Local yacht club throws down sailing challenge 0
A 120-year-old trophy is up for grabs to some lucky Georgian Bay sailing crew -- if they are up to handling the challenge.
The Georgian Bay Cup is a collector's item that was purchased in 1888 by James Playfair as a prize for the inaugural Georgian Bay Regatta. As luck would have it, he won the race himself with his Mackinaw-style boat, theMaggieA, that very year.
TheMaggie Awas built for the Great Lakes shipping baron in 1885/86 by Patrick Doherty of Collingwood and was the fastest Mackinaw on Georgian Bay.
As the story goes there was quite a rivalry between the two harbour towns of Midland and Collingwood that dates back to that very first boat race -- a rivalry that some would like too spark again.
The antique silver is representative of Georgian Bay's rich racing history and now acts as a magnet to attract harbour communities to register for the June 27 sailing race; the winner will have possession of the cup for one year.
The race begins at 7 a.m. featuring two divisions-- Flying Sails and K-Force Trophy (non Flying Sails Division).
For the past few weeks the original Georgian Bay Cup has been on display as a tease at the Huronia Museum in Midland, but will be back in Collingwood after the first week of May.
According to Jamie Hunter, curator of the Huronia Museum, Playfair purchased the cup for $25, which was a considerable amount of money at the time.
"James Playfair had the cup made at Toronto Silver Plate Company Ltm. It was a quadruple silver plate numbered #1192 -- which means that is likely how many cups like it had been made," said Hunter, adding the trophy went missing after the inaugural race in 1888.
The cup resurfaced a couple of years ago after a collector in the States made contact with the Collingwood Yacht Club.
One of the members repurchased the club and had it refurbished.
"It is in remarkable shape -- a rare and unique trophy," said Hunter.
The original Georgian Bay Regatta took place after the fishing season was done and was a huge event drawing wagers from all around. It was a perfect race and course, demanding good seamanship since Georgian Bay has every kind of weather.
Collingwood Yacht Club member John Worts is the great nephew of James Playfair (who was his grandfather's brother), and wants to resurrect the race -- as well as the competitive spirit between Collingwood and Midland, as well as other Georgian Bay boating communities.
"The name Playfair is dovetailed to Georgian Bay sailing and synonymous to boating on Georgian Bay -- the name on the cup is what drew me to the project," said Worts. "I would like to foster the competition and are trying to get all of the communities involved.
"We had been running a challenge race, but we learned the history after we went down and got the cup and had it refurbished last year," he said. "We organized a race with the cup and the new name. We promoted it and got a good turnout -- there were 29 boats with a few from Midland Bay Sailing Club.
"We are hoping for more this year and to get a rivalry going again between Midland and Collingwood. If Midland should win they will be able to take the cup and put it in the museum for a year, but if Thornbury or some other community wins they will get to keep the cup for one year."
Worts says his club is trying to "bolster enthusiasm of waterfront activity and see more focus on harbour activity" as well as draw attention to the historical component.
"Playfair was a huge figure in Georgian
Bay transportation. All of the shore-based Georgian Bay towns have a related history with the shipyards in Collingwood and Midland and Owen Sound's Playfair fleet; they all have history connected to Playfair," said Worts, who has a boat named Playfair III.
As a sailing enthusiast, Hunter says Midland is certainly up for the challenge and has developed bragging rights to the cup since Playfair was Midland's best known entrepreneur.
"He started the Midland Boat Works and began building (a design based on) Watts' skiff fishing boats, and then later became involved in the Canada Steamship Lines," said Hunter.
There is an oil painting by W.S. Tagga
rt of Gananoque Ontario, of the Maggie Ain the Huronia Museum, showing the crew and James Playfair up the Eastern shore of Georgian Bay on a leisurely sail. Patrick Doherty, a Collingwood boat builder, began a lengthy tradition with Playfair and his companies up until Playfair established his own Midland Shipbuilding Ltd. in 1917.
The boats that were originally built by the Watts are generally referred to as Collingwood Skiffs, after the town where they located their boatyard. They had been building similar craft in Toronto for five years prior to the move to Collingwood.
The earliest Watts boats are about 20 feet long, sharp-sterned and equipped with one or two spritsails. They were quite light in construction, fast and powerful with shoal hulls, little drag to the keels and a keel almost parallel to the waterline.
William Watts' original model was soon enlarged and fitted with a long bowsprit and jib as well as the spritsails. Other builders, located both in Collingwood
and the other Georgian Bay towns, began to copy the Watts design; William Watts' brother Matthew also headed to Goderich in the early 1860s to build skiffs.
By the mid 1860s, fishing skiffs of the Collingwood type were common everywhere on Georgian Bay.
The 'Endurable I' in Collingwood is a replica of a Watts skiff design and is currently being restored.
The entry fee for the 2010 Georgian Bay Cup Sailing Race is $25 and registrations should be filed by email or phone to John Worts at 705-445-3548, or Ken Forsyth 705-446-2128. There will be a skipper's meeting on Saturday June 26 at 5 p.m., with a barbecue party to follow.
In the meantime Worts encourages all local sailors to follow the gleam of the beautiful Georgian Bay Cup when it returns to Collingwood and think about it sitting on a museum shelf in their community after the race this July.