Tag Archives: yacht racing

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.

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.


Fred Small’s Yacht Club photos

IMG_0746Fred and Jean Small were two of the earliest members of the Charlottetown Yacht Club and they continued to be active in the club well into their senior years. Fred was, in his latter, days one of the members of the verandah gang who presided over the waterfront dispensing wisdom and observations and Jean was active in what was then referred to as the “Ladies Aux”. Along with Mac Irwin and Hal Bourke and his family they were a constant at the Club.

After the passing of Fred and Jean a small collection of snapshots was presented to the PEI Public Archives and Records Office. For the most part unidentified, the photos provide a glimpse of the activities of the Club in the 1940s. While the snaps are of undistinguished quality without sharp focus they never the less give a taste of what was going on the warm summer days on the waterfront: scraping the bottom, racing, picnic excursions, but mostly just knocking about in boats.

The period was the heyday of the snipe although there were still a few of the Northumberland class 3 boats still sailing. Scout, Wings and Joke contested the placements in the harbour races of the half-dozen or so snipe fleet. There were a couple of small schooners. The Restless and the Roamer were the big motor boats in the fleet and served as committee boats, fleet tenders and picnic platforms.

The harbour background still saw coal boats at Pickard’s wharf next to the Yacht Club and the ferry Fairview can be spotted as part of the background in one of the pictures but there was a marked reduction in the number of steamers and coastal schooners visiting the port. The Yacht Club was the busiest place on the harbour. The new clubhouse and reconstructed wharves promised years of sailing pleasure and social activity. It was a simpler time.

It is not clear if the photos in the collection were taken by the Smalls or were presented to them. In either case they are a valuable record of the early years of the Charlottetown Yacht Club.

Click on any photo to enlarge the images and begin the slide show. I would be obliged if any viewers could give additional identification of the individuals and boats.