In the mid 19th century, Nova Scotia (had it been a country) would have been the fourth largest trading nation in the world. It entered Canada as the most prosperous of the founding provinces. That prosperity was largely due to wooden ship building and world renowned seafaring. The Bluenose is famous today for the part she played in that history. Her triumphs forever remind Nova Scotians of what they were, and what they could be again.
Against this historical backdrop it is fascinating that the Bluenose may never have enjoyed international fame had it not been for the America?s Cup. With heritage dating back to 1851, the America's Cup is the oldest trophy in sport. Consider that when the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896, the America's Cup was already 45 years old! Canada joined the fray in 1876 when The Countess of Dufferin challenged the American schooner Madeleine in a series of races off New York.
The America's Cup is a challenge-based competition where the winning Yacht Club makes the rules and hosts the subsequent event, often making it more difficult for the challenging Club(s) to take the Cup home.
In 2010 after a lengthy court battle costing some $80 million litigating the rules, the 33rd America's Cup finally got underway in the waters off Valencia, Spain. The strict Deed of Gift (the rules) mandates the match be sailed in sloop rigged yachts not exceeding 90 ft by 90 ft. The Golden Gate Yacht Club entered their trimaran BMW Oracle 90, whilst the Soci?t? Nautique de Geneve opted for Alinghi, a giant catamaran.
The speeds of these mammoth multi-hulls are incredible. In just over ten knots of wind their crews reported speeds in excess of 25 knots, a quantum leap in speed, sail and hull technologies since the 32nd America?s Cup just 4 years ago. While it was interesting to watch these high tech sailing machines in action, as a series of yacht races, this years? event was not particularly exciting. For many yachtsmen with a passion for perfectly filling a spinnaker rounding the mark, this new technology is a bridge too far.
In 1920 the anti America?s Cup sentiment that gave life to the Bluenose resulted from too many rules and too much technology. As the number of working sailing ships declined, their romantic public appeal rose. The International Fishermen?s Cup was born and quickly became the most popular sailing event in North America. It remained so for 2 decades. Nova Scotia?s entry, the now famous Bluenose responded to all her American challengers and she retired undefeated.
The series began as a friendly match between the schooner fleets of Lunenburg and Gloucester, Massachusetts. The races were billed as a working man?s event, a tough, no-holds-barred competition with few rules. These events were enormously popular with the public and soon eclipsed the America?s Cup.
It is noteworthy that the largest (and fast growing) fleet at Chester Race Week sailing regatta this past summer was the classic Bluenose one design. Around the globe wooden yachts are being restored to their original condition and campaigned in classic regattas. There seems little doubt that in the sailing world, nostalgic tradition is keeping pace with technology.