Tag Archives: race

Sailboat Racing in Charlottetown Harbour – 1898

fishermen-raceJohn P. Joy was the proprietor of London House, an eatery on Water Street in Charlottetown. and in 1898 he told the Hillsboro Boating Club that he would donate the “Joy Challenge Cup” for first class sailboat racing in Charlottetown.  Dennis O’Mera Reddin offered a cup and medal for second class boats and suddenly there was enough for a regatta.  As was common with many trophies the Joy Cup was to be permanently awarded only after being won by the same boat three times.

The first race came off as scheduled on Saturday, 10 September 1898. The two classes were established by length; those under eighteen and those between eighteen and twenty-four feet. It should be noted that the boats racing were not all “yachts” but rather were, for the most part, working boats with lobstermen and fishermen as captains. Following is the account of the race:

The boats entered were owned by Messrs. Taylor, St. Peter’s Island; Hyndman, Lowrie, Crossman, P.P. Gillis, John Mills and League of the Cross, Charlottetown; Robinson, Judson and Jordan, Pownal. 

Tug William Aitken used as committee boast for 1898 boat races.

Tug William Aitken used as committee boat for 1898 boat races.

Dr. S.R. Jenkins and Mr. D. O’M, Reddin started the boats from a line stretching from Connolly’s Wharf to a schooner some distance away. The sails were hoisted after the starting signals were given. The breeze was favorable. Mr. J. McCarey was judge of the course and with quite a party of friends watched the course from aboard the Wm. Aitken. The large boats were started at 1:35 p.m.  The race was three rounds over a six mile course. Capt. Lowrie’s boat, sailed with great efficiency by James Hughes, held the lead until the last round when she was passed by Robinson’s boat. When within five miles of the finish a heavy northwest squall struck the boats and they were all obliged to lower their sails. Robinson’s boat, after reefing kept onward and was the only one of that class to finish within the time limits. The others had either dropped out of the race during the squall or lost the [time] limit. In the smaller class P.P. Gillis’ boat led until she met with a mishap. Judsons’s and Mill’s boats got through the squall within the time limit. The former led but in consequence of a protest was ruled out for having been over the prescribed length. The Reddin cup was then awarded to Mr. Mills. It now graces the window of Mr. W.F. Carter’s restaurant where the owner may view it with a smile while about his daily avocations.      

A second race took place on 27 September after having been postponed for a day owing to light winds.  Earlier the committee had published the course and rules in the Guardian.  The route was clockwise around the harbour from the committee boat to the buoy off the railway wharf, to the red buoy off Brickmakers [now Battery] Point, thence round the buoy off Rocky Point wharf, to the red buoy at North River and back to the committee boat twice around.  The rules of the race are remarkably similar to rules still in use more than a century later.

Although we think of them as a recent development spinnakers and flying sails were in use in light winds. When the boats had completed the course two Captains Taylor from St. Peter’s Island had taken first and second in the large boat category. Capt. James Taylor’s “Report” beat Capt.  Dan Taylor in “Pathfinder”. The Taylors operated a large lobster fishing operation and cannery on St. Peter’s Island.  In the 2nd class P.P. Gillis “Flirt” led throughout the race but was disqualified at the last buoy and the “Veda” under command of Capt. Mills took first place.

Motor-boat racing a century ago

MOrto Boar "Flirt" as Connolly's (later Paoil's) wharf ca. 1913

Motor-boat “Flirt” at Connolly’s (later Paoil’s) wharf ca. 1913

The summer of 1913  saw a burst of  activity in Charlottetown Harbour as the Charlottetown Aquatic Club organized a number of events.   The first of these was a grand parade of all the motorboats in Charlottetown leaving the Navigation Wharf for Victoria Park at 7:00. The Guardian reported thirty actually took part.  The event was described as follows:

“What with the rushing boats gaily flying flags and pennants both aft and for’ad, the toot of whistles, the sounds of the exhaust explosions, the merry parties of people on board, and the echoes of their merriment, the scene was one full of life, and only served to accentuate the fact that the boating and sailing facilities of Charlottetown are unsurpassable…”

Some 1000 to 1500 spectators lined the Victoria Park Shoreline to get a glimpse of the boats. Competing in the speed boat class were Frank Hennessey’s Dixie Girl, C.L. Grant’s Vixen, Frank Stewart’s Ruth and the Fox owned by Mr. Hobbs.. After three heats over a straight one mile course ending in front of the Park the winner was Dixie Girl. The other race of the evening was an out and back race which saw all boats race away from the starting line for seven minutes and on signal, turn and race back. That race has an inconclusive result. The Guardian editor praised the Aquatic Club for their initiative and success:

“The animated appearance of the harbour with its forty or fifty motors on Tuesday evening will not soon be forgotten by those who witnessed it and nothing could be better designed to demonstrate to visitors the comparative comfort – if not wealth- the friendly co-operation, the capacity for healthful recreation, and above all the splendid facilities available in Charlottetown for such recreation.”

For the second evening of races, held about two weeks later, there was a race for speed boats, for “semi-speed boats” (this probably refers to non-racing motor boats), an open class  and, in partnership with the Hillsboro Boating Club, rowing races.  This time the course was a circular one to a marked buoy and back.  The speed boat class consisted of the same boats as the earlier race, with the semi-speed boats being MacMillan Bros. Imperial, J.A. Webster’s Imperial II, Harold Burke’s Flirt (seen above). It is not clear if the races continued for the rest of the summer.

Clearly seen on the stem of the Hal Burke’s Flirt is a burgee carrying the letters “CAC”, most likely the burgee of the newly organized Charlottetown Aquatic Club. Also in the background of the picture in the famed “Houseboat Doris” which was a fixture in the harbour for many years.

The photo was probably taken at the now-eroded wharf situated west of the current Charlottetown Yacht Club.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

I will be the first to admit that the Halman 20 is hardly a racing thoroughbred. Its high PHRF rating is evidence that finish line victories are few and far between (if in existence at all).  Never the less we take solace in the fact that from time to time the wind, wave and water gods pool their collective senses of humour so that we do not become utterly despondent.


Monday Night white sail races at the Charlottetown Yacht Club are marginally less competitive than the spinnaker races on Wednesday Night but they are still contested avidly.  Last Monday saw a downwind start and for once Ebony crossed the line in a IMG_2849relatively favourable position.  With the light wind almost dead astern and the tide responsible for most of the movement of the fleet to the first mark on  the triangular course Ebony was well back in the fleet. However, deploying the whisker pole on the large Genoa wing-on-wing we blanketed a number other boats and crept up on them from behind. To our delight we began to overtake large racing boats such as a Beneteaus, a J-29, a J-30s and a J-35.  There was a considerable amount of loud observation about the phenomena as all the boats were bunched  were closely bunched in preparation for the first mark rounding.  IMG_2842Slowly, slowly, slowly we crept up and passed boats to the post and to the starboard.  We were clawing our way to the head of the fleet.  Had the race ended at the first mark we would easily have taken the white flag of victory    Ebony was in its glory and even though we knew the pleasure would be short-lived as we rounded the mark and started on a beam reach.  We had a good rounding and started across the harbour. However, we were now fighting the tide and the tubby hull and long keel changed from being an advantage to a deficit.  Soon the boats were strung out ahead and the only boat behind us was one that had drifted early across the start lion had had to go back and re-start.

IMG_2850By the time we reached the second mark even he was set to overtake us.   Then, as so often happens, the little wind there had been began to drop and we found ourselves becalmed and drifting with the outgoing tide to the harbour’s mouth in the setting sun.  A magnificent first leg had ended with the ignominy of having to motor across the finish line to a disqualification.  Still – a wonderful way to spend an evening!