Tag Archives: regatta

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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C.G.S. Brant pictures are two of the gems from Irwin Album

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C.G.S. Brant tied up beside the ferry Prince Edward Island loading yachts – 1939. Picture from Mac Irwin album.

Two photos of the Canadian Government Steamship Brant from the Mac Irwin Album show how small the coal-fired buoy and lighthouse tender really was. More importantly they add to the story of the inter-club races up and down Northumberland Strait.

Earlier I had written about the role of the Brant in getting racing boats back and forth from regattas.  At that time I had assumed from newspaper reports that the Brant accompanied the fleet and that smaller boats such as snipes were taken as deck cargo and that larger yachts had been towed. A newspaper account in 1939 said that three of the large Class 3 yachts were carried on the Brant. The photos show just how it was done.

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The Brant with Class 3 yacht aboard 1939. Mac Irwin album

Slung outboard from the davits of the Brant is a full-keeled yacht, one that looks like a Class 3. Two additional large boats, again probably Class 3 yachts can be made out behind the launch and a fourth boat can be seen at the stern of the Brant.  What is particularly interesting is that the boat already hoisted aboard has its mast still in place. The Brant also carried the crews of several of the racing boats and officials from the Charlottetown Yacht Club to Shediac. In addition to the boats sent by the Brant several owners, including Mac Irwin, towed their boats behind powerboats from the Yacht Club.  The 1939 Regatta in Shediac was a major yachting event for the region and was a big success for the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait.

The close working relationship between the Yacht Club and the Marine and Fisheries vessels rested on the harmonious attitude of the individuals concerned but also came from the long-time understanding that amateur sailors were the nursery for the navy.  Such organizations as the Navy League, Sea Scouts and the yacht clubs provided valuable training and experience at a time when funding for naval activities was strained.

Behind the Brant is the S.S. Prince Edward Island.  Since  the launch of the S.S. Charlottetown in 1931 the Prince Edward Island had seen little use. It filled in for the Charlottetown when the latter went on its annual trip to dry dock for maintenance. The ship was called into full-time service again in 1941 when the Charlottetown struck a reef on its way to dry-dock in Saint John and was lost off Port Mouton in Nova Scotia.

 

Skippers Series – Finding the best sailors 1950 style

Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait Class 3 boat probably Zenith

Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait Class 3 boat probably Zenith

Long before Charlottetown Race Week was inaugurated Charlottetown Harbour was the site of an annual regatta. In 1950 this took place at the end of August when, over a two-day period 16 races were run off – an impressive record compared with the dozen or so races over three days in the modern Race Week(end).

On Saturday three races were held in each of the two divisions: Snipes and the pre-war Mac Irwin-designed Class IIIs originated for the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait.  Irwin, with crew of Bud Atkinson and Fred Small won the Class III championship with his Zenith. Onawa, sailing out of Montague and skippered by Eric Coffin with Gordon Coffin as crew came second with Naiad – Wallie and Gwen Sharpe third. Other Class III boats included Jeep – Avon Andrew and David Andrew, Mic – Louis and Simon Paoli and Argo Sandy and Mrs.(!) MacDonald and Jack King.

The snipe fleet racing in Charlottetown Harbour

The snipe fleet racing in Charlottetown Harbour

Mac and Doug Johnson of Montague took the Snipe trophy with their boat Monty. Second was Sinbad – Bob MacLeod and Elizabeth Martin. Third Scout – Ron Smith and Roy MacDougall. Rounding out the fleet were Dingbat – Ralph and Margaret Dumont, Surf – Clive Stewart and Fleur Hillion and Wings – Ian Rankin, Louis Sadler, Anne Rankin and Lynn Burnett.

The more interesting competition took place on Sunday when 10 races took place in the harbour – under somewhat different rules. The “Skippers Series” was a series of races which addressed the issue of “fast boats” versus “slow boats”.  In this series crews sailed, not just their own boat, but the boats of all of their competitors in the class. They rotated through the fleet each one sailing all the boats competing, not just their own.  The object was to find the best sailors not the best boat.  The results of each race mattered less than the overall placing across the series.  The trophy for the series had been provided by S.A. (Sandy) MacDonald, a Montreal doctor born on the Island who regularly summered at Keppoch. Sandy MacDonald was a competitive sailor who later went on to represent Canada in international competition.  [more about MacDonald in an upcoming posting]

When the series concluded the skippers ranking for the Class III yachts was : 1. Mac Irwin, 2. Dr. S.A. MacDonald, 3. Wilbur Andrew, 4. Gordon Coffin, 5. Louis Paoli, 6. Wallie Sharpe and 7. Louis Paoli.  In the Snipes, Malcolm Johnson led the fleet followed by Ron Smith, Bob MacLeod, Clive Stewart and Ralph Dumont.

The regatta attracted visitors from a  number of yachting centers including Borden, Montague and Shediac, the latter group travelling across the Strait by motor launch.

Besides the unique approach to unequal boats the surprising thing about the 1950 regatta is the number of Class III yachts still active in post-war racing. In addition to the Charlottetown boats there was also a large fleet in Shediac and boats in other Northumberland Strait clubs. Not a single one of this unique class seems to have survived the transition to fibreglass in the 1960s.  Also among the missing is the S.A. MacDonald trophy for the best skipper of 1950.