The early 1960s was a period of great change for the Charlottetown Yacht Club. The days of wooden yachts was coming to an end and more and more fibreglass hulls were seen on the water. The balance between sail and power, which had seen a surge in the number of outboard runabouts, was being offset by new boats (or at least new-ish boats to new owners) made of fibreglass. Sailboat racing, mostly with a fleet of wooden snipes was on the decline.
It was in the racing that one of the most dramatic changes came about. The large class boats of the Northumberland Strait Yachting Association, mostly older Class Threes had for the most part stopped competing. The change in racing came from a surprising source.
The Boy Scouts of Prince Edward Island had seen establishment of troops of Rovers and Sea Scouts in the late 1930s but the idea seems not to have caught on and the activities petered out in the early 1950s. However there was a resurgence of interest at the national level in the early 1960s and a National Boy Scout Regatta was held in Quebec in 1961. The following year Scouts from the Island accepted an invitation to attend and three boys from Montague and one from Charlottetown were selected. John Beck, Steve Clarkson and Fraser Inman from the 1st Montague Troop and John Rankin from the Trinity Troop in Charlottetown were given instruction by D.K. Martin of the Charlottetown Yacht Club and Ralph Beck of the Montague Yacht Club and by navy personnel from HMCS Queen Charlotte. The boys had been competing in snipes but the craft selected for the regatta was the newly developed Flying Junior. The four sailors had a single day of familiarization in the fast fibreglass craft at the Shediac Yacht club. A highlight for one participant was the mad dash from Shediac to Moncton in the car driven by the consistently late Don Martin which ended with Martin driving out on the tarmac and right up to the Trans Canada Airways plane to make sure that the boy sailors didn’t miss their Montreal flight.
The Flying Junior originated in 1955 as a training boat for the then-Olympic class Flying Dutchman. By 1960 a class organization had been formed and the dinghy was adopted by many yacht clubs and associations as an ideal boat for introductory sailing and racing. It was one of the first mass-produced fibreglass dinghies. In the 1970s the “FJ” was accorded status as an international class by the International Yacht Racing Union and is still raced today in many countries with an annual world championship. The 210 lb Flying Junior is 13 ft 3 in long and 4 ft 11 in wide and carries 100 sq ft of sail as well as a spinnaker of up to 80 sq ft. The boat was built in a number of countries and in Canada it was produced by Grampian in Ontario and Paceship Yachts in Nova Scotia.
The Third Boy Scout Regatta was also held in Quebec at the SSS Venture, the Sea Scout camp on Lake St. Louis near Montreal. The Island was represented by John Rankin and Percy Simmonds from Charlottetown and Stevie Clarkson and Jock Beck from Montague. Increasing interest from the Boy Scouts coincided with a decision of the Charlottetown Yacht Club to investigate the possibility of a Junior Sailing Program for 1964. In 1963 Ian Rankin had headed a committee to look at sail training and at a meeting of the Charlottetown Yacht Club late in 1963 the decision was made to proceed.
The club contracted to acquire a fleet of 20 Flying Juniors. Two were owned outright by the Club, another two by the Boy Scouts, and the remainder by club members or organizations and loaned to the club for the junior sailing program. At a recent gathering of club veterans some present could still remember the sail colours and numbers and name the individual boat owners.
With a fleet of boats available the club was able to host the Boy Scout Regatta and by March 1964 invitations had been extended to crews from Canada, Israel, Britain, Bermuda and the United States for the Regatta planned for mid-August. Percy Simmonds was Regatta Committee chairman and the race committee included Don Hancock commodore of the Armdale Yacht Club in Halifax and Jim Surette from the Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron.
At the beginning of August races were held to decide who would represent Prince Edward Island. Eight boats, including three from Summerside competed to chose the two, two-man crews to carry the Island colours. After a morning race which turned into a drifter the wind picked up and two additional races were held in the afternoon. John Rankin with crew member David Scott dominated the afternoon racing while Percy Simmonds and David Hume took the honours in the morning race and seconds in the other two races. The final results saw only 1/4 of a point separate first and second place. 12-year old David Stewart skippered the third place boat with Bill Simmonds in fourth and Peter Williams in fifth.
The opening of the national regatta on 11 August was filled with greetings from dignitaries including the Lieutenant Governor, Mayor, Provincial Secretary J. David Stewart and Frank MacKinnon from the Centennial Commission. The Rotary Club hosted a luncheon at the Yacht Club for scouts and officials. The crews were then transported to Holland Cove where they camped for the regatta week. Every province except Newfoundland and Saskatchewan was represented and there were boats from England and the United States.
In spite of winds which were not always favourable seven races were held. There appears to have been no “home bay” advantage and the winner of the regatta learned to sail on a tide-less, fresh-water reservoir in Calgary. Allan Strain and Brian Kelvington, both of Calgary captured the trophy for Alberta. Second place went to Nova Scotia, third to Ontario while John Rankin of Charlottetown was fourth and was the first of two Island boats. Eighth in the nineteen boat fleet went to the other Island crew helmed by Percy Simmonds.
I have written elsewhere of what a banner year 1964 was in the history of the Charlottetown Yacht Club. Among the Shediac to Charlottetown Race, the beginning the Junior Sailing Program and the overhaul of the Club facilities the Boy Scout Regatta was a major event. It brought national notice to the Charlottetown Yacht Club and helped build a cadre of young, competitive sailors, many still active today.