Category Archives: Yachting history

“The Prettiest Boat on the Straits”

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Sailing Yacht Goldfinch ca 1937. Photographer and location unknown. This print from the Mac Irwin album. A hand coloured edition of the same print is held by the Stright family.

On 4 August 1936 the Guardian carried a short article titled “Smart Racing Yacht Launched in Summerside.”  Mistakenly identified as the Goldfish in the article, the new boat was launched with a number of yachting enthusiasts in attendance as she slipped from her cradle. The Goldfinch was owned by Ray Tanton and Captain James Stright and she was to go on to be one of the fastest boats to sail out of Summerside.

The boat was Marconi rigged and carried 300 feet of canvas. She was 25 feet 6 inches in overall length but only 5 feet 10 inches in the beam. With her low freeboard and tiny cabin she had a sleek appearance. Finely finished with a white hull and natural wood deck and cabin she looked every inch a racing boat.  She fit within the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait measurements for class 4 boats and within days of her launch she was entered in races at the Shediac regatta.  This was the first regatta under the YRANS banner.

She arrived back in Summerside with the Commodore Morris Trophy for Class 4 yachts and the C.Y.C. trophy for placing second in the handicap races.  She had been scratch boat in all of her races. The Summerside correspondent for the Guardian said that she was said to be “the prettiest boat on the Straits and the fastest in her class.”

In 1937 the YRANS regatta was held in Pictou early in July and once again Goldfinch had an excellent showing.  She won the Class 4 races but in addition took the Commodore Weldon Cup for the highest aggregate point total in the two-day meet.  Later in the month she participated in a regatta held by the Borden Yacht Club coming first in one race and second in another. While sailing to an August regatta in Shediac she broke a chain plate and this resulted in a broken mast.

Goldfinch was featured on the cover of a 1940 tourism brochure

Goldfinch was featured on the cover of a 1940 tourism brochure

August of 1938 saw a closely contested series of races at the Summerside Yacht Club when Goldfinch was nosed out of first place by a Shediac boat, Cossack helmed by Bill Parsons. Goldfinch continued to win races placing first in her class in the Shediac Bay regatta in 1940 and coming in third behind Cossack and Dan Patch in the 1941 Shediac Bay Regatta.

With the hiatus during the Second World War it is hard to track Goldfinch. The account of the 1941 races has her sailing out of Shediac but this may be in error. At the 1946 YRANS regatta, again in Shediac and the first to be held after the end of the war, Goldfinch won her class but was listed as being sailed out of Pictou by George Hill. Few Class 4 boats were built after the introduction of the smaller Class 3  yachts and the Goldfinch may have simply run out of competitors after the war.

Besides being a designer and sailor Stright was also active in both the Summerside Yacht Club and the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait. He served for several years as Fleet Captain and Official Measurer of the Summerside Club in the late 1930s, and was Commodore of the Club in 1939. In 1946 he was elected Vice- President of the Yacht Racing Association.

Stright came by his knowledge of sailing vessels in the traditional manner. During and after the Great War he sailed the schooner Bonus (sometimes spelled Bowness) out of Victoria and Summerside, often carrying coal from Pictou to firms such as R.T. Holman.

The Goldfinch was one of a number of yachts designed by James Stright. In 1935 he was responsible for the Agatha owned by Lawrence Gerlevson which raced in Summerside and Borden. During the Summerside race Capt. Stright allowed the Bedeque ferry to be used as the committee boat so it is likely that he owned that vessel.

In 1936 Capt. Stright was noted as the designer of the Rainbow, a 35 foot cabin cruiser built by Paul Harding of Summerside. In 1937 Stright built a 22 footer to compete in Class 3 races, probably the Woodpecker, sailed by Ray Tanton.  Another Class 3 boat credited to Stright was Strimac which, along with Woodpecker,  was still being sailed in Baddeck , Cape Breton in the 1980s. In 1938 he was awarded the contract for a new tender for the C.G.S. Brant.

From 1935 to 1938 Capt. Stright had the contract to operate the ferry linking Summerside with Bedeque but there was controversy as to whether the service was needed except in the spring of the year when roads were impassable and the service was discontinued in 1938.

In 1945 Capt. Stright moved to Pictou and worked with his sons Trueman and Ivan in what would become Stright-MacKay, a company still serving marine industries and boating enthusiasts. Stright- MacKay has been a strong supporter of the Northumberland Challenge race series as well as local Pictou Yacht Club activities. Several of James Stright’s descendants have carried on the sailing tradition notably the late Trueman (Trap) Stright and his son Billy Stright who sails out of the Pictou Yacht Club as well as Ivan’s son, Rod Stright, sailing out of the Dartmouth Yacht Club.

This is one of a series of postings based on photos found in the Mac Irwin albums.

 

 

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Northumberland Strait Yacht Racing Continued into Wartime

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Yacht Racing in Shediac harbour ca. 1939 (Mac Irwin album)

While Canada found itself at war in 1939 many activities continued relatively unchanged in the early years of the conflict. Such was the case with yacht racing. The Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait (YRANS), which had been founded in 1936 had a very successful annual regatta in 1939 before the outbreak of war and in 1940 staged the event in Shediac.

There was a large contingent from the Charlottetown Yacht Club who headed out for the races in the first weekend in August. First away was Mac Irwin in his cruiser Roamer. He and his crew of Fred Small and Doug Carver had Mac’s class three boat Zenith in tow. The following day the CGS Brant departed with three Snipes, one international class yacht and the class 3 boat Jeep aboard. Included in the Brant party were Mr. & Mrs. Charles Bentley, Dorothy Bentley, Art Howard, Joe MacPhee, Jack King, Don Martin, Bill Porter, Dr. MacMillan of Boston who summered at Orwell and others.

Another group left with Commodore Fred Morris on his cruiser Elizabeth and with Hal Bourke on the Restless. Four Summerside Yachts made the trip; the Goldfinch, Capt James Stright, Woodpecker, Ray Tanton, Zepher, Lorne MacFarlane and Eva K. Harry Allen. The Lindsay Brothers, summering in Orwell took their boat to Shediac on a trailer.

The only acknowledgment that this was wartime came with the YRANS business meeting held during the regatta. The Association committed to the purchase of  $50 War Bond to be held until the end of the hostilities.

The racing took place over two days with a banquet and dance at the Shediac Yacht Club bring the event to a close. Shediac Commodore F.W. Storey made the presentations to the winners. Among the race officials were Charles Bentley and K.M. Martin who assisted the starter.

Island yachts did very well the first day of the two-day event but in lighter winds on Saturday Shediac sailors had more success.  Nominingue (Class 2) owned by Ern Ross of Shediac took the trophy for aggregate points with Siren (Class 3), also from Shediac, in second place.  Shediac also took the award for the club with the most points.

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Racing in Shediac harbour ca. 1939. (Mac Irwin Album)

The Islanders were back for the event in 1941 which was also held in Shediac but were there in reduced numbers.  The event was shortened owing to the cancellation of some of Saturday’s races because of heavy rains.  The regatta attracted boats from Shediac Bay Yacht Club, Charlottetown, Summerside, Amherst and Borden. Shediac was the winner of the overall points followed by Charlottetown, Summerside and Amherst. The highlight for the Charlottetown club was in the Snipe Class where Scout, helmed by Billie Bourke took the cup, Bill Porter’s Joke was second and another Charlottetown boat, Four Bells, was tied for third.

By 1942  things overseas and on the home front had changed. While club races continued YRANS decided to postpone the regional regatta and it was not until 1946 that Northumberland Strait began again with the first post-war regatta held once again in Shediac.