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.
"The tone has a mad old ring to it and the races brought to public light some of the fever of the fishing and the characters it had spawned. It's a great book, and it puts you on deck of these tough-man boats in tough waters."
"McLaren's book includes nail-biting accounts of the races, which provided high drama both on and off the water."
"A Race for Real Sailors is clearly a labour of love as well as of scholarship. It is beautifully designed, its broad format doing justice to the half dozen maps and over fifty photographs...As a professional marine and sometime crewmember of the Bluenose II, the author obviously relishes the opportunity to recreate each race, tack by tack. Fortunately he has the wit to do so in accessible language and with verve."
"A Race for Real Sailors paints a vivid picture of the dangerous life of deep-water fishermen as their world was being taken over by safer but much less romantic trawlers. McLaren's riveting race descriptions are interspersed with fascinating back-ground facts...and vivid contemporary language..."
"Keith McLaren has done a fine job in recounting the Bluenose story without glossing over the more difficult parts...[He] has a great eye for a good photograph, and has gone to considerable extremes to locate the best archival photographs, many never published before."
"A Race for Real Sailors is a real winner...both as a tribute to Canadian schooners and sailors and as a showpiece for Canadian writing, graphics and production."