R Class Racing in Vancouver and British Columbia


By G.B. Warren, first Historian of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. Re-written and condensed by Norman Hacking, arranged and edited by George A. Cran


The racing of R Class Universal Rule boats got its start when Sir Thomas Lipton, on a visit to Seattle in 1912, presented the handsome trophy known as the Lipton Cup to the Seattle Yacht Club, which invited delegates from other clubs to discuss the question of which class to put it up for. Ron Maitland, Reg Purves, and E.B. Shock represented Vancouver. It was decided to encourage R Class boats, and the Seattle Yacht Club built a defender, the famous Sir Tom, from designs by L.E. (Ted) Geary. She was 40 ft overall, 7.4 ft. beam at waterline and 5.4 ft. draft.


B.T. Rogers, who was then Commodore of the Royal Vancouver Yachgt Club, built as a challenger, the Turenga, from designs by E.B. Shock, and launched at MenchionsŐ Shipyard in Coal Harbour. She was 21 ft at the waterline, 7 ft. beam, and 36 ft overall. The first Lipton Cup series was held at the Seattle International Regatta of July 1914. Turenga was sailed by Ron Maitland, with Owen Power, Curly Ellis and Ernest Rogers as crew. Ted Geary sailed Sir Tom, winning two straight races, and demonstrating pretty definitely that she was the better boat, though Turenga was at a disadvantage in one race through having to reef just before the start on account of a defect in the rigging. Sir Tom won the first race by 12 minutes and 39 seconds and the second by one minute and 53 seconds.


In 1920 the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club again challenged for the Lipton Cup with Turenga, which was sailed by Cliff Cao, the races being held at Cowichan Bay and Victoria. Sir Tom, with Geary at the helm, again won two straight races, demonstrating that on the average, she was bout four or five minutes faster than Turenga over the 12 mile triangular course.


The failure of Turenga to lift the cup induced the RVYC to build a new boat, and they were ready in 1921 with the Marconi-rigged Patricia, built from C.E. NicholsonŐs design, launched at HoffarŐs yard in Coal Harbour, with Miss Patsy Maitland the sponsor. Patricia was the first Marconi-rigged sloop to be seen on Burrard Inlet. R.M. Maitland was selected as skipper of the challenger and again the races were sailed at Cowichan Bay and Victoria. Particulars: 36.7 ft. overall, 24.4 ft at waterline, 7.1 ft beam at waterline, and 5.7 ft draft.


Again Sir Tom, sailed by Ted Geary, won two straight races, though she had her old gaff rig and the same set of sails as in 1914. The finishes, however, were close, two minutes separating the boats in one race and two and half minutes in the other. In September the two sloops met again in Vancouver for the international Isherwood Trophy, but although the series of five races was not completed owing to a couple of day of light wind, Sir Tom was defeated for the first time in one of the races. In a fresh easterly wind Patricia won the first race by six minutes and three seconds, but she lost the next two in close racing with her rival.


The contests were resumed in 1922 on Lake Washington, with Ron Maitland again at the helm of Patricia. The winds were very light, and Sir Tom, again skippered by Geary, and with a new Marconi rig, found the conditions very much to her taste and won two straight races. In the fall of that year both these yachts took part in the Southern California Yachting Association regatta at Newport Beach, where the Isherwood Cup was up for competition. Sir Tom, sailed by Ted Geary, won it under light weather conditions, with Patricia sailed by Ron Maitland second in the series, in which they met the best of the California R Class.


In 1923, the PIYA regatta was held in Vancouver, and again Sir Tom and Patricia raced for the Lipton and Isherwood trophies, with the yacht Angela of Los Angeles also competing. With Geary and Maitland still in the contest, Sir Tom won two straight races and Patricia came second.


There was no Lipton Cup race in 1924, but in 1925 a syndicate of Vancouver yachtsmen picked on the Riowna as a likely challenger. She was a heavy-weather R boat from the Great Lakes designed by George Owen of Boston, and winner of the George Cup on Lake Ontario. A boat of this type had been chosen because the 1925 regatta was slated for Victoria, where hard breezes are the rule. The Patricia, meanwhile, had been sold to a California yachtsman by Ron Maitland.


Again Ron Maitland was chosen to skipper the new challenger, while Turenga also re-entered the fray, with Ernest Rogers at the helm. The San Francisco sloop Lady V, sailed by John Winslow of Vancouver, was also entered, with, of course, the defending Sir Tom, again under the sure touch of Ted Geary. The first dayŐs race off Royal Roads was sailed in a breeze of eight to ten knots with the usual tendency to be lighter at the start and finish point off the entrance to Esquimault. Sir Tom covered the 12 mile triangular course in a little over two hours and 12 minutes, finishing ahead of Turenga, which had a new Marconi rig, by about 4 ½ minutes and about 6 ¼ minutes ahead of Riowna, while Lady V was 12 minutes behind the leader.


Next day the wind was harder and showed velocities of 19 to 21 knots, but while the strength of the breeze was felt at the outer mark, it softened to about 8 knots at the inner mark, and Sir Tom won by 27 seconds from Riowna with Lady V third and Turenga fourth. As the Isherwood trophy rules called for three races, the yachts met again the following day. At last Riowna got the breeze she needed. With an average of 32 miles per hour Riowna made wonderful weather of it with a single reef, while Sir Tom seemed overpowered with two reefs in her mainsail. Lady V was disabled through a spreader giving away, though she was in third place when she had to give up. The result was that Riowna won by a five minute margin with Sir Tom second and Turenga third. However, Sir Tom retained both Lipton and Isherwood Cups.


The Riowna was then acquired by G.F. Gyles, and in 1926 she met Sir Tom at Seattle, with Cedric Gyles at the helm. Sir Tom on this occasion was skippered by Jack Graham, and Turnega was sailed by Philip Rogers. RiownaŐs crew was Cedric Gyles, Norman Gyles, Murray Rowan and Harry Jones. While TurnegaŐs crew was Philip Rogers, Pat Burns, Temple McMullen and Gardner Boultbee. Again Sir Tom proved her superiority and held onto the Lipton trophy.


With Riowna hopelessly outclassed except in half a gale, the Vancouver yachtsmen began to think of a new challenger and a syndicate was formed which secured designs from John Alden. This was the Lady Pat, built by Vancouver Drydock and Salvage Co. at North Vancouver. The 1927 international regatta was held in Vancouver and the new challenger was skippered by Ron Maitland with a crew consisting of Phil Whitehead, Tom Ramsay and W.G. Mackenzie. Geary was again at the tiller of Sir Tom and Cedric Gyles handled the Riowna. The first dayŐs race was won by Lady Pat handily with a lead of one minute, 58 seconds due largely to an error by Geary who apparently lost count of the rounds, and thought he had finished at the end of the second, where he was in the lead. He took up the race again but was unable to overtake Lady Pat although he passed Riowna. The boats had a westerly breeze of 7 to 9 knots.


Next day Sir Tom won by about six minutes in a light wind. On the third day, after the preliminary gun had been fired and the race was officially on, Sir TomŐs main halyard carried away and the mainsail came down on deck. In the interest of good sport, Maitland and Gyles asked the judges to postpone the contest until Geary could get his repairs completed. After half an hourŐs postponement the race got away with Cedric Gyles sailing Riowna in the windward berth and Lady Pat under her lee, but slightly ahead, and Sir Tom further to leeward. The race was sailed in a fresh easterly breeze, Sir Tom winning by about a minute from Lady Pat, and beating Riowna by about four minutes. So the Seattle boat once again captured the series and retained the Lipton Cup. Riowna was crewed in this race by Cedric Gyles, H.A. Jones, G.F. Gyles and Art Jefferd.


In 1928 another syndicate built an R boat and entered the lists under RVYC colours to race against Sir Tom. This was the famous Lady Van designed by C.E. Nicholson. She was in many respects similar to the Nicholson-designed Patricia, but with specifications to suit the light weather conditions expected on English Bay. She was launched by Vancouver Drydock Co.


She measures 39 ft overall, 23 feet at the waterline, and seven feet on inch beam at the waterline. Her measurements were the closest to Sir Tom of any boat racing for the Lipton Cup, the American yacht being 40 feet overall, 22.7 feet at the waterline and 7.4 feet beam.


Lady Van was double planked with red cedar. There was very keen tuning up for the international regatta, with skipper Tom Ramsay having as his crew Art Jefferd, Bob Rowan, and W.H. Savage. Ron MaitlandŐs crew in Lady Pat consisted of Jack McDougall, Dean Johnson and W.G. McKenzie, while G.F. Gyles in the Riwona had in his crew Cedric and Norman Gyles, Harry Jones and Francis Akhurst.


When the yachts met in the Lipton Cup contest at Vancouver in July 1928, Sir Tom won three straight races in light to moderate easterly winds, but it was no easy contest, and in the first race she did not get the lead until well along in the race. The margin between Sir Tom and the second boat ranged from two minutes and 20 seconds in the first race to nearly three minutes in the third. The finishes might have been closer and not so favourable to Sir Tom if it had not been for the keen rivalry between Lady Pat and Lady Van. Lady Pat got second place in the first two races and Lady Van was second in the third race, the points for the series being: Sir Tom, 12; Lady Pat, 8; Lady Van, 7; and Riowna, 3. Riowna was well sailed but had no chance with the others in the prevailing light weather.


By 1929 Lady Van had been purchased by E.F. ŇJackÓ Cribb. Ted Geary again came up with Sir Tom, Ron Maitland was at the tiller of Lady Pat, and G.F.Gyles and his sons sailed the Riowna. At last, the tide of victory turned in favor of Vancouver after 15 years of effort. The first race of the Lipton Cup series was sailed over a triangular course on English Bay in a light westerly breeze and was won by Ron ŇMaitlandŐs Lady Pat, which finished 13 minutes within the four hour time limit for the 12 mile course, leading Sir Tom by a whole leg. Lady Van was 25 minutes behind Sir Tom and Riowna was unable to finish.


Lady PatŐs crew was Ron Maitland, W.G. Mackenzie, Aeneas Bell-Irving and Dean Johnson. Lady Van was sailed by Jack Cribb, Tom Pattison, George Askew and Harry Jones; while RiownaŐs crew was George, Norman and Cedric Gyles, F. Akhurst and Murray Rowan. In the second dayŐs racing, success again rested with the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, but it was Jack CribbŐs Lady Van which carried the day. She took the lead when she passed to windward of Sir Tom a few seconds after the start in a strong easterly breeze, and soon drew away from them all. Heavy puffs were blowing over 20 knots, and all boats were carrying full sail. Lady Pat lost one of her weather shrouds and the mast followed, breaking off about a third of the way from the deck.


At the finish line of a grand race Lady Van was the winner 31 seconds ahead of Sir Tom and one minute and 45 seconds ahead of Riwona. On the third day of the race, Norman Gyles sailed in Lady Van in place of Tom Pattison, and she registered her second victory in a moderate westerly breeze, after a close contest with Lady Pat, which had procured a new mast. Lady Van was a minute ahead of Lady Pat, and 7 ½ minutes ahead of Sir Tom, while Riowna brought up the rear in a failing breeze. Lady Van got 12 points for the series, Lady Pat 8 points, and Sir Tom 8 points, thus after 15 years of failure by previous challengers, Turenga, Patricia, Riowna and Lady Pat, the Lady Van won the Lipton Cup for Vancouver.


The 1930 international regatta was held at Victoria over a new course off Cadboro Bay, and once again the Lipton Cup returned to Seattle. Lady Van, skippered by Jack Cribb, won the first race in a heavy easterly, with squalls of 30 miles or better. Lady Van finished 18 seconds ahead of Lady Pat; three minutes and two seconds ahead of Sir Tom; three minutes and 41 seconds ahead of Riowna, and 10 minutes and eight seconds ahead of Turenga, skippered by Forrest Rogers. The second race was sailed in a very light easterly. Lady Van was knocked out when she fouled a mark, and this put off Lady Pat from rounding smartly, so Sir Tom won with the safe lead of three minutes, 17 seconds.


So Sir Tom got the cup back, winning the third race in alight breeze with Lady Pat one and a half minutes behind. Sir Tom got 18 points for the series, Lady Pat 11, Lady Van 9, Riowna 6, and Turenga 5.


But the long supremacy of Seattle in the R Class contests was on the wane, and in 1931 international regatta at Bellingham, Jack Cribb sailed Lady Pat to a decisive victory over the ageing Sir Tom. In the first race in light variable winds Lady Pat came across the line first with a lead of eight minutes 10 seconds. The second race, in a fresh northerly breeze, was won by Sir Tom with a lead of one minute and 10 seconds. The third race, which was won by Lady Pat, was declared no contest, because one of her crew members, Harry Jones, fell over board, and Sir Tom, again skippered by Ted Geary, stopped to pick him up. This lead to a re-sailing of the race on August 15, with Lady Pat crossing the fiish line 32 seconds ahead of Sir Tom in one of the closest and most thrilling races ever held in the series. Lady PatŐs time over the 12 mile course was two hours, 15 minutes and 57 seconds.


In 1932 the Lady Pat, again with Jack Cribb at the helm, retained her possession of the Lipton Cup at the PIYA regatta at Port Townsend. Her junior crew included Doug Maitland, 16 year old son of the owner. Lady Van was also entered with Cedric Gyles at the helm, and of course Tad Geary had the perennial Sir Tom. Lady Van was now owned by E.W. Hamber.


In the first race Sir Tom came in first with a comfortable lead of three minutes 44 seconds over Lady Pat, with Lady Van close behind. However, Jack Cribb out maneuvered the old maestro Ted Geary in both the second and third races of the series and retained the cup. The final score was Lady Pat 8 points, Sir Tom 6, and Lady Van 4.


The 1933 international regatta was held in Vancouver, and was notable for the fact that both the R class contenders had junior crews. Lady Pat represented the RVYC having eliminated the Lady Van, skippered by Ken Glass. Lady Pat was handled by Doug Maitland, with Bunny Whitcroft, Spud Akhurst and Jack Linday in his crew. For the first time in the Lipton Cup series Sir Tom didnŐt have the veteran Ted Geary at the stick, being handled by Arthur Ayres. In the first race Lady Pat lost her jibstay, but Ayres showed off his sportsmanship by refusing to continue and the race was called off.


The next two races were a draw, with Lady Pat and Sir Tom each winning in the same dayŐs racing. In the first race, in a nine knot breeze, Lady Pat won handily over her rival, finishing with a lead of 11 minutes and 7 seconds, for a time of three hours, 10 minutes, nine seconds. In the second race of the day Lady Pat got off to a poor start, losing about four minutes getting over the line. However, she managed to catch up to her rival in a seven knot breeze, but Sir Tom managed to slip over the finish line with a lead of 22 seconds. The third race was woe by Lady Pat after a close battle, retaining both the Lipton and Isherwood trophies for the RVYC.


At the 1934 PIYA regatta, also held at Vancouver, Lady Van showed her capabilities by winning the Lipton and Isherwood trophies in two straight wines. In the first race of the series, Lady Pat, skippered by Doug Maitland, was first to cross the line, but she was disqualified for fouling Sir Tom while rounding the first buoy, and Lady Van, which crossed the finish line several lengths behind, was acclaimed the winner. In the second dayŐs racing, Lady Van, skippered by Harry Wylie, led all the way, beating Lady Pat by a bare minute. The Seattle entry, Sir Tom, under Arthur Ayres, grounded off the Point Grey bell buoy for 15 minutes and never regained the loss. A third race, required under the Isherwood Cup rules, was also won by Lady Van in very light winds, 12 minutes and 23 seconds ahead of Lady Pat and 38 minutes and 28 seconds ahead of Sir Tom.


In 1935 the veteran Ted Geary returned to the fray at the PIYA regatta at Bellingham to puck up the Isherwood Trophy again with the new Seattle entry Live Yankee, which had been shipped round from the east coast the year before, and was owned by W.C. ŇCullyÓ Stemson of Seattle. The Lipton Cup was withdrawn from competition for technical reasons in 1935 and 1936. Lady Pat, under Doug Maitland, had tough run of luck. Caught in a heavy blow in Bellingham Bay, she lost her mast, but borrowed another stick from Turnega, only to lose her starboard shroud in the first race, forcing her to put about. Sir Tom was also forced out with a broken shroud. Cedric Gyles in Riowna sailed a fine race, coming second to Live Yankee, with Harry Wylie bringing in Lady Van third.


The second race provided an easy win for Ted Geary, but the third race of the series proved a surprise. Breezes were light, and Live Yankee, a heavy weather boat, could get nowhere, coming in a poor fourth, crossing the line in a dead heat with Riowna. Lady Van, skippered by Harry Wylie came in first, making the score 12 ½ points for Live Yankee and 12 for Lady Van.


During the next five years of R Class international racing, Lady Van consistently showed her superiority over all rivals. In Isherwood Cup racing at Victoria in 1936, Lady Van was skippered by Harry Wylie, Sir Tom by Arthur Ayres, Lady Pat by Doug Maitland, Live Yankee by Jack Graham and Riowna by Norman Gyles, with Lady Van leading the field in three straight wins. The International regatta in 1937 was at Port Townsend, with Lady Van, Lady Pat, Sir Tom and Live Yankee competing. Lady Pat was now under American colours, having been sold to Manson Backus of Seattle. The first race was won by Jack Graham in Live Yankee, then acknowledged U.S. Atlantic and Pacific champion in her class, but Lady Van had no trouble romping home in the next two tests to cinch the Lipton Cup again. For the first time in international R Class racing, Lady Van had a lady at the helm, Miss Dorothy Wylie, who showed that she possessed all the skill of her father, H.E. Wylie. Her crew for the series was Peter Winckler, Colin Campbell and Ron Roberts.


The 1938 PIYA regatta was held in Vancouver, and Harry Wylie was again at the helm of Eric HamberŐs Lady Van, holding both the Lipton and Isherwood trophies with five straight wins over Sir Tom and Lady Pat, the two cups being raced for in separate series instead of concurrently as in the past. In 1939 at Bellingham the Lady Van under Harry Wylie again cinched the Lipton and Isherwood trophies with six straight wines of Lady Pat, Sir Tom and Riowna. In the Lipton series, Sir Tom lost her mast in the second race and Riowna her mainsail in a 30 knot breeze in the third race, so Lady Pat was the only one to finish the course against Lady Van. Harry Wylie repeated again at the Cowichan Bay PIYA in 1940, with six straight wins over Sir Tom and Riowna, skippered by Cedric Gyles.


That year marked the end of international R Class racing in Pacific coast water, with Lady Van the acknowledged speed queen after a generation of keen competition. Canada was now deeply embroiled in a war, most of the younger yachtsmen were joining the colours, and defense regulations required all Vancouver yachts to stay east of Jericho. Consequently racing ceased completely from 1941 to 1944. Lady Van and Riowna were sold to Seattle owners, and Turenga, then owned by Frank Stuart, was sunk in collision with a coastal steamer off Point Atkinson, so for the first time in 27 years the RVYC was non-competitive in R Class. The Isherwood trophy is dormant, and the Lipton trophy was offered to six-meter competition after the war.