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This Month in NYC History – July
June 27th, 2015 @ 01:50 PM EST by Newsletter Author

JULY 29, 1890 – date of the first-ever Club regatta. Held by the West End Boat Club, the Club’s name prior to incorporation in 1894, the event was a large one for a new organization. The race committee started the five-mile race on shore from the head of the Queen’s Wharf at the foot of Bathurst Street. The fleet was divided into three classes and the winners were: 1st class, Shamrock, a well known area Mackinaw design skippered by Dennis Doyle; 2nd class, Petrel, Charles Spanner and 3rd class Olive sailed by Walter Spanner.

The Globe reported, “The boats made good time rounding the buoy and all came in without incident. Refreshments were served in the boathouse, where a large number of members’ lady friends were assembled. This was followed by a tug of war and several other games. Later several rowing races took place with the most interesting being the ladies race in which there were seven starters. Miss Bessie Spanner, pulling a splendid stroke, came in well ahead.”

July 1893 – The Lake Skiff Sailing Association (LSSA) was founded to provide small class boats on Lake Ontario with the same organizational and event capabilities as the Lake Yacht Racing Association (LYRA) provided for the large yachts. The charter member clubs were: the National Yacht Club under its founding name of the West End Boat Club, the Neptune Boating Club, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and Toronto Sailing Skiff Club. Still in operation today, the LSSA is one of the longest standing sailing organizations in existence in North America.

July 1903 – The water lot where National’s clubhouse was located was deemed unnecessary to future needs by its owners, the Federal Government. Without notice the government sold the lot to cement company interests forcing the Club to develop immediate plans to relocate the clubhouse. With gargantuan effort by members, the structure was moved a couple hundred yards during the following winter to the east side of the Queen’s Wharf.

July 1926 – Tom Turrall, NYC’s Rear Commodore and long-time dinghy champion and one-armed dinghy sailor, was selected to represent Canada against the USA defender in the Douglas Cup challenge series held in Rochester. This was significant as the Douglas was the most important event in dinghy sailing on Lake Ontario. (Pictured here circa 1960, Turrall had lost his left arm to a shot gun blast in a 1910 hunting accident.)

Supported by a large contingent of NYC members at the event, sailing was at first postponed by the Committee due to stormy weather when no local boats would leave port. After a delay, the Canadian committee representative insisted the boats be sent out and got his way. Turrall excelled in strong winds and with Phil Caney, his “heavy weather crew”, a single reef and hiking with “nothing in the boat but their boots” in the first race, they powered to windward getting a 400 yard lead in less than a mile. “With the Yankee craft sagging off to leeward and buried and wallowing in the heavy seas,” it was Turrall’s race to lose. The 1st race was settled when on the final windward leg, the America defender buried her bow, and half filled with water, became unmanageable and then went over.

The 2nd race was held over to the next day. In somewhat more moderate air, both boats could be sailed with full canvas. The NYC crew squared away for the 1st mark and soon had a long lead. The Americans quickly realized they were hopelessly beaten. Turrall claimed the trophy while the NYC onlookers wrecked their tonsils cheering.

Tom "Storm King" Turrall Turrall returned to Canada touted in the media as the famous Storm King – a name of honour used by fellow Canadian sailors that lives on in NYC’s annals. Tom “Storm King” Turrall was elected posthumously to the Canadian Dinghy Hall of Fame in 2013.

July 1950 – The season started with a new Lightning Class fleet on the race course consisting of seven boats. Eager to encourage the development of new one-design boats in the post WWII recovery period, Commodore Gibson had set out in 1948 to grow competitive classes in the Club beyond dinghies and to develop interest in sailing among young teens. The Sailing Committee selected Lightnings. The Club would pay half of the cost of each boat with the remainder being paid by a member who would use the boat on weekends and evenings. The youth would sail the boats during the day. Ownership passed to the individual buyers when the Club share was written off for depreciation. Youth between the ages of 14 and 16 were recruited for the program launch in 1949. The Board approved the cooperative building program with Rear Commodore Arne Gorman overseeing the venture. He collected names of persons interested in building the boats over the coming winter in the Club facilities, and four applications were on file in less than a month. The boat building program started in earnest and continued for two years.

This was the informal start to the Junior Club, and a unique program that fostered an interest in sailing and racing for many who took up the sport and became lifelong members. The Lightning fleet remained an active racing entity at the Club into the 1960s.

Wayne Mullins, Past Commodore and NYC Honorary Historian