Bay of Quinte Yacht Club

A Storm Approaches

Author: Catherine Stone

A storm approaches but all is safe in the harbour at BQYC.

With no more than 20 members and 11 yachts, the official records have 1876 as the original formation of the Bay of Quinte Yacht Club (BQYC). The Royal Canadian Yacht Club, Toronto Yacht Club, and the Oswego Yacht Club soon joined together with the BQYC to form the Lake Yacht Racing Association (LYRA). BQYC became the host of LYRA in August 1885. Just prior to that, a rather historic event took place with many of the members.

The America’s Cup (affectionately referred to as the Auld Mug) catches everyone’s eye every few years with its innovative boat and sail technology. As the oldest international sporting trophy, sailors and non-sailors alike flock to the event to view the spectacle. The challenge caught the eye of several yachtsmen at the BQYC, who issued a challenge to the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) in May 1881.

There was much work to be done, as the challenge wasn’t accepted until June and the racing set for September. Club member and yacht designer, Captain Alexander Cuthbert, was chosen to design the challenger, which would be named Atalantaafter the mythological maiden known for her racing ability. After many delays and a shortage of funds, she was launched only half equipped with a rough-hewn hull into the Bay of Quinte later that summer. On her way out of the bay and into the Erie Canal at Oswego, the crew worked tirelessly to complete the carpentry work.

Some Great Upwind Club SailingSome great upwind club sailing.

Upon arriving at the mouth of the canal, it was discovered that the yacht was 16 inches too wide! In a move of brilliance, the crew shifted the ballast of boulders and iron ore to one side, heeling the boat and allowing it to pass through the narrow locks. Coming out the other end, the ballast was shifted back, the mast stepped, and the sailing voyage continued on until they reached New York Harbour at the end of October. Understandably, the date of the first race was moved to November 8.

Shorthanded crew, poorly cut sails, and spars that were too big only added to the problems that would plague Atalanta throughout the series nicknamed the “fiasco challenge,” losing 0-2 to NYYC’s Mischief. However, it did lead to a change in the Cup’s Deed of Gift that all future challengers had to come to the event under sail!

Carrying on the tradition of involvement in the America’s Cup, a BQYC crew competed in the 2001 America’s Cup Jubilee Regatta in Cowes, England, finishing in the top third of the ‘Modern Class’ fleet, a much more respectable finish than in 1881. In the words of many members of BQYC, “it is unlikely that there will ever be such a regatta again. It was the experience of a lifetime and the crew were honoured to represent BQYC, and Canada, at such a great international sailing event!”

Unfortunately, activity at the BQYC lessened considerably in the early 1900s and dropped off completely with the start of World War I. A small resurgence happened between the two world wars and informal racing was recorded in the 1930s. Thankfully, interest was again spiked in 1951 by a group of local yachtsmen and a clubhouse constructed over a filled-in pool and bathhouse the following year. In the true spirit of a self-help club, which is still adhered to today, many hours of labour and donated materials came together to complete the project, and the club has never looked back.

Located at the mouth of the Moira River on the Bay of Quinte in Southern Ontario, the Anishinaabe (Mississaugas) made their village there in the 18th century. Later came fur traders and then the United Empire Loyalists who called it Singleton’s Creek and later Meyer’s Creek. Finally, after a visit by Lady Arabella Gore and her husband in 1816, the town settled on the name of Belleville. In 1832, with the arrival of Henry Corby (founder of H Corby Distillery), the town had reached a population of 2,000. Bootlegging during Prohibition in the United States was a huge source of income when large volumes of liquor were produced, shipped via boat from the Bay of Quinte to New York State, and then distributed. Many families in the Belleville areamade their fortunes in this business, which allowed them the leisure time and monetary means to partake in wonderful pastimes onsome of the best boating waters in Canada.

A Quiet EveningA quiet evening in the harbour

BQYC caters to the interests of both sail and power boats and their crews, who enjoy sail training, cruising, racing dinghies or keelboats, and the camaraderie of the social scene at the Long Reach Bar. There is a very active junior sail program for children aged 8-18 in optimists,RS Quest and Fevas, nutshells, club 420s, and lasers covering CanSail levels 1-6, Learn-to-Race, and Spinnaker & Trapeze. The Adult Learn-to-Sail program is held in both dinghies and keelboats on Monday evenings. To encourage further sailing and involvement in club activities, participants receive complimentary yacht club privileges, Learn-to-Sail fees credited towards membership, and BBQs following each evening sailing session. The non-sailing months are also packed with acoustic guitar jamming, yoga, line dancing, and pool or snooker. Tuesday night socials, pub nights, and Friday Member nights are very popular.

An Evening On The PatioAn evening on the patio of BQYC.

The backbone of the 250-member club is racing on Wednesday nights for some 30 boats in two spinnakers, one white sail, and one-design Shark divisions. It is also fortified with Saturday dinghy racing throughout the summer and into the fall,which is open to all sailors including non-members. Not to be outdone, the ladies have their own PHRF 7-race series on Thursday nights, which is hotly contested. Add to this several individual events such as the Trenton Warm-Up Race, Robb and Willis Cups, Round-the-County Race (circumnavigating Prince Edward county), the Ladies Long-distance Race, pursuit races, Quinte Quest Regatta for Optis and Lasers, and the Katie GrayRace. Let’s not forget the radio-controlled sailboat racing with the strict mini 12 class boats (one metre high and six kilos) running May to October.

The Long Reach Bar Ready For CustomersThe long reach bar ready for customers.

This year marks the 50thrunning of the Katie GrayRace, for which there is much competition. The race runs at the end of the summer from Belleville to Picton, where the bay narrows and spectating from the shore is a bonus. Fortyboats competed last year and the BQYC hopes to get 75 entries for the 50th anniversary. The race was named for the yacht Katie Gray, which wasagain designed by Captain Alexander Cuthbert in 1875. At only 27 feet in length, she weighed ten tonsand carried 2,000 lbs. of moveable Quinte boulders. As you can imagine, there was an army of young men that transferred those rocks from the leeward to the windward side when she tacked! The Katie Gray sailed the waters of Lake Ontario for 62 years and brought home considerable hardware. It was rumoured that fairly large sums of money were won and lost on her results over the years. Although she sank sometime after 1910, she was later raised after her ballast was removed, ending her career on the Napanee River in the late 1930s.

Junior Sailors Ready To RockJunior sailors ready to rock.

In the true spirit of sailors that will race in just about any conditions when it comes to continuing with tradition, the Katie Gray was raced in 2010 in the aftermath of hurricane force winds. According to the organizer, Andy Thomson, with winds sustained at 35 knots, one boat sank on the start line after an accidental jibe and another boat had to be pulled off the rocks by a truck when she went aground. Although only 10 out of the 30 boats who started actually finished, it sure made for great stories of equipment carnage and bravado at the Long Reach Bar after the race!

Why not see what the race is all about and join in on the fun! Registration opens on May 1 through the BQYC website

Bay of Quinte Yacht Club
86 South Front Street; PO Box 22171; Belleville, Ontario K8N 5V7;  613-966-5931


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