Tag Archives: Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait

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.


Commodore Morris Goes to Shediac

In the mid and late 1930’s Fred Morris was perhaps the Charlottetown Yacht Club’s biggest booster. He had been very much involved with breathing life back into the club which had been somewhat dormant in the first half of the decade and he was elected Commodore of the revived organization.  But his interests did not end at the mouth of the harbour and he, along with CYC secretary Mac Irwin, was also interested in ensuring the success of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait.  In August 1936 the first of the YRANS regattas took place in Shediac and Morris took the Elizabeth up the Strait to the event. On his return from the New Brunswick port Morris shared his experiences with the readers of the Guardian.


Elizabeth, owned by Commodore Morris, preparing to tow the Mic

The Trip Up the Strait

I have been asked to tell of our trip to Shediac so here goes. The Cruiser Elizabeth with her crew of three and the Commodore aboard left Charlottetown Wednesday at about 4 a.m. As passengers we carried Capt.Ken MacDonald, the Charlie Chaplin of the waterfront, Mr. Simon Paoli, skipper of the Mic, Mr, Gordon Coffin, skipper of the Onawa, Mr. Coffin Sr. a yachting enthusiast, and we had the two boats, the Mic and Onawa in tow. Fair weather greeted us for a while but after the bit the weatherman got somewhat fractious and decided we had had enough petting for a while. He therefore started up a good lively sea and the boats commenced to dance.

Off Crapaud the Onawa took to drinking more water than was good for her and commenced to settle down in the fluid. Gordon thinking to bail her out (not out of jail), started across the Mic to board her. We slowed down for the operation with the result she gently laid her mast on the water, then under the water and finally started to sink stern first. when she was through this operation all we could see of her was her nose above water. Things did not look too good. Her owner decided we’d better cut her adrift, as she was liable to damage the other boat. but our skipper says no, we will try a little speed on her. Soon we started going up faster and faster, and soon her mast began to rise and she rose till she was on an even keel. A breath of relief was given by all. We hot-footed it into Crapaud where when we slowed up at the wharf the Onawa promptly sunk again. But she was taken up to the wharf, her mast removed and then hauled to shallow water, bailed out, the pulled up high and dry and repaired as well as out limited shipyard equipment would admit.  Having got her in seaworthy shape again with the mast bound down along her decks, we started out from Crapaud in a much reduced sea, and drew into Tormentine about 7 p.m.  Here we greeted our friend Commodore McKeigan of the Pictou Yacht Club who had arrived with four boats from Pictou, having lost one on the way, the big Cantly Yawl, which, after breaking the tow rope two or three times elected to make her way to Shediac under sail. Commodore McKeigan reported quite a mix up down somewhere Wood Islands but he is too good an old salt to get into something he cannot finish.

Chasing a Deer

We pulled out of Tormentine at 3 a.m. and found a beautiful morning ahead of us. While off Cape Bauld we saw a familiar looking cruiser going round and round in circles close to land , and through our binoculars we recognized Jim Currie’s boat and decided he needed some supervision. So we moved in to see why the circles. It looked like steering trouble to us.  As we drew alongside we inquired just what was happening and were told that they were chasing a deer.  Well anyone telling you they were chasing a deer in Northumberland Straits you’re apt to look at with a certain degree of curiosity, and thinking I had got a clue to the situation I asked what sort of liquor he had on board. This insinuation was indignantly repudiated and the members of his crew loudly declared that there was a deer there all right and they all but got a noose over his head when their engine took pity on the deer and stopped. Well, we kind of believed them by this time, though we didn’t see any deer and told then to throw their anchors and wait for us until we left our tow in Shediac and we would come back for them which we did. Coming pout of Shediac Harbor on our errand of mercy the first thing we saw was the Mac sailing along under Skipper King and making for Shediac Harbor. The watchful secretary of the C.Y.C. [Mac Irwin] had spotted the Deerslayer and cast his tow, the Mac, adrift to shift for himself while he put on the larger tow line necessary for the bigger catch. Well, we took the deerslayer over and started back arriving all safely. And such a scene! Five or six big Charlottetown cruisers all anchored in a bunch shouting greetings of various sorts to each other, two Montague yachts, two Charlottetown yachts, innumerable motor boats, yachts etc. from Summerside, also yachts hailing from Borden and Tormentine presenting a scene long to be remembered.  

Shediac Hospitality

The hospitality of the Shediac Club was unlimited.  Its members laboured so that we might have everything we desired Their fine clubhouse was thrown open to us all and the whole affair was a gigantic success. Amazement was expressed by old salts by the sight of 42 boats racing on the harbour at once and the whole meet passed without the raising of a protest flag. Not a protest or dispute of any kind slowed the spirit that prevailed among these men, and I might add, women for the boat sailed by the Sumner sisters and Miss Wood aroused such excitement and admiration through their very apparent seamanship that a storm of applause echoed through the clubhouse on their receiving a lovely cup for just this quality.

Well, we were sorry it was over, but all good times must come to an end, so we proposed to sail at 12 o’clock Saturday night for home. But a few feet of tow rope in our propeller made us change our minds, and not before Jack Hearn played diver, mind you with his wrist-watch on, which later he dove into a cup of oil, not till then, did we get away. A glorious run right through to Charlottetown followed and the others came along as the spirit moved them, all to sit on the stringers of Pownal wharf and go mover it again, and when your memory slipped Charlie Chaplin would tell you all about it and slip no cogs. All we hope is that someday in the near future we can give Charlottetown the thrill that Shediac must have had over this regatta. and when we get this aggregation over here the citizens generally will help us to give them a real Island welcome.  

CYC takes Honours in 1st Post-War Regatta held in Charlottetown

Snipes at CYC

Snipes racing at Charlottetown Yacht Club – Mac Irwin photo

Yacht racing in Charlottetown Harbour was greatly reduced during World War II. Although there was local racing at the CYC and the social events continued, swelled in many cases by the visiting military personnel training in Charlottetown the inter-club races under the auspices of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait (YRANS) appears to have been suspended after the 1942 regatta in Shediac.

In 1946 the series returned and a YRANS regatta was held in Shediac which included a contingent of Charlottetown sailors. The 1947 Regatta was the first to be held in Charlottetown since 1938 and there was a high level of anticipation as the eighth of August approached. Boats were entered from clubs along Northumberland Strait as well as from the Royal Kennebecassis Yacht Club in Saint John. The latter boats were the first of the out-of province boats to arrive with one of the large class three yachts and two snipes being trucked from the New Brunswick Club.

Brant #2

Government Steamer Brant was often used to carry racing yachts between clubs for regattas

Boats from both Shediac and Summerside arrived on the morning of the two-day regatta. The smaller boats such as snipes had been carried on the Dominion Government Steamer Brant and the larger sail boats had accompanied the steamer in convoy. The services of the steamer had been secured through the influence of Prince County M.P., J. Watson MacNaught.  With ten boats from the host club, five from each of Shediac and Pictou, four from Summerside and three from Saint John there were a total of twenty-seven boats in the five classes of the regatta, ten in the snipe Class alone.

"Scout" sailed by Billie Bourke, crewed by Elaine Porter PARO HF.87.109.9

“Scout” sailed by Billie Bourke, crewed by Elaine Porter
PARO HF.87.109.9

The snipe class races were the most closely contested. One of the Saint John boats, the Halcyon skippered by Don Holder, was the reigning Northumberland Straits champion but he faced plenty of competition. After the two days of racing, Charlottetown skipper Billie Bourke was the new champion for the class with her boat Scout. A Saint John boat was second and two more Charlottetown snipes, George Wood’s Wren, and Wings, helmed by Ann Sadler, were tied for third.

Charlottetown boats also led other classes. In class 3 Mac Irwin’s Zenith was the winner while class 2 honours were taken by Louis McMurrer in his boat Aeolus. Mac Irwin also took the trophy for the highest total points scored with Billie Bourke a close second.  Jack Johnston, also from Charlottetown, sailing in Jeep, won the handicap race. Cherry MacGregor of Pictou won a special trophy for combined sportsmanship and seamanship. Owing to the many excellent finishes by CYC skippers the Charlottetown Yacht Club was awarded the overall Regatta trophy.

Following the Saturday races a banquet was held for all participants at the Charlottetown Hotel with CYC vice-Commodore K.M. Martin presiding. Everyone then returned to the Yacht Club facilities for the presentation of trophies and awards sponsored by local merchants and supporters, followed by a dance for club members and their guests with music by John Sterns and his band.