Dec 12, 2017
Our correspondent Rob Dunbar sent us this account of a race with a rather unique history, which is held annually at the Bedford Basin Yacht Club.
The DanGinn Cup is probably the most enjoyable regatta I have ever been in and has been a Bedford Basin Yacht Club tradition (BBYC) tradition since 1962. In that year Dan Ludwig and his girlfriend and future wife Virginia Higgins, nicknamed Ginger, visited the club on their 257’ yacht DanGinn for most of the summer.
DanGinn carried a crew of 30, mostly from Okinawa and Formosa under the guidance of Captain Bush. At the time the DanGinn was the second largest private yacht in the world after Christina owned by Aristotle Onassis. During their visit the DanGinn and the BBYC Clubhouse entertained many famous guests who arrived in convoys of taxis from the Halifax Airport. An array of Hollywood stars such as Shirley MacLaine (a distant cousin of mine) and former US President Harry S Truman were in some of these convoys to the BBYC clubhouse.
Ludwig was a shipping magnate who played an instrumental role in the development of the modern-day supertanker and eventually died a billionaire at his New York Penthouse in 1992 at the age of 95. Of personal interest, Daniel Ludwig built and owned both the Hamilton and Southampton Princess hotels in Bermuda. My father was employed as a field engineer during the construction of the Hamilton Princess Hotel while my mother was in the accounting department for a sub-contractor.
As a token of their appreciation the couple presented the BBYC with a Deed of Gift so to speak with the DanGinn Cup and its accompanying ladle in 1963. Since then vying for DanGinn Cup has been a tradition at the BBYC and is one of their yearly highlights.
The twist with this race is that the skipper of the winning vessel buys bottles of dark rum and coke from the bar to fill the bowl, which is then ladled out to all participants. BBYC members have told me many yarns of top placing boats starting late, purposely hitting marks, losing their way on the race course, flogging sails at the finish and one time a crafty sailor even doused sails, just to avoid finishing first. It’s hilarious and all good natured fun. If you want to be competitive in this one-time race around Bedford Basin, it’s been said that the goal is to be the “first to lose”. However, I must note that the prizes donated by local businesses for the first-place finisher make up for the price of the rum.
I was invited aboard the iconic C&C 32 aptly named Genesis. On stepping aboard, I was instantly immersed with many wonderful memories of sailing in Genesis’ sister ship Seaquester out of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron (RNSYS).
Over the years the race has been run in all the many kinds of weather Mother Nature can muster and on this day, we were greeted by strong and gusty South westerlies ahead of impending torrential rain. Many boats were overpowered resulting in shredded spinnakers, broaches, the dreaded man-overboard situation and assorted gear failure. Fortunately, the crew that experienced the man overboard are all top-notch sailors and the recovery of the unlucky swimmer was better than the textbook. Even aboard the sturdy C&C 32 a session of grinding jib sheets quickly turned into a mountain climbing expedition to get to the windward side.
After so much high drama on the seas everybody congregated in the clubhouse that once had been visited by numerous dignitaries for post-race festivities. After door prizes were awarded the coveted DanGinn Cup was presented to BBYC member Andrew Boswell and crew aboard Starfire. Impressively they won the race despite their spinnaker being shredded.
Andrew held the bowl while his crew ladled rum to many jovial Halifax /Dartmouth area sailors who gleefully shared yarns of a fun filled day. I remarked that it was like drinking from the Stanley Cup to which a member spoke up and said “No it’s like drinking from the America’s Cup.
As the Irish Rovers used to sing “Wasn’t that a Party?”
All Photos by Rob Dunbar.