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Transportation History

Race for Real Sailors, A

Bluenose and the International Fisherman's Cup 1920 - 1938

by (author) Keith McLaren

introduction by Silver Cameron

Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
May 2006
History, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2006
    List Price

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On October 22, 1921, the American fishing schooner Elsie, just arrived from Gloucester, Massachusetts, lined up in Halifax Harbour beside a new, untested schooner from Lunenburg, ready to race over a 40-mile ocean course. The Elsie's skipper had beaten a Canadian boat decisively the previous year to win the first International Fishermen's Cup race. The new challenger was the Bluenose, set to begin a series of heated and often acrimonious races over the following two decades that left her bruised but unbowed, turning her into an icon whose image still shines on the Canadian dime more than eighty years later.


Exhaustively researched from archives in both the US and Canada, A Race for Real Sailors brings the ships and the men who sailed them to life with an even-handedness never before attempted. The salt spray practically blows off the page as Keith McLaren's arresting style captures the excitement, incidents, and human drama of each race and the almost living personalities of the schooners that contested them. The stirring and poignant tale is illustrated with 51 contemporary photographs and 5 maps 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 land lubbers pegged to their seats, a tale of iron men and wooden ships whose time will never come again.

About the authors

Keith McLaren is an award-winning author and retired mariner whose sea career spanned almost half a century. For the last twenty-five years he was employed as a shipmaster for British Columbia Ferry Services, retiring in 2016. 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 Dartmouth Prize 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 where he spends much of his summer prawning from his Boston Whaler.

Keith McLaren's profile page

Au cours de sa riche carrière, Silver Donald Cameron a écrit pour le théâtre, le cinéma, la radio et la télévision en plus de rédiger un important corpus de textes pour des gouvernements et des entreprises, des centaines d’articles de magazines et seize livres, dont deux romans. Parmi les sujets non fictifs qu’il a abordés, on compte l’histoire, les voyages, la littérature, la politique, la nature, le développement communautaire, la vie en mer, l’éducation et les affaires publiques. Il a reçu de nombreuses récompenses, et sa récente oeuvre The Living Beach a été classée parmi les cent meilleurs livres jamais écrits dans le Canada atlantique. Silver Donald Cameron vit à Halifax avec son épouse Marjorie Simmins, elle aussi auteure primée.

Silver Cameron's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"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."

Northern Mariner Magazine

"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."

Classic Boat Magazine

"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."

International Journal of Maritime History

"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."

Times Columnist

"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..."

Quill & Quire

"McLaren's book includes nail-biting accounts of the races, which provided high drama both on and off the water."

Chronicle Herald

Other titles by Keith McLaren

Other titles by Silver Cameron