1888 – On August 6th while sailing his yacht Alliance from Hamilton to Toronto, Charles F. Bunbury, one of the Club’s original founders, was caught in a series of sudden heavy squalls some five miles offshore from Hamilton Beach. He and his daughter, both experienced sailors, ably managed the boat through the first two squalls but the third blast was overpowering. The yacht capsized; they were able to save themselves by jumping into the main sail as the boat went over. For a while they were able to stand on the mainsail as it lay horizontally, but as the boat went over further they clung to the overturned hull. In hope that removing some weight would help right the boat, Charles worked to lighten the yacht, repeatedly swimming underneath. He succeeded in jettisoning several hundred pounds of ballast but to no avail as exhaustion set in.
An hour later the steamer Macassa was on her run home to Toronto from Hamilton when a passenger observed what they thought was a vessel in distress off in the distance. Captain Irving changed course after confirming through his spyglass it was overturned yacht further out in the lake. Shortly after Macassa was alongside the two crew still clinging to the overturned hull. After considerable trouble and much excitement among ship’s crew and passengers, including steamer’s crew diving off the steamer to assist. The two were rescued and comforted on board the steamer. Alliance was salvaged and later towed in by a steam launch.
That Bunbury survived the 1888 ordeal was very much to NYC’s future benefit. He:
- was an active racer in his skiff Star. He was founding member of the Lake Skiff Sailing Association (LSSA) in 1893 and represented the West End Boat Club/NYC as LSSA Vice President in 1893 and ’94.
- secured the Club’s 1st club house building from the City and RCYC in 1894 and worked with RCYC’s Commodore Boswell and City Planning Dept to have the building donated to the Club.
- served as the Club’s Captain in 1894 (modern day Rear Commodore/Vice Commodore Fleet)
- helped engineer the West End Boat Club’s transition to become the more pre-eminent National Yacht and Skiff Club; he authored the Club’s first Constitution in 1894.
1909 – It is often thought that women’s racing at the Club is a modern day event. Lost in history is the fact the National Yacht Club was a promoter of ladies racing almost from inception. As early as 1892, ladies were competing in Club events. NYC brought open ladies racing events to the fore in Toronto in August 1909 when the Club hosted the annual LSSA regatta and gave the Ladies their own dinghy fleet start. The event was open to boats from all LSSA clubs around Lake Ontario and had to be steered throughout the three-hour event by a lady. Three special prizes were presented to the winners. What is lost to history is the winners list for that event.
That women could be active racers remained a bone of contention for many men. Again NYC led the way and made racing rules history in Canada. NYC’s Commodore Harry Jones often raced his 24 footer Sneak with ladies as crew. At the August 1918 Ward’s Island Regatta, Frank Ward, the former event champion, protested Jones for carrying a woman as part of his crew of three on the basis that the rules called for a crew of four men in the class. The rules actually stated a “crew of four allowed”. The jury of Wm. Johnston of the LSSA, Alexandra Commodore McDowell and Lou Marsh of the Toronto Canoe Club (and also of NYC) decided that a woman was as eligible to sail as a man. This was the first time a woman’s position was officially defined in any sort of organized sailing in Canada.
Speaking of Lou Marsh – he was NYC’s Commodore of 1925, yachtsman and sportsman extraordinaire, sports editor of the Toronto Daily Star for whom the Canadian Athlete of the Year has been awarded since 1936. He passed away suddenly at age 57 that year. The streets of Toronto were lined with thousands for his funeral procession. Within the Club he received many accolades for his contribution to sailing and power boat racing including the creation of the Sea Flee fleet. One of the quirky things he loved was the fact that his NYC membership number was 13. The jinx number was at his request when he joined the Club at the turn of the century and was his pet speciality. In August of ’36 the Club retired the member number in his honour and for some years thereafter membership card #13 and a racing ticket were made out in his name at the start of each season.
Wayne Mullins, Past Commodore and NYC Honorary Historian