The society from which the present Royal Canadian Yacht Club has sprung was at first a boat club founded in 1850. Little, if anything, was done during that season or in the next, but in 1852 this society published its rules and regulations, and changed the name from Boat Club to that of the Toronto Yacht Club.
Prominent among these were Messrs. William Armstrong, C. E., John Arnold, Charles Heath, Thomas Shortiss, S. B. Harman (late City Treasurer); since deceased, Dr. Hodder, Major Magrath, and Capt. Fellows.
At the time this petition was presented it was not only thought to be presumptuous, but was greatly ridiculed by many, and prophesies were freely indulged in that Her Majesty would withhold her consent. It was not so, though, for early in August the following letter was received by the secretary of the club: --
SIR,--I am commanded by the Governor-General to inform you that His Excellency has received a despatch from Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies stating that he has laid before the Queen the petition of the members of the Canadian Yacht Club, praying that Her Majesty would be pleased to permit them to assume the style of "Royal,"and that
During the season of 1858 what is described as "a grand yacht race" took place in Toronto harbor on Saturday, July 10th. The competing vessels were the Canada, Prima Donna, Rivet, Sea Gull and Wave. The last-named started with the others, but returned almost at once, strong weather having set in. Only one yacht went over the course, the heavy weather having prevented buoys being laid off Mimico Point. Owing to this cause the result was disputed. The prize was a cup valued at £20 currency, or $80.
A second regatta took place at Toronto on Friday and Saturday, October 1st and 2nd. Two prizes were offered, the first of $240, to be competed for by first-class yachts; the other of $60 for vessels of inferior capacity. There were five entries for the first prize, namely, the Wanderer, the Coral, an American yacht, owned by Mr. J. Oades, of French Creek, New York; the Belle, of Kingston, the property of O. S. Gildersleeve; the Sea Gull, of Hamilton; and the Canada, like the Wanderer, a Toronto vessel. For the second race there were five entries also, namely, the Fairy, Fleda, Cygnet, Wave and Prima Donna.
The first race was won by the Coral, she heating all competitors by three minutes and seventeen seconds. The second was carried off by the Prima Donna, her time being one hour, fifty-four minutes and twenty seconds, that being eight minutes and
There were other races on the Saturday for yachts and open boats. That for the former class of vessels was again won by the Coral, more than twenty minutes ahead of all competitors. The prize was $150. In the open boat race for $50 the Flirt won, one minute and nine seconds ahead of her competitors, the Peerless, Saginaw and Lucknow
In 1859, on July 30th, two cups given by the commodore of the club were contended for on a course round a buoy at the far end of Toronto harbor, then outside the Island, doubling the harbor buoys' wharf, rounding a buoy outside Clindinning's in the lake, and home to the moorings, sailing i: side the buoys at the Queen's wharf. The competing yachts were the Prima Donna, S. Munro; the Wanderer, C. K. Romain; the Canada, S. Sherwood; and Water Lily, Captain Durie. These were for the first cup. For the second the yachts entered were the Storm Queen, Chas. Grasett; Wave, T. J. Robertson; Saginaw, Messrs. Cambie; and the Crinoline, J. Boulton. The Wanderer and Wave were the winning yachts respectively. It is satisfactory to learn that "at the close the members of the club dined together." It is to be hoped that the evening's amusement bore the morning's reflection.
The club made no very great progress nor did anything very remarkable for the next few years They held regattas with more or less regularity and kept themselves together, but did not achieve any great popularity or create any intense sensation.
In 1860 though the club showed that it was not remarkably active, it was anything but moribund. That was the year in which H. R. H , the Prince of Wales, paid his memorable visit to Canada. Of those who welcomed him on that occasion, there are not many remaining. It is more than a generation since, and while many have sought "fresh fields and pastures new," yet more have joined the ranks of the great and mute majority. A Toronto writer speaking of this period, very aptly remarks that
"When one comes to think of it, this was a somewhat momentous period in the world's history. The Franco-Austrian war had just terminated with the battles of Magenta and Solferino, and Garibaldi, heading the Sicilian revolt, had commenced that victorious march which brought about the birth of a new nation--Italia Una. The Chinese war was at its height, and the combined fleets of France and England lay in the Pehtang, while the troops roused the mandarins of Pekin, and came back with an indemnity of 8,000,000 taels. In the United States that fire was being kindled which, with the election of Lincoln in November, burst into a blaze, which nearly consumed the heart of a great people. These were truly stirring times.
The Prince arrived in Toronto by the steamer City of Kingston, of the Canadian Navigation Company's line, now known as the Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Company, on September 7th, and was most heartily and enthusiastically welcomed by the entire populace.
A regatta was arranged to take place on September 11th, and it was intended that the Prince should attend it, coming there from the railway station on his return from Collingwood, where he had been for a short visit.
The commodore of the club, Lieutenant Colonel Durie, the sometime commanding officer of the Queen's Own Rifles, as soon as the Prince was seated presented him with an address on behalf of the club, to which H. R. H. briefly replied.
On occasions such as these all royal addresses are of the same character and the replies made by their recipients are of the same stereotyped nature, so it is unnecessary to re-produce either the one or the other.
"While at the end of the wharf an incident occurred which was often afterwards recalled with a laugh. A kindly individual bustled up to His Royal Highness, saying, 'Take my umbrella, sir, at the same time presenting a shabby but prodigious gingham. The Prince laughingly declined the offer, and took shelter on the railway platform.
"The fleet, with wet sails flapping in the strong wind, presented a very stirring picture. A heavy sea from the south-west came tumbling through between the then distant island and the mainland, and the larger boats strained and tugged at their moorings like dogs at the leash, while the foam flecked waves broke over their bows, drenching their crews, who in their oilies looked the reverse of amateurs.
"What a flood of memories the old names recall! The old Rivet still serviceable, was then in her youth and was sailed by E. and S. Blake. The Canada, 25 tons, the largest thouh not the fastest of the fleet, was then the property of Alderman Sherwood. The Sea Gull, sailed by J. H. Maingay, of Hamilton, and the Arrow, by Mr. Wallace, of Cobourg, were about the size of the Rivet -- 17 tons -- while Commodore Durie's Water Lily and J. T. Robertson'sDart were two or three tons smaller.
"Of the second class -- 10 tons and under -- there were: Prima Donna, J. Hamilton, Toronto; Expert,Mr. Delany, Cobourg; Glance, G. Oliver, Cobourg, and Phantom, J. H. Perry, Whitby. These yachts were all of about 10 tons burthen, while the smaller of three or four tons, sailing in the same class were Surge,J. Metcalf, Hamilton; Mariner,Mr. Stinson, Hamilton, and Fairy, T. Bigby, of Toronto.
"The race was to Mimico, and necessitated a long beat against a heavy sea. Only a few managed to get over the course, and all suffered more or less. Canada ran aground; Water Lily and Dart lost bob and forestays, and Prima Donna carried away her peak halyard, so of the first class only two went over the course, Rivet being about 15 minutes ahead of Arrow. Glance won in the second class."
The Daily News, of London, England, published August 17th, 1861, thus speaks of the Prince of Wales' Cup, presented to the club:--"The challenge cup presented by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to this club is about one of the handsomest things of the kind that has yet been made. It consists of a vase in frosted silver, partly burnished, and will be competed for in September next. Two principal medallions in low relief illustrate an incident in the life of Columbus, in which the great discoverer quells his mutinous sailors, and the cession of a tract of land (afterwards called Pennsylvania) to William Penn. Two graceful female figures form the handles; the cover of the cup is surmounted by a figure of Britannia. The base is of ebony bearing two shields engraved with the badge of the Prince and the inscription. The manufacturers are Messrs Hunt and Roskell, of 156 New Bond street, silversmiths to the Queen and royal family."
Seven yachts started from where they were moored opposite the Club House. Eight had been entered, but one, the Phantom, of Whitby, failed to put in an appearance. These were the names of the competing yachts: The Wide Awake, Dart, Rivet, Irene, Arrow, Cygnet and Water Lily.
The race was won by the Wide Awake, a small boat of four tons burthen, built the Genesee river and owned by Mr. J. Elliott of Cobourg The following concise description of the day's proceedings from the Toronto Weekly Leader of September 13th. 1861, leaves one under the impression that on this occasion at any rate "the place to spend a happy day" was not in Toronto witnessing the R. C. Y. C. regatta. "There was nothing worthy of notice in the sailing of the yachts; the wind gave no opportunity for displaying those nice points of seamanship connected with a well-contested race, and the whole affair passed off very tamely."
In 1862 the race took place on September 8th from Toronto for the Prince of Wales' cup. It had been arranged previously that the course should extend from Toronto to Port Dalhousie and back, a total distance of about seventy miles, thus affording a good opportunity of developing the sailing powers of the crafts entered. These were seven, namely, the Gorilla, the property of Mr. Standley, of Cobourg; Rivet, Captain Elmsley, Toronto; Breeze, Dr. Hodder, Toronto; Glance, Mr. G. Hawke, Toronto; Wide Awake, Mr. Elliott, Cobourg, and the Arrow, Mr. Wallace, Cobourg. The cup was won by the Gorilla, her time being 6 hours, 46 minutes 25 seconds. The Rivet followed her in thirty minutes, and the Breeze, though third, was more than two hours behind. This was the second year a Cobourg yacht had carried off this cup, the Wide Awake, of the same place, having secured the trophy in 1861.
Since 1854 the club had steadily increased in the number of its members and its vessels, and in 1869 and 1870 built a large and commodious club house, nearly opposite the Parliament buildings, on Front St., Toronto.
Commodore--Dr. E. M. Hodder; Vice-Commodore--Mr. B. R. Clarkson; Captain --Mr J. H. G. Haggarty; Secretary--Mr. A. R. Bowell; Treasurer--Mr. Wm. Hope; Committee of Management--Messrs. G. M. Hawke,B. Harman and D. M. Defoe; of Sailing--Messrs. Wm. Armstrong, H. L. Hime and S. F. Holcomb; of Finance- Messrs. John Macnab and James E. Robertson. Auditor--Mr. C. Heath. The officers for the year were ex-officio members for all committees. The life members were Messrs. Robert Denison, F. S. Holcomb, Thomas Shortis, G. M. Hawke,F. H. Eccles, H. L. Hime, E. G. Leigh, B. R Clarkson and H. G. A. Allen, and the honorary members Messrs. Dr. Rae, Capt. Stupart, R.N.; Wm. Cooper, of London; J. Ettrick and Wm. Armstrong. The patrons of the club were H R H. the Prince of Wales, his Excellency the Governor-General, his Honor the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario and Viscount Bury.
For the race of 1870 the following yachts started, namely, Gorilla, Ida, Geraldine, Kestrel, Glance and Stella. The Gorilla came in first, followed closely by the Ida, but, according to the rules of the R.C. Y.C , the Ida being a smaller vessel than the Gorilla, should be allowed 9 1/2 minutes' time, so that she really won the race.
In 1872 Captain Gifford's yacht the Gorilla, of Cobourg, was again afloat, having been completely rebuilt and presented a remarkably neat appearance. The schooner yacht Geraldine was disposed of in 1872 to Mr. C. H. Sampson, who entirely refitted her.
A correspondent of the Globe writing from St. Catharines under date June 28, 1872, makes some very severe strictures on the R. C. Y. C. After giving many cases of neglect on the part of the club's officers he goes on to say, " I was informed that the Commodore wanted to sell his yacht, and the only officer owning a yacht besides him was Captain Gifford of Cobourg." After a few more caustic criticisms on the club and all connected therewith he brings his letter to an end thus, "The present officers had better resign and give way for better men. * * * The Royal Canadian Yacht Club is a disgrace and a shame to the name of yacht club. This is hard language I know but I only speak the truth and it is high time it was spoken."
In 1880 Mr. A. R. Boswell was successful with the Madcap; it must be confessed it is hard to connect Mr. Boswell with any "madcap" enterprise, though in this case it was so, and "facts are stubborn things."
During the season of 1893 the Zelma started in every race for which she was eligible and finished with an unbroken record of first places, notwithstanding that in many cases she had to compete with boats of double her own tonnage.
We do by virtue of the power and authority vested in us hereby warrant and authorize the Blue Ensign of Her Majesty's fleet, with a Crown in the fly, to be worn on board the respective vessels belonging to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club accordingly.
The club took possession of their new premises on the Island, opposite Toronto, immediately after the annual meeting on May 14th, 1881 Great satisfaction was expressed by the members at the accommodation provided and at the thorough manner in which the work had been carried out.
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This electronic edition is based on the original in the collection of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston.