In 1976 four wooden sailboats, “Surf Scoter”, “Buttercup”, “Ocean Bird” and “Black Witch” raced from Victoria to Sidney…three gaff-rigged boats and one Marconi rigged boat. This race was dubbed the “Turtles and Turkey Race” and became the beginning of an annual race organized for gaff-rigged sailors. Gaffers have the distinction of keeping traditional sailing alive as gaff-rigged sailboats, with the sail attached on the bottom to a boom and the top to a gaff, go far back in history the world over.


For about ten years, the race was organized by Bob Leach of the Gaffers Association in Victoria, a more formal organization. Last Victoria Day Weekend the “Gaffers” met for their 37th race.  Now a casual organization and race, “Gaffers” come from the U.S., Vancouver, up-island and the Greater Victoria area for a weekend of festivities every year and race around Rum Island and back to Sidney, BC.


Frank Fredette, who the race is named in memoriam, was a Victoria born and bred traditional wooden boat designer and builder. He designed many fish boats, workboats and sailboats from the 1930’s through the 1970’s and continued to be an advisor to many in boating circles through the early 1980’s. He participated in the race until his death in 1986, when in his nineties.


Organized by a small committee, namely Barbara Watson and Dave Holt who provide the Committee Boat “White Dragon” and Louise Cole and George Martin of “Surf Scoter”, the Gaffer’s Race attracts many of the same sailors each year as well as a few newcomers who have acquired gaff-rigged sailboats. Feedback from the participants indicates that the more casual nature of the race is what makes it a big success.

About the author : Wally du Temple

Books written by Wally du Temple are sold by where author information is available in English.