Tag Archives: Shediac- Charlottetown

1964 – A Banner Year in the Charlottetown Yacht Club history

In Prince Edward Island “the centennial” meant only one thing. Notwithstanding how many other 100 year anniversaries were held there was only one year that really mattered – 1964.  The whole of Canada partied in 1967, and in 1973….. well 1973 was a bit of an afterthought and the shouting and tumult had died.

Charlottetown Yacht Club in 1964 showing changes and improvements - photo courtesy Ron Atkinson

Charlottetown Yacht Club in 1964 showing changes and improvements – photo courtesy Ron Atkinson

While the rest of the province celebrated the activities of top-hatted politicians, the Charlottetown Yacht Club was having the biggest and perhaps most important year in its history.  A late October storm in the fall of 1963 had shown how vulnerable and fragile the club facilities were.  Already for 1964 the Club was committed to running a brand new junior sailing program, serving as the finish location for the inaugural Shediac-Charlottetown overnight race,  and hosting a national Boy Scout Regatta . Major repairs were required for both Lords Wharf and Pownal Wharf  which were in poor repair, the last major repairs having been undertaken more than 25 years earlier.

Post 1964 air photo of Club area showing moorings. More than 50 boats can be counted at anchor.

Post 1964 air photo of Club area showing moorings. More than 50 boats can be counted at anchor.

At the time the Club was home to 13 sailing craft and 63 power boats and had more than 100 families on the membership roll. With hardly an exception the boats were on moorings in front of, and to the west of the club.  At the time the club was blessed with a very progressive board who undertook bold steps to move the club forward. The new commodore was a youthful Ron Atkinson but he was able to call on a host of experienced members including, but not limited to, Honorary Commodore Mac Irwin and  Past Commodore Percy Simmonds as well as Clive Stewart, Art Love, Murray Lusher, Bill Rix, Don Smith  and Ian Rankin.   Atkinson and other board members made a direct approach to K.C. Irving, then still very much leading the Irving Oil Company.   They presented a detailed proposal which included cost estimates provided by engineer Clive Stewart. A copy of the proposal can be found here CYC Irving001.  The ask was for a loan of $20,000 and a grant of $8,000  (a total of nearly a quarter of a million dollars in todays funds). In exchange Irving was to get repayment of the loan over 20 years and exclusive right to provide a marine fueling facility at the club. By 11 May the deal was done and after approval of the mortgage agreement by the club members work commenced.

Detail from construction plan drawn by Clive Stewart.

Detail from construction plan drawn by Clive Stewart.

Completed by 7 August 1964, in time for the finish of the Shediac – Charlottetown race, the work saw the club transformed.  Lords Wharf was capped with steel piling, filled and leveled. A float at the head of the wharf was supplemented by a new float and launch ramp for the junior sailing fleet on the east side of the wharf. On Pownal wharf a new gas dock was built giving deep-water access. The wharf was squared off to the west with concrete fill and a new launching slip was added to the west side of the wharf. A dinghy ramp with rollers was available at the top of the basin between the wharves.  The club grounds were cleared up and covered with white chip gravel. The assemblage of lockers which had long been an eyesore and were mostly used by the outboard fleet was moved behind the clubhouse and the whole area surrounded by a neat white picket fence.

CYC movers and shakers I'm the mid 1960s. L-R Ian Rankin, Mac Irwin, Art Love, Ron Atkinson.

CYC movers and shakers from the mid 1960s. L-R Ian Rankin, Mac Irwin, Art Love, Ron Atkinson.

A major change was also made to the clubhouse where a 15 foot addition was built to the west end of the building for a ladies lounge,  men’s and ladies’ locker rooms, renovated washrooms and an outside sun-deck. The kitchen was completely re-built giving, in the words of the commodore; “a facility that any housewife would be proud to own.”   Much of the work on these projects was done by club members.

The physical work on the club was only one chapter in the year’s annals. The hosting of events such as the finish for the Shediac Charlottetown race (where 1000 chicken dinners were served), the first junior sailing program which provided training for 60 youth and the National Boy Scout Regatta all depended on participation and contribution from club members.

In future postings I hope to provide more information on these events.  Thanks to Ron Atkinson for providing much of this background.




“A Friendly Invasion from the Sea” The Challenge Labatt Canada 1984

It seems like not so very long ago but already the newspaper clippings have yellowed and begun to fade. Not so the light in the eyes of those who participated in what was, at the time, an amazing event. They reminisce about the month of days and nights afloat in one of the biggest sailing events in the history of Northumberland Strait – the Challenge Labatt Canada of 1984.

The event was astoundingly audacious. Take ten of the most modern tracing yachts being built in North America, give them to ten crews representing each of the provinces and race from Toronto, down the Saint Lawrence, through the Gulf and Northumberland Strait to a finish line in Charlottetown. Ostensibly the event was to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s voyage but in reality to was just one helluva great excuse for a race.

Such an event could only have been dreamed up by a brewery – in this case Labatts. This at a time when “Labatt 50” was one of the best-selling beers in the country. The sailing partner was C&C Yachts who furnished 10 new fully equipped one-design 35-foot boats as sailing billboards for Labatts.  The month-long race which began on 23 June 1984 consisted of six legs – Toronto to Kingston, Quebec City to Rimouski, Rimouski to Riviere au Renard (on the north shore of the Gaspe), Riviere au Renard to Gaspe (Ile Bonaventure Race), Gaspe to Shediac, Shediac to Charlottetown. The longest leg was the 350 mile Gaspe to Shediac section. The Shediac-Charlottetown leg followed the traditional night-race route down the Strait and was one of the shortest legs. The series was scheduled to end in Charlottetown on 21 July 1984 .

While some crews were the same for the entire race the P.E.I. contingent rotated through the race with seven to nine members joining for specific legs.  The fact that the individuals had not always sailed together as a team was offset by there being fresh crew to combat the fatigue experienced over the long race.  The P.E.I. crew was almost all from the Charlottetown Yacht Club and drew from a pool of experienced racers who had participated in local, regional and national competitions in boats of all sizes. Many were veterans of the Round the Island Races. They included Gordie Beck, David Stewart, Terry McKenna, Peter Mellish, David Mosher, Hugh Paton, Bob Pinkham, John Rankin, Donald Scott, Percy Simmonds, Robert Midgley, Ron Stewart and Peter Williams.

The P.E.I. crew made a tactical error in the first leg and had an eighth place finish in the first leg but in the next two legs managed fourth and fifth placements. They finished eighth in the Ile Bonaventure leg.  They had a great race in the Gaspe-Shediac leg and grabbed a second place finish as over 200 spectators turned out 2 a.m. to watch the boats cross. For the final leg coming home to Charlottetown skipper Peter Williams had the following crew: Dave Mosher, Dave Stewart, Ron Stewart, Bob Pinkham, Hugh Paton, Percy Simmonds, and Peter Mellish.

Charlottetown Patriot 21 July 1984 p.1

Boats rafted up after the race. Charlottetown Patriot 21 July 1984 p.1

Because the event built on a number of local races many legs had additional yachts participating. The last leg incorporated the Shediac to Charlottetown race, then in its 20th year.  In addition to the 10 Labatt boats, an astonishing one hundred and four local and regional yachts participated in the final leg!

The start from Shediac was at 6 in the evening and the record for the passage was about 12 hours. Spectators were told they could expect the first boats at sunrise in Charlottetown. However brisk south-west winds and a clear night saw the speedy C&C yachts smash the record and begin arriving a full three hours ahead of time. The Quebec boat was first to finish and was followed closely by Nova Scotia. The first six boats finished within minutes of each other.  The Island boat was only four minutes back of the leader but was the fifth boat to finish. For the series overall the Islanders were awarded fourth place behind Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Quebec. They had been tied in points with Ontario but were given the win as they had beaten Ontario in the last leg of the series. Through the day the rest of the one hundred plus boat fleet sailed through the harbour narrows and finished off the Charlottetown Yacht Club .

The land side of the event was an important one for the Charlottetown Yacht Club. It was estimated that the event brought upwards of 1000 sailors to Charlottetown along with many more families, friends and spectators. The waterfront was thick with masts, outnumbering even the busiest 19th century days of wood, wind and water. Gordie Miller was chair of the hosting committee which included liaison with the Canadian Coast Guard, City, Province and the Charlottetown Yacht Club. The Club had re-built the west wharf and put in facilities including building 70 floats to accommodate the more than 100 boats that arrived as part of the race. The awards were presented at a special event a the Confederation Centre of the Arts by federal Minister Charles LaPointe representing the Governor General, PEI premier Jim Lea and Lt. Governor J.D. Doiron.

It was the biggest and most prestigious sailing event ever to take place in Charlottetown and there has been nothing like it since. Those who participated will never forget it.

I was fortunate to be entrusted with a file of news clippings preserved by one member of the Island crew.  Thanks to the efforts of Chris Brittan and others there was lots of local press coverage and the reporting was also carried elsewhere.  The file of clippings with lots more details can be accessed by clicking on Labatt001. This is a large file in pdf format and will take time to load. You will also need a pdf reader such as Adobie.

1000 chicken dinners for 1st Shediac-Charlottetown race in 1964

Charlottetown Guardian 10 August 1964 page 5.

This was the first of what was to become an annual event.  The race which started on Friday evening had been avidly covered by the Guardian. The Saturday morning paper had a report from a special correspondent in Shediac who gave the positions as of the onset of  darkness and Thrumcap, owned by Dr. L.A. Johnston of Montague was in the lead. A crowd of from 1500 to 2000 had been on hand at Shediac to view the start.

Four trophies were presented at the race finish

  • Oland Cup – first boat to finish
  • Premier’s Cup – winner on corrected time
  • Irwin Printing Trophy (Mac Irwin Cup) – first Island boat
  • Carmen Dixon Cup – first New Brunswick boat

I wonder how many of these trophies are still in existence.