the series had been provided by S.A. (Sandy) MacDonald, a Montreal doctor born on the Island who regularly summered at Keppoch. Sandy MacDonald was a competitive sailor who later went on to represent Canada in international competition.  [more about MacDonald in an upcoming posting]

When the series concluded the skippers ranking for the Class III yachts was : 1. Mac Irwin, 2. Dr. S.A. MacDonald, 3. Wilbur Andrew, 4. Gordon Coffin, 5. Louis Paoli, 6. Wallie Sharpe and 7. Louis Paoli.  In the Snipes, Malcolm Johnson led the fleet followed by Ron Smith, Bob MacLeod, Clive Stewart and Ralph Dumont.

The regatta attracted visitors from a  number of yachting centers including Borden, Montague and Shediac, the latter group travelling across the Strait by motor launch.

Besides the unique approach to unequal boats the surprising thing about the 1950 regatta is the number of Class III yachts still active in post-war racing. In addition to the Charlottetown boats there was also a large fleet in Shediac and boats in other Northumberland Strait clubs. Not a single one of this unique class seems to have survived the transition to fibreglass in the 1960s.  Also among the missing is the S.A. MacDonald trophy for the best skipper of 1950.


1 thought on “Skippers Series – Finding the best sailors 1950 style

  1. Pingback: Ahoy and Be Prepared: The Boy Scout Regatta of 1964 | Sailstrait

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