‘Zawisza Czarny’ – The Polish-Canadian Yachting Club

Zawisza Czarny Logo

Author: Katherine Stone

As things are always better in the Bahamas, especially during Canadian winters, so too are things done better with friends.

My most memorable travel moments have been with friends.Even if the accommodations, travel mishaps, and weather were not the greatest – the friends were. You wait all winter to see your boating friends and then set off on cruising adventures, memorable races, or Wednesday night around-the-beer can races – all activities that revolve around friends. However, I do remember a tale from the entertainer at Jost Van Dyke, Caribbean, where a couple set out with their best friends, the Finklesteins, only to discover that at the end of the cruise, they were no longer friends. Sorry, I digress…(sigh).

Where I meant to go was that boating clubs often are formed with best friends who find other like-minded souls who enjoy the same things that they do. As I found out researchingPendrell Sound Yacht Club several years ago, people don’t necessarily need to have a location or a clubhouse, they just get together to enjoy social events and being on the water.

When emigrating to Canada, some immigrants decide to leave their old heritage behind while others find like-minded immigrants who want to maintain their way of life, culture, language, and sea-faring ways. Such was the case for the Polish-Canadian Yachting Club, ‘ZawiszaCzarny’ (pronounce the “czar” as in “charm” and the “y” as in “ready”), which was formed in 1996 by a small group of Polish sailors from Hamilton, Ontario, who had a vision to bring together Polish sailors who were already sailing in Canadian clubs to share Polish traditions and teachings. They chose Zawisza Czarny as their name after the famous Polish knight who lived from 1375 to 1428 and the great Polish Tall Ship. Not only was this knight brave and skillful, but also his name was synonymous with the word “trustworthy.”

It became evident very quickly thereafter that the club would focus on four principles: Cruises, Racing, Tall Ships, and the Sailor’s Life on Dry Land.


Climbing The RiggingCruises
Cruises were first organized on Lake Ontario, expanding quickly to Caribbean and Mediterranean waters. The culmination was a trip to Greece in 2010, when seven chartered boats went to sail the Cyclades. Croatia, Spain, and Sicily followed,and from this grew the idea of having an annuallarge gathering of Polish sailors from all corners of the world. Then came the “Wagner Sailing Rally” in 2012, 2015, and February 2018. The rally is named after the first Polish yachtsman, Wladek Wagner, who sailed around the worldand then settled in the British Virgin Islands, where he spent a great deal of time developing the territory. The rally brings together Polish crews from Germany, United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Poland,and Canada, to enjoy sailing in a 50-boat flotilla from island to island, beach to beach, and bar to bar. Being the first one at the destination is half the fun – enjoying the swimming, snorkeling, and full moon parties completes the package.


The nextprinciple is racing, of which they are most proud. Of honourable mention are members placing first in the 2007 Heineken Regatta and first on ‘Fazisi’in the 2009 ‘Operation Sail’ from Charleston to Boston. Also of note are the numerous times that ‘Jaeger,’ ‘Zoom,’ and ‘Husaria’ have won the Lake Ontario 300 (overall and in division) and Susan Hood Trophy Races. The J/24 ‘Drivers Wanted,’helmed by Ted Bartlewski, has also won many Ontario and Canadian Championships and just recently placed sixth at the DriveHG 2017 J/24 Worlds held at Port Credit Yacht Club. There is also the annual ‘Zawisza Cup’ and an annual long-distance race named in memory of a great friend to many and accomplished sailor, Marek Gosieniecki, held from Bronte Harbour. Every year at this regatta, a fundraiser is organized to help blind sailors in conjunction with Blind Sailing Canada in Toronto and Poland. Quite an accomplishment for a small group of ‘ZawiszaCzarny’ club racers!


Tall Ships
The third principle is sailing on Tall Ships – an opportunity of a lifetime that many of us envy. With their connection to sail training organizations in Poland, this old fashioned, well-organized type of sail training is very different than our modern-day race training. The ships ‘Pogoria,’ ‘ZawiszaCzarny,’ ‘Kapt. Borchard,’ and ‘Fryderyk Chopin,’ are all Polish vessels well known in the Tall Ship community. Living with a crew of 50 aboard a tall ship requires discipline, night watches, hoisting and trimming sails without winches, and climbing yardarms. Certainly, an adventure that brings together sailors who will become life-long friends.


Drivers WantedSailor’s Life on Dry Land
The final principleI saved for last because it is something that we all enjoy doing – the sailor’s life on dry land with parties, sailors’ balls, and music festivals (lovingly referred to as Shanties). The elegant Captain’s Ball is held yearly to wrap up the season with awards, dinner, music, dancing, and a great occasion to meet people from the Golden Horseshoe area and reminisce with sailor stories. At least twice a year, Shanties music concerts are organized with local talent and the best performers are invited from Poland.

First Place TeamTo recognize their promotion of 15 years of club activities; cultivating Polish traditions and the flag abroad; co-operation with Polish, Canadian, and American sailors; and their racing successes and interesting cruises, the Polish Yachting Association awarded ‘ZawiszaCzarny’ the ‘Voyage of the Year and Silver Sextant 2011’ and then another special award in 2013.The Polish Yachting Association of North American (PYANA), located in Chicago, was founded in 1999 during a meeting on the 30-year anniversary of Joseph Conrad Yacht Club. The meeting was attended by the secretary general of the Polish Sailing Association and consists of five Polish nautical clubs:

• Polish-Canadian Sailing Club ‘ZawiszaCzarny’
• Polish-Canadian Yacht Club ‘White Sail’
• Polish Sailing Club in New York
• InterProSailing Team Chicago
• Yacht Club of Poland, San Francisco

The Association promotes the consolidation and unification of Polish-American sailing in North America. It implements joint sailing enterprises and helps with co-operation, development, and organization of individual clubs. The PYANA promotes the culture and maritime traditions of the United States, Canada, and Poland.

Jerry Bulkowski,a former Commodore of the club andan organizer of Polish sailing, Captain’s Balls, and regattas, related the very interesting story below to which we should all take note if we would like to win races.

Tall ShipAt the Heineken Regatta,his Polish crew were having breakfast on the day of registration. Sitting next to them was Mike Sanderson, winner of recent Volvo Ocean Race. Of course,Jerry just had to introduce himself and start a conversation. Mike even gave Jerry advice on how to win the regatta – “follow me very closely.”Later that evening, there was an auction for a place on ‘ABM Amro’ for the first around the island race. Jerry just HAD to win this. How else could he get a place on the winning boat?The bidding started slowly in $100 increments and he almost got it.Fortunately,his friends stopped him when they noticed that he was serious and going to leave them in the first race.

Zawisza Czarny MembersAlthough disappointed, the next morning started the round the island race in breezy conditions, which picked up his spirits. Mike’s advice – “follow me” – didn’t work, as they soon disappeared. Then they were distracted following a crew of topless Dutch girls. Regretfully, they decided to leave that distraction and sail as fast as they could. Then they encountered some steering system and main sheet problems.When the race finished, they were all in a pretty gloomy mood. To their surprise, after a few beers to console themselves,they found out that they had won their division! Strategy for the next two races: No distractions and keep an eye on the competition. It paid off – they won the regatta! At the closing ceremony, Mike congratulated the crew and admitted that winning the race was better than buying a place on his boat.

Jerry finished off by saying, “Anybody interested in sailing and good times is welcome in our club. Knowledge of Polish language is not required, although it may be helpful after a few beers or rum drinks. If you have a good attitude we will teach you the rest.”

Sounds like a good invitation to me!


Meeting Place:
Polish National Union of Canada Hall
2316 Fairview Street
Burlington, ON L7R 2E4

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