Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Who Won the Race? Lady or the Navy?: Schooner Days MCLXXXVIII (1188)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 2 Oct 1954
Full Text
Who Won the Race? Lady or the Navy?
Schooner Days MCLXXXVIII (1188)

by C. H. J. Snider

"HECK! yell 250,000 readers of Schooner Days (at least one, after which the comptometer seized up, it was running so hot). "What do you mean by quitting in the middle of a race? You were telling about racing across the tide-torn Pentland Firth in 14-ft dinghies, and while we were paying double time to know the result you stopped in your tracks with "then pushing them back across." Just like that. So what?"

Brother! Brethren! You don't know the half of it. I mean the race. It wasn't my fault, and it wasn't a typographical error, and I wasn't misquoted. In fact from there on I wasn't quoted at all, as you justly complain.

I cannot refund your two big nickels, for I never got them. All I can do in expiation of error not my own is to tell you what did happen to the race I saw from Scrabster in Caithness to Long Hope in Hoy in the Orkneys, on July 9, 1954.

Whether you remember or not, it was a challenge race, between Mrs. Rosemary Vickers, of Banniskirk in Scotland and Commander Errol Bruce, RN, resident naval officer at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys. Mrs. Vickers, commodore of the Scrabster Yacht Club, challenged the naval commander after a lecture on single-handing, to a race across the Pentland maelstrom in 14-footers—and the Navy couldn't say No to a lady.

Starting where I did not leave off though what Was printed did let us hear the conclusion of the matter: "The swirling ebb and flood tides made their course an "S" reversed, first carrying them Atlanticwards, then pushing them back across the Firth. Towards the Atlantic they lost one another in a seafog sucked up by the sun's strong rays.

"That was my uncomfortable moment." said commander Bruce afterwards. "So lonely. No horizon, no sky, no radar, no visible competitor. I had plenty of sandwiches aboard, but was too busy for a bite, hiking out to keep the dinghy sailing at her best."

"I was never anxious," Mrs. Vickers contributed, "but I could not touch the shipload of food I brought along. I was so busy all the time making the most of the wind. It was commander Bruce's naval gallantry that saved me from being beaten, I'm sure."

They emerged from the seafog close together. And, would you believe it?—they actually finished beam-and-beam, a dead heat, nothing either way, a rarity in sailing performance. They started at noon in Scotland and finished on the tick of 5.32 p.m., nose and nose on the line off the island of Hoy at Long Hope. Fast going for dinghies, for the distance by airline was 21 miles, and by the course they made nearer thirty. Smart little boats! Smart sailors! And lucky!!!.

That's what was not printed. I thank you.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
2 Oct 1954
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Scotland, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 58.80347 Longitude: -3.19633
  • Scotland, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 58.72886 Longitude: -3.12264
  • Scotland, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 58.61285 Longitude: -3.54573
Richard Palmer
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Who Won the Race? Lady or the Navy?: Schooner Days MCLXXXVIII (1188)