Category Archives: Yachting history

Ahoy and Be Prepared: The Boy Scout Regatta of 1964

 

Flying Junior passing the stern of the motor yacht “Restless” at the Boy Scout Regatta 1964. Photo: Charlottetown Guardian

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.

Lines drawing, Flying Junior dinghy.  Image: Sailboatdata.com

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.

 

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The Charlotte, the Rogers Cup and the first Charlottetown Yacht Club

Charlottetown Guardian 13 July 1908. P. 1

Even if the only image that seems to have survived is a grainy copy from the page of a newspaper almost a hundred and ten years old it is clear that the Charlotte was a fine-looking craft. She was described in glowing terms by the Guardian:

…a beautiful specimen of a serviceable cruising yacht, being a good sailer, with a comfortable cabin and equipped throughout with a luxuriousness that is calculated to make anyone think that yachting must be an enjoyable occupation.

At just under 40 feet, the Charlotte, with its gaff rig and long jibboom certainly had a striking appearance and was probably the pride of the small fleet in Charlottetown Harbour. It had sailed in Charlottetown since 1905 at least but it is not known when  the yacht was built.   In races the boat carried a crew of four, including a paid sailing master; Charles Moore of Dunedin. She was owned by George J. Rogers, at the time the vice-president of the Rogers Hardware Company. Rogers had also been elected commodore of the Charlottetown Yacht Club at the time of its founding and was still in the same position in 1908.

The first Charlottetown Yacht Club had been organized in August 1904, primarily for the purpose of mounting a challenge for the Coronation Cup. At the time of my blog posting on the Coronation Cup I stated I had been unable to find reference to the continuation of the club. However, further research shows that the previously informal club adopted a constitution and by-laws in June 1906 under the name Charlottetown Yacht Club.  The first Commodore was George J. Rogers. Other officers were A. Ellsworth – Vice-Commodore, J. Vanbuskirk – Rear Commodore and T.T. Black – Secretary-Treasurer.

To stimulate racing Commodore Rogers presented the club with the Rogers Cup which would be awarded to the winner of three races in the racing series.  The first of these races was held in mid-September 1908. Rogers had placed no restrictions on entry and so boats of all sizes and rigs participated; sloops, lobster boats and schooner rigs were seen on the starting line. The entries included the Micmac, Charlotte, Thelma, Onawa, Waterboat, Mayflower, Pigeon, Georgina, and Dreadnought.  According to the Guardian “The start was quite a pretty spectacle the boats getting away in a picturesque bunch and making a rare sight as they became strung out on the run to the first buoy.” The Mayflower led for the fist leg of the race until overtaken at the buoy by Micmac. Micmac held the lead until the finish followed by Charlotte, Mayflower and Pigeon.

HBC trophy. PEIMHF Collection The Rogers Cup does not appear to have survived.

The Rogers Cup was not the first sailing trophy in Charlottetown although it was the first to be under the management of the Charlottetown Yacht Club.  Only a week before the first Rogers Cup match the Hillsborough Boating Club trophy had been taken by the Micmac, which retained the trophy having won the annual race for the third time in four years. The Charlotte was one of only three entries in the final race for the HBC cup and she avoided last place only because Hiawatha had briefly gone aground on the last leg.

The 1908 Guardian feature which included the photo of the Charlotte seen above was not so much about the sloop or George Rogers as it is about the advantages of Charlottetown Harbour as a sailing locale.

There is probably no province in Canada where the people are so well provided with the means of indulging the pastime of yachting as Prince Edward Island. The advantages are general all over the province and here in the capital city of Charlottetown, built at the confluence of three broad rivers, which make its splendid harbor, with the ample Hillsborough Bay just outside the harbor entrance the situation is such as to compel the admiration of all who are interested in aquatic sport.

In no other city in Canada are such desirable yachting waters so conveniently at hand, and those who are fond of the sport and own yachts and sailing boats find means of indulging in the glorious pastime with very little trouble or expense.

Even with the passage of more than a century the sentiments expressed here remain true. Although fibreglass hulls and aluminum masts have replaced oak and fir and dacron has replaced sailcloth,  Charlottetown Harbour and Prince Edward Island waters continue to be fine sailing areas conveniently at hand.

 

 

“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.