Nova Scotia Archives

Bluenose: A Canadian Icon

Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

In 1922, the Nova Scotia Elimination Races were scheduled for early October, off Halifax Harbour; the contestants were Bluenose, Canadia, Mahaska and the Margaret K. Smith. In the first race, Bluenose rounded the Inner Automatic Buoy on the wrong side, had to turn around, sail back and then pass again on the correct side—but still managed to finish the race a full seven minutes ahead of the nearest competitor, in an "astonishing display of speed."

The remaining two Elimination Races were canceled due to light winds, and so Bluenose proceeded to Gloucester to meet the American entry, the Henry Ford (Captain Clayton Morrissey). In the first Trophy Race, on 23 October, Bluenose beat the Ford by two-and-a-half minutes. In the second race, two days later, the Ford lost its foretopmast but the Race Committee nevertheless decided in favour of Bluenose. In the final race on 26 October, it was Bluenose—by nearly eight minutes.

The 1923 International Fishermen's Races were regarded as the most exciting and controversial of the entire series, and generated huge popular interest. It was in this year that Angus Walters met his match in Captain Ben Pine, skipper of the American contender, Columbia. In the first Trophy Race, held off Halifax on 29 October, Bluenose won—but by a whisker's breadth, measured as one minute and twenty seconds. As well, in the middle of the race, as Bluenose rushed to gain space and avoid grounding on shoals, it brushed up against the Columbia, hooked a dangling line, and for about a minute was actually towing the competition—all of which was captured in some very early aerial film footage.

In the second Trophy Race, held on 1 November, Bluenose won by two minutes and forty-five seconds—but as in the previous year, the schooner passed one of the harbour buoys on the wrong side and this time the judges awarded the race to Columbia. Walters, highly annoyed, refused to race a third time and sailed home to Lunenburg. The trophy remained with Bluenose by default and the prize money was split between the two crews; but bad feelings had set in and it would be seven years before they raced again.

In 1926, separate races were held in Halifax and Gloucester; otherwise, the two sides refused to meet. In Halifax, Bluenose sailed against the brand-new Haligonian—built the previous year in Shelburne, also designed by Roué, and thought to be fully Bluenose's equal. The race was a disappointment. Bluenose won handily in a challenge that sparked little excitement. Also, it was obvious that the long-standing rivalries and camaraderie between Lunenburgers and Gloucestermen served to salt and sharpen the racing event; without that extra international flavour, something was missing.

In 1930 a special race was held at Gloucester, this time for the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup—a sort of olive-branch held out to test the international waters. Ben Pine had a new schooner, the Gertrude L. Thebaud, a "light and winsome" vessel described as having "the air of a Boston debutante" and thought to be a real winner. In the first race Bluenose lost badly—in what was generally acknowledged as the worst showing of the schooner's entire career. It carried the second race, but lost the third one and limped back home to Lunenburg, defeated overall. Angus Walters was not pleased, but was nevertheless heard to say that he would not "cast any reflections to the 3 Gloucestermen on board as crew at the time, one who was handling the wheel."

In 1931 the International Fishermen's Race was finally revived, off Halifax and between the two arch-rivals, Bluenose and Thebaud. Excitement ran high, but the winds were light and the results disappointing. Bluenose won all three races, but the first was disallowed when both vessels exceeded the time limit, and only the third race—which Bluenose won by twelve minutes—was up to the usual standards. The Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet was beginning to show its age.


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Canadia entering harbour for elimination race, 1922
Date: 1922
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040041

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Schooner Bluenose
Date: 1922
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040042

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Schooner racing, 1922 Canadia 1922
Date: 1922
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040043

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Mahaska 1922
Date: 1922
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040044

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Margaret K. Smith 1922 Elimination Races
Date: 1922
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040045

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Bluenose & Henry Ford 1922
Date: 1922
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040047

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Zwicker and Company Ledger
Date: 1922
Credit: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Reference no.: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  FMA

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Captain Angus Walters at the wheel
Date: 1922
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Credit: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Reference no.: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  FMA

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Columbia 1923
Date: 1923
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040048

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Captains Ben Pine and Angus Walters
Date: ca. 1923
Reference no.: Tom Connors 'Old Sport' Nova Scotia Archives no. 574

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Bluenose Crew
Date: ca. 1923
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040050

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Columbia and Bluenose 1923 Final Races
Date: 1923
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040051

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Columbia, 1923
Date: 1923
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040052

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Bluenose crossing the line 1923
Date: 1923
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040053

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)

Captain Martin 'Marty' Welch of the Esperanto
Date: 1920
Reference no.: Tom Connors 'Old Sport' Nova Scotia Archives no. 573

Theme: Queen of the North Atlantic Fishing Fleet (1922-1931)
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