Tag Archives: Amherst Yacht Club

Northumberland Strait Yacht Racing Continued into Wartime


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.


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.

Confederation Celebration Sailing in 1939

Current mythology has it that the 75th anniversary of the 1864 Confederation Conference was squeezed out of popular consciousness by the out-break of the Second World War. However the 75th anniversary, like the current 150th anniversary, was a year-long celebration and had a long list of activities.

Confed 2

Charlottetown Guardian 11 July 1939 p. 8

For Charlottetown’s anniversary week in mid-July 1939 one of the many activities was a series of aquatic events in which the regatta of the Charlottetown Yacht Club played a central role. Swimming and diving competitions were held at Victoria Park in the morning of Tuesday, 18 July and at 1:00 o’clock attention moved to the Charlottetown Yacht Club on Pownal Wharf.  One feature was rowing races between crews of visiting naval vessels from two Canadian warships, an  American team and one from the local Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. When the ripples settled on the water the HMCS Skeena took the honours, the other Canadian ship second, the local naval reserve third and the Americans last.

The yacht races saw a larger field with twenty-three boats from six clubs taking part. Yachts were expected from the venerable Royal Kennebacassis  Yacht Club of Saint John, the Amherst Yacht Club and the Wallace Yacht Club, Pictou and Shediac  as well as Island boats from Charlottetown, Summerside, Borden, Montague, and Georgetown. There was also interest in the entry of an Ontario-built boat sailing out of Orwell.

Confed 1939

Charlottetown Guardian 19J July p.6

At the end of the day the Island boats had a clean sweep of the silver trophies and awards presented by C.Y.C. Commodore Fred Morris.  The greatest number of entries was in the snipe class with ten competing boats, four from the Amherst Yacht Club and the remainder from Charlottetown.   J.C. Clark’s snipe Joke took the honours. Another keenly contested class was the Northumberland Strait Yacht Racing Association’s class 3 which included boats from Summerside as well as Shediac .  This class included boats whose names were known all over the region such as Mac Irwin’s Zenith, Jack Kenny’s Jeep, Ralph Smith’s P.N.O. and G.P. Paoli’s Mic  (Charlottetown), George Cunningham’s Nomad (Shediac),  and Ray Tanton’s Woodpecker (Summerside). This was another C.Y. C. victory with the ten-year-old P.N.O. in the lead.

The five-hour event was plagued with light and variable winds but the Guardian commented that it attracted one of the largest crowds ever seen on the Charlottetown waterfront.

Seventy-five years later the anniversary will pass without any special sailing events except for the 150 Challenge Race leaving from Charlottetown on 28 July. Perhaps yacht racing, with events every Monday and Wednesday evening and longer races almost every weekend has become too commonplace.

The newspaper account is the first note I have seen of the Amherst and Wallace Yacht Clubs. They may have been short-lived organizations. I am especially interested in knowing where the Amherst club sailed from – Tidnish appears to be the nearest harbour on the Strait.