The American Canoe Association is now made up of
divisions, each one of which has a yearly meet. The general ACA meet is
held in the territory of each division in successive years. The
division meets are more or less local, and occupy from three days to
two weeks time. The general meet is always for two weeks; the regatta
and trophy, or championship, races occur the second week. The first
week is devoted to cruising and general fun, and scrub races.
Besides the regular class sailing and paddling events that
always find a place on the regatta programs, there are other races that
perhaps call for a word of advice.
Any canoe is allowed in the upset race. The lighter a
canoe is, and the finer the lines, if of the usual length, the easier
it is to paddle. A small cockpit takes up less water than a large one
when the canoe is turned completely over quickly. The two points to be
kept in mind in an upset contest are: the paddling fast at the
beginning when no water is in the canoe, to get as great a lead as
possible, and the getting in quickly after the canoe is turned over.
The upset part can be done in five seconds by a skillful hand at the
It is much easier to upset and right a canoe under sail
when heading well up into the wind than when running free, as the wind
pressure on the sail is less in bringing the canoe to an even keel
after the roll over. If running with a beam wind when the signal to
upset comes, luff the canoe up almost into the wind before upsetting
it, and thus relieve the sail of pressure.
With two bulkheads five or six feet apart, a canoe can be
upset under sail, righted, and then float with deck well above water,
and bailing out is possible. Generally in an upset sailing race it is
not worth while to hail out, as the distance to be covered is too short.
In the recover race, where a half paddle is thrown
overboard well aft, it is better to jibe first than to tack and then
jibe to get back to the lost article. It takes less time and is surer
to jibe first and then tack. Try it and see for yourself.
More practical knowledge can be obtained by attending a
two weeks' canoe meet of the ACA than by reading all the articles and
books on the subject ever written. The builders go there to get new
ideas; and every canoeist, no matter how well informed in the matter of
rig and handling, learns something from his neighbors. The cost is
slight; the time, a regular business vacation; the fun immense, and the
profit great, both in point of health and canoe information.
• • •
Since this book was first published the International
Races of 1886 have taken place. Those races, in which two of the crack
English canoe sailors took part, proved many things finally. Both
Englishmen and Americans learned something. The Americans discovered
that the sit of the British sails, the rig, cordage and fitting of the
foreign canoes far outdid anything the Americans could show. They
learned also the advantages of a smooth skin canoe perfectly polished.
The flying start in sailing races, timed with stop watches to a second,
enabling a canoe to cross the line at the signal near the windward mark
and under full headway, was much better than the old methods adopted at
ACA races. This trick the Englishmen had down to the finest possible
point. The lead at the start in a sailing race is a very good thing to
get -- and hold.
The Englishmen found out that their bulky canoes with
heavy ballast and heavy centerboards carrying large sails and crew
inside were no match in point of speed for the light and slim canoes of
the Americans, carrying little or no ballast, having very light plate
centerboards, comparatively small spread of muslin and crew on deck to
windward. Since those races nearly every sailing canoe built here is
fitted with a plate centerboard housed in a wooden or metal trunk. The
use of ballast has greatly diminished, and speed with the smallest sail
spread is aimed at. Light spars, simple rig, a large drop rudder, fine
lines, flat sails, perfect trim and skillful handling are depended on
to accomplish great results, and they have done it, with the help of a
smooth finish on the canoe's bottom to reduce skin friction to a
minimum. This last is a very important item.
A heavy canoe heels over before the speed is increased
when a squall strikes the sail. A puff of wind will instantly increase
the speed of a light canoe, and consequently heels it over less. It is
for this reason that many very light canoes seem actually stiffer than
heavily ballasted boats.
Light canoes needing no ballast, and carrying simple small
rigs, are so much more convenient than the heavier craft that it was
only needed to show them better in point of speed to entirely run out
the old style sailing machines, as some extremists have been pleased to
call them. The heavy canoe is fast disappearing, except in sizes larger
than Class B.
• • •
Great improvements in all sorts of canoe fittings have
been made since the first edition of the book appeared, and builders
generally can now furnish excellent plate boards, good cleats, neat
rudder hangs and drop rudders, to say nothing of all the beautiful
"canoe jewelry" made for mast and spar fittings. The best rudders are
hung so that there is no "dead water" between rudder and sternpost, and
they are arranged to drop easily, or be run up out of the way if
necessary, so that a canoe can be beached stern first without damaging
A rockered keel is almost universal now, enabling quick
turning, where the old straight and flat keel was formerly used. The
trim of a canoe depends on the disposition of sail area, the position
of the centerboard and ballast, if any is used -- three things. The
position of the board is fixed when the canoe is built, as near the
center of the canoe as convenience will allow. Then the sail area is
designed with reference to the board, and arranged to balance as nearly
as possible by the light of former experience. The ballast or crew can
be shifted to perfect the trim. The greatest speed can only be got out
of a canoe when it is balanced -- in perfect trim in other words .
After a yacht is built it often takes months to get the
trim perfect, and this is accomplished by close observation when the
yacht is sailing, and constant experimenting with ballast. The same
must be done in a canoe. Slight changes in sails may help greatly to
arrive at the best results. No positive rules for trim can be given.
The general methods of handling canoes, as all other boats, must
necessarily always remain pretty much the same. Paddling cannot change;
it is a simple performance, and is now -- what it always has been. The
model of paddles may change a little, the length and make, but the
action of paddling is not capable of much, if any development. Sailing
is sailing and likewise cannot undergo much modification. The rules of
the road remain the same from year to year, and the action of the wind
is what it always has been. Rigs and the cut of sails may undergo
slight modifications to gain a half a point here or a pound of pressure
there, but the principles remain unaltered.
As some modifications of the sails described in the text
have proved themselves worthy of a place in a book on canoe handling
and rigs, they will be here touched on lightly.
When a man over seventy years old builds a canoe himself,
cuts and rigs his sails and makes all the fittings, the fact is worthy
of note. But when this same canoe and man come to a general canoe meet,
and carry off all the sailing honors from a fleet of thirty crack
canoes, the man and boat deserve more than a passing word of comment.
The man is N.B. Cook of Chicago, the boat the Kenwood, and the feat was
performed at the Western Canoe Association meet at Ballast Island, Lake
Erie, July, 1887.
The sails were laced to the mast. The peak was held up by
a sprit running to boom instead of to mast as is usual with spritsails,
thus keeping all flat and preventing the boom from lifting. The
objection to the sail is that it cannot be reefed, a fatal objection to
any sail intended for general use, and not designed for a special kind
of racing and water.