Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Bluenose's Race With Schooner Yachts: Schooner Days CCVI (206)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 21 Sep 1935
Full Text
Bluenose's Race With Schooner Yachts
Schooner Days CCVI (206)


POOR Bluenose has limped back to Plymouth, we are told, after a five-day mauling from the Atlantic on her intended return to Canada. The cable which broke this sad news sounded much like the despatch which told of the "capsizing" of the yacht Yankee a few weeks ago! If Bluenose's masts were "broken," as related, she would not be able to get back to Plymouth unless she were towed. As for the "grizzling" of Capt. Angus Walters, it, if true, is a remarkable example of the aging effects of a summer in England—as those who recall the cheerful boyish countenance of Capt. Walters here last summer will agree.

It has often been claimed for Bluenose — and for every other smart commercial schooner—that if she only had a chance she would show yachtsmen the way home. There is an element of truth in this. Bluenose and the fine fleet of fishing schooners of which she is the top-notcher are capable of high sustained speed, and in some conditions, such as strong following breezes, they can show their heels to the best of such yachts as we have on Lake Ontario. The same could be said of many of the vessels which thronged the lakes in schooner days. I have never, for example, heard of a yacht equalling the time of the 300-ton schooner Dauntless, of Oakville, thirteen hours from Kingston to Toronto.

The reason for this is a very simple one: Bluenose and her sisters are much longer on the waterline, and spread much more sail, than any yacht on the Great Lakes. In sailing, length always means speed when other conditions are equal.

Bluenose's ocean passage from Halifax to Plymouth was far from a record maker. It was not nearly as hard as the passages of the yacht Stormy Weather and Dorade for the much greater distance from New York to Bergen, although Bluenose is three times as long on the waterline. This is not said to detract from the enduring glory of Bluenose's real achievements as champion fisherman and queen of the North Atlantic fleets. Her best friends are not those who make extravagant claims for her.

Commercial vessels like Bluenose never have the sails which add so much to the speed of yachts. A yacht has as many complete costumes as a lady of fashion, and even her working sails, corresponding to the lady's sports clothes, are tailor-made of superior materials. Westward which raced against Bluenose this summer, cannot use more than nine sails at once, but she has a wardrobe of thirty or forty, some silk, some cotton, some linen, and some mixtures. Bluenose, like all similar schooners, has eight working sails of coarse heavy canvas, which she uses all the time, and her only "change" is a three-cornered mainsail, about one-third the size of the working sail, which the fishermen call a Banks sail, and is used as a storm trysail for lying to in heavy weather, or shifting position on the fishing grounds. The bottom of a racing yacht is, from years of careful rubbing and polishing, vastly smoother than the heavily planked and caulked bottom of a commercial schooner, no matter how recently the latter has been cleaned and painted.

In England Bluenose had a chance to show what she could do against yachts of something like her size, and this is what happened, according to Arthur Lamsley in the Jersey Weekly Post.

Jersey was particularly interested in the race because T. B. F. Davis, owner of the schooner yacht Westward, is a Jerseyman. Mr. Davis is better known as a South African mining magnate, but, like Captain Angus Walters of the Bluenose, he is a practical sailor.

His acquaintance with Canadian fishermen dates back forty years, when he came out here as mate of a hundred ton Jersey schooner, laden with salt, and took home a cargo of dried cod. He has master's papers in steam and sail and is an old square-rigger.

To be independent of professional yacht sailors and yards which service yachts, Mr. Davis keeps a double watch, as it were, in his racing crew, and every man knows that another is ready to take his place, should he attempt a strike such as wrecked T. O. M. Sopwith's chances for the America's Cup. To keep this spare crew occupied and avoid hold-up prices Mr. Davis has his own shipyard in Jersey and his own sail-loft, and rigs and unrigs the Westward at his own wharf. Westward is a Hereshoff schooner yacht, older than the Bluenose and not quite as large. She has beaten Sopwith's Endeavour and the King's Britannia.

The prizes were a hundred-guinea cup, £50 and £25, donated by the Royal Thames Yacht Club. Bluenose got a free cleaning and overhaul and $125 cash for third prize, so she did not do so badly in her yachting, even if her display was not impressive.

This is what Mr. Lamley has to say of the race:

The five schooners entered were: Westward (320 tons), owned by the great-hearted sportsman, Mr. T. B. F. Davis; Altair (161 tons), owned by the Right Hon. Walter Runciman, president of the Board of Trade; Cetonia (295 tons), owned by Lord Stallbridge; Golden Hind (144 tons), owned by Commander J. S. Kitson, R.N.; and the Canadian fishing schooner Bluenose, under the command of Capt. Angus Waters, around about 300 tons.

Bluenose is not a yacht in the accepted sense, but on account of her skipper's loyalty and sportsmanship in coming over for the Jubilee Naval Review it was felt that if she were allowed to race with the other schooners round the Isle of Wight it would be a happy gesture.

Mr. T. A. Wall, managing director of J. Samuel White and Co., Ltd., builders of many famous naval destroyers, knowing that the fishermen had no money to pay for docking and cleaning, offered as a Jubilee gift to have Bluenose hauled up and cleaned ready for the race, an operation costing about £50. Furthermore, as the crew of Bluenose is far too small to race her hard, 20 young volunteer yachtsmen from the Island Sailing Club, Cowes, went on board the fishing schooner to lend her skipper a hand.

The schooner Westward was scratch, having to allow Bluenose 54 minutes for the whole course, Altair 1 hour 7 minutes 24 seconds, Golden Hind 1 hour 46 minutes 12 seconds, and Cetonia 1 hour 48 minutes 54 seconds. The volunteer crew were under the direction of Uffa Fox.

The start of the schooner race, on account of the light breeze, was not the slashing affair all of us had hoped should the wind have been half a gale of South Wester. It was picturesque, nevertheless, a lovely sight to the younger generation of yachting folk who have not had the opportunity of watching a race of this type.

All five big schooners were bunched together on the line just before gunfire, and I noticed the big racing schooner Westward, whose owner is far more used to the game than, his rivals, nosing up to the weather berth, astern of the others, Bluenose, whilst in a good position for the start, found the light air insufficient to give her any speed, whilst Golden Hind, in attempting to come up to the weather berth, had to come about as Westward had the right of way.

At gunfire the five schooners were edging towards the line with Cetonia dead on the line as the gun boomed, but with hardly any steerage way. Westward, coming up in the weather berth, glided away eastwards, eight seconds after the gun, and very soon opened out a fine lead which she gradually increased all day. Bluenose took 1 minute 14 seconds to cut the line, with Altair on her weather 29 seconds later. Golden Hind was three minutes late.

Racing down Spithead in the light south-westerly wind, close-hauled on the starboard tack, Westward was about half a mile ahead when she reached the open Channel and gybed round for the long leg from Culver Cliff, across Sandown Bay. Altair had kept her place, but Bluenose, finding the strength of the wind at the back of the island more to her liking, began to creep up. Cetonia did not seem too happy and eventually fell into last place off Bembridge Ledge.

At the back of the Isle of Wight the wind became more southerly and freshened, so with sheets eased and a friendly tide the fleet of schooners gathered speed. Westward still led, but the positions of Altair and Bluenose changed alternately; Altair taking the lead of the fishermen, only to lose it again when the fishermen made a fine tack.

Off St. Catherine's, however, when trying to hold her lead off Altair, Bluenose made another tack and stood too far inshore, and Altair, with Mr. Philip Runciman at her wheel, romped away into second place. At the Needles Westward had a winning lead, and although the wind now increased to a good sailing breeze, the schooners had now to contend with the last hour of the tide coming down the Solent. The three leaders, Westward, Altair and Bluenose, managed to sail slowly into the West Solent with Golden Hind and Cetonia left far behind.

Coming up Cowes Roads, on last of the ebb, Westward had about an hour's lead off Altair and Bluenose and was gradually increasing. In the evening light of a westerly sun, Mr. Davis' big schooner was magnificent sight, racing through the roads, with every square foot canvas bellied, even the spinnaker to a light southerly breeze.

The event had caused a good deal excitement in Cowes yachting circles and big crowds lined the anchored yachts, and the Marine Parade ashore, to watch the progress of the race. The main decks of the great battleship, Rodney, guardship to the Royal Yacht, were crowded with a thousand sailors, who must have been thrilled with the lovely sight of Westward as she passed, about 50 yards from them on the starboard hand.

Ashore, popular betting followed popular sentiment and was on Bluenose, but it was apparent to me she was outside her time allowance and when an hour afterwards we caught a glimpse of Altair coming off Egypt Point, with Bluenose five minutes astern, it was evident that the fishermen could only hope for a third prize, a really creditable achievement, considering the lightness of the weather conditions and that the gallant schooner could not in any stretch of imagination be called a yacht.

Coming into Spithead, Westward had the misfortune to strike another patch of calm, which exercised all the patience of her owner and her skipper, Captain Diaper, to successfully sail through. Westward's time allowances to her rivals allowed very little to spare if she were to win especially as Altair was then creeping through Cowes Roads.

To the great relief of those aboard Westward a little fresh southerly breeze caught her between the masts a mile from the finishing line andi enabled her to finish just before 7 o'clock, having been nearly eight hours racing. Altair was second home with Bluenose only five minutes astern. Golden Hind was over two hours afterwards and I watched her racing through Cowes Road during sunset. Cetonia gave up.

The result of the schooner race was: -

Finishing Corrected

Times Times
H. M. S. H. M. S.
1 Westward 6 51 14 6 51 14
2 Altair 8 14 43 7 7 19
3 Bluenose 8 20 38 7 26 38
Golden Hind 9 47 42 8 1 36
Cetonia … Gave up

Westward, once named the Hamburg, was built at Bristol, R.I., in 1910, by Herreshoff Manufacturing Co. and is registered at the Port of Durban, in South Africa, where Mr. Davis has interests. Her dimensions are: length over all 135 feet; at waterline, 96.1; overall breadth 27.1; draft 16.9; depth from top of floor to top of beam 14.5; net tonnage, 168.81; gross tonnage, 179.91.

Bluenose, built at Lunenburg, N.S., in 1920, is 143 feet over all, and 116 feet at the waterline; 27 feet 6 inches beam and sixteen feet draught in full racing ballast. Her registered tonnage is given as 99, a favorite figure with fishermen. She has carried 257 tons of dried fish in her winter voyage to the West Indies.

The lake schooner Dauntless, to which reference has been made, was 100 feet long on deck, 21 feet; beam, nine feet draught loaded, registered about 130 tons and carried 300 tons of coal.




"Schooner Days," those ever popular and well read articles published by The Evening Telegram and written by Mr. C. H. J. Snider, the associate editor, are looked forward to each week by the old sailors of Goderich that sailed before the mast on the Great Lakes in the days gone by.

The McDonalds, Mathiesons, Dobsons, McCauleys, McLeans, and many more old lake captains and sailors from Tobermory to Goderich—enjoy Mr. Snider's articles, "Schooner Days," which bring back happy memories of the past. Red McDonald of Goderich had Searchlight spend more than two hours at his fish house on Sunday reading Schooner Days to him. I said, "Red, are you listening?" he said, "You bet; don't stop, that's a great story." Red had been collecting articles from Schooner Days for many weeks and it would have done Mr. Snider good to see the bunch of old sailors listening to his articles at Red McDonald's fish house.


In the Goderich Star




Carrying spinnaker, balloon staysail and clubtopsail, sailed absent from the wardrobe of Bluenose.

THE BLUENOSE UNDER ALL RACING SAIL—A picture snapped off Halifax in the international fishermen's races.

ENDEAVOUR, WESTWARD and YANKEE racing in English waters this summer.

Snider, C. H. J.
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Date of Publication
21 Sep 1935
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  • England, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 50.75764 Longitude: -1.30624
  • England, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 50.66571 Longitude: -1.10547
  • England, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 50.66308 Longitude: -1.58579
  • England, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 50.76162 Longitude: -1.14173
  • England, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 50.57563 Longitude: -1.29777
  • England, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 50.75 Longitude: -1.41667
Richard Palmer
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Bluenose's Race With Schooner Yachts: Schooner Days CCVI (206)