A Race for Real Sailors

A Race for Real Sailors

Bluenose and the International Fisherman's Cup 1920 - 1938

Keith McLaren


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In the summer of 1920, the public following the latest America’s Cup series were frustrated to find that every time the wind got up, the organizers called off the race. There was muttering in the taverns of Halifax and Lunenburg: why not show these fancy yachtsmen what real sailors can do? A Nova Scotia newspaper donated a trophy and put out a challenge to their rivals in New England, inviting them to meet the Maritimes’ best in a “race for real sailors.”

A Race for Real Sailors is a vibrant history of the Fishermen’s Cup series, which dominated sporting headlines between the two world wars. The salt spray practically blows off the page as the author’s arresting style captures the drama of each race and the personalities of the ships that contested them: the Delawana and the Esperanto, the Columbia and the Gertrude L. Thebaud, and dominating them all the Bluenose, the big brute from Lunenburg whose image shines on the Canadian dime to this day. Vying for the spotlight are the boats’ larger-than-life skippers, among them Marty Welch, the hard-charging American who first took the cup; Ben Pine, the Gloucester scrap dealer whose passion kept the races afloat when they seemed destined to fade away; and the irascible, impossible Angus Walters, master of the Bluenose, who repeatedly broke American hearts but whose own heart was broken by Canada’s refusal to come to the rescue of his beloved vessel.

This stirring and poignant tale is illustrated with 51 historical photographs and five maps, and rounded out by a glossary of sailing terms and an appendix of the ever-changing race rules. This is a story that will keep even confirmed landlubbers pegged to their seats, a tale of iron men and wooden ships whose time will never come again.


Keith McLaren:

Keith McLaren is an award-winning author and retired mariner whose sea career spanned almost half a century. In the mid-1970s, he sailed aboard the schooner Bluenose II out of Halifax. The experience inspired him to write his first book, Bluenose and Bluenose II. He also wrote Light on the Water, an exploration of historical photographs of the British Columbia Coast. His book A Race for Real Sailors won the 2006 Robbie Robertson Dartmouth Book Award for Non-Fiction at the Atlantic Book Awards as well as the Keith Matthews Award for Best Book of 2006 from the Canadian Nautical Research Society. In 2017, he was a recipient of the prestigious Maritime Museum of British Columbia Beaver Medal for Maritime Excellence. He currently lives in North Saanich, BC, on Vancouver Island.