Oct 12, 2017
Since Halifax was founded in 1749 by Edward Cornwallis and the British Garrison the strategic importance of Halifax Harbour and Bedford Basin has played a significant role in the development of Halifax. From a military perspective the harbour and the basin has been a gathering point for warships since the battle for Louisbourg during the 7 Years War in the 1750s. At that time British frigates gathered in the basin in preparation for an assault of the French fortress.
During World War II the Basin was used as an assembly point by the allied navies for 300 convoys of supplies and troops in a gallant effort to cross the German submarine infested North Atlantic Ocean. In the early years of the war, the convoys were escorted by the Corvette class ships. To truly get a feel of what it was like to live and work aboard these ships, one can visit Canada’s floating museum HMCS Sackville, at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
The Convoy Cup this year was held September 8-10 and is the brainchild of long time DYC member and retired Norwegian Consul to Nova Scotia, Steinar Engeset. The Convoy Cup commemorates thousands of sailors who participated in the dangerous, and sometimes deadly, missions to supply the allied forces in Europe with food, ammunition, and troops. Halifax was the epicenter for hundreds of naval vessels and supply ships that formed the convoys to transport these commodities across the Atlantic Ocean. Can you imagine what D-Day would have been like without the assistance of the convoys? Would it have even been staged?
Sadly, enough younger generations cannot fully appreciate the enormity of the challenges faced by the seamen of the day. By today’s standards the Corvette Class is a small fragile vessel. The crews were made up of young (teenage) volunteers who had no idea if they’d ever see Canada again. This regatta is a tool to help educate those who are too young to fully appreciate the sacrifices our veterans made. The few surviving veterans of this brutal era can proudly stand on HMCS Sackville to take the salute from participating DYC vessels. Each representing a Norwegian ship lost at sea. The start of the ocean race is also within view of HMCS Sackville and was designed to re-enact a convoy departing Halifax Harbour.
For those who cannot enter the ocean race but still want to be involved in this prestigious event, a racing series takes place in the Bedford Basin. The actual staging area of the convoys. The importance of this regatta to DYC members was best summed up by the actions of Don Jessome aboard Henry Edward. For the basin portion of racing there weren’t enough boats to properly form a spinnaker fleet. Without EVER having previously flown a spinnaker Don jumped from the White Sail fleet to the Spinnaker fleet knowing that all his competitors would do a “horizon job” on him just so there would be more medals for the veterans to hand out during the closing ceremonies. Light air plagued the event this year but the dedicated sailors persevered to complete the regatta.
With a 1500 start the first ocean race crossed the finish line at 2330 and the last competitor finished the following morning at 0830. Wind in the basin was almost non-existent as the average speed was 0.8 knots on a course that is normally completed in 15 minutes took 3.5 hours to complete. BRAVO ZULU to all racing crews and volunteers.
The closing ceremonies were attended by competitors, volunteers, Mayor Mike Savage, MLA Susan LeBlanc, Lt. Governor Arthur J. LeBlanc and of course the stars of the show, the veterans. An emotional speech was delivered by Chairman Engeset who thanked the veterans in attendance for their courage and determination.
“Without you, people in my home country would be speaking a different language and have nothing. We owe it all to you. Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you.” With that the veterans handed out medals to the top competitors of the fleets but, everyone is a winner at Convoy Cup.
Photos Convoy Cup 1,2,3, HMCS Sackville, and memorial courtesy of Bridgett Hargraft