These pages were assembled by Scott Flinn, a former participant in class events who had a lot of fun in a Bluenose and thought the story of this vessel needed to be recorded. Many thanks to Scott for his contribution. The pages were last updated by Scott in January 2004. Even though some sections may be outdated we offer them as an invaluable source of information for Bluenose Class history.
William J. Roué turned out a great many designs in his career as a naval architect. His 17th plan, the schooner Bluenose, is without a doubt the most famous, but he produced many other designs that are dearly beheld by smaller audiences. In 1945, Roue produced a design, at the request of a group from the Armdale Yacht Club in Halifax, for a small one-design sloop that would be both fast and elegant and could be sailed easily by two or three people. Bluenose herself was still afloat, but had already been sold to the West Indian Trading Company for use as a freighter. The new class was given the name Bluenose to help perpetuate the memory of the great champion. Ironically, the first Bluenose class sloops were launched in the spring of 1946, just months after Bluenose was lost on a Haitian reef.
This collection provides a modest mix of information about the history, design, activities and current status of the class. In compiling it I have drawn on the sources of information readily available to me, but you will soon find that much information remains to be collected. Many details will be available only from yacht clubs in the Halifax area or from conversations with people whose memories have not yet relinquished important facts. Unfortunately, an entire continent currently separates me from those people and places, so I will have to collect the information over a broad period of time as I make occasional visits to the east coast.
I have tried to record only those facts about which I am fairly certain, or to make it clear when I have some doubt. Nevertheless, much of the information contained here has yet to be verified and should not be relied upon to be completely accurate. Furthermore, this page has not been officially sanctioned by the Bluenose Class Association, although they are aware of it.
The Bluenose Sloop is a traditional wooden design: relatively long, low and narrow with a full, weighted keel. The wooden boats are Bermuda rigged and are constructed of carvel planking (planks flush, not overlapping) over steam-bent frames. The fiberglass boats are made of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP). They have a small cuddy at the head of the cockpit but are otherwise built along the same lines as their wooden counterparts.
The full specification of the Bluenose Class draws from three separate documents: the original Roue plans, the Class one-design sail pattern,
and the Class Association constitution. These are discussed in the sections that follow.
The following dimensions have been gathered from a variety of sources. They should, in general, be fairly accurate, but should not be considered
Length, overall23′ 5″
Length, waterline16′ 0″
Keel ballast, wooden design750-755 lbs lead
Keel ballast, fiberglass design815-900 lbs cast iron
Height of mast above deck28′ 9″
Length of boom12′ 4″
Sail area218 sq. ft.
The original Roué plans are easily the best source of design information for the class. In addition to providing the lines of the hull itself, they also give omplete specifications of the rigging, many aspects of which are not available elsewhere. For example, the position of chainplates and attachment points of stays and shrouds must conform to the Roué plans for a yacht to be eligible for Class Association events.
Copies of the original plans are available from the Roué family. Further questions or requests should be directed to email@example.com.
If you want your Bluenose Sloop to meet current Bluenose Class code, upfit requirements are covered explicitly in the by-laws of the Class Association.
May 2007 NOTE – The Bluenose Class Association has recently passed a new by-law for a new sail plan. Please visit their site for more details.
The original design called for a mainsail, jib, working jib and spinnaker. Some time later a genoa was added having a considerably lower aspect ratio. It sheeted in well aft of the shrouds, often attached to movable blocks on deck tracks parallel to the toe rails. In the early 1990s, the genoa was replaced by a blade jib as the officially sanctioned primary foresail. It just clears the mast
during a tack and sheets to a position between the mast and the attachment point of the shrouds.
The by-laws of the Class Association specify a number of characteristics of the rigging and other dimensions. In some cases they supplement the Roué plans and in others they establish allowable bounds of variation. The following excerpt is taken from the constitution of the Class Association and represents all of the rigging specifications included there. It is reproduced here in order to encourage uniformity throughout the fleet.
The mast shall be made of wood in accordance with the Roué Plans or straight section aluminum.
Rotating masts or permanently bent masts are prohibited. Adjustable mast steps or partners are prohibited.
The boom must be wood or straight section aluminum. The foot of the mainsail must fasten in a straight line in both plan and profile.
The spinnaker and whisker pole shall be a maximum 7′ 8.5″ overall, including fittings when measured square off. The pivot point on the forward side of the mast shall not project forward more than 1.5″ and must be seated home against the mast.
In building the mast, backing blocks may be inserted at points where fittings are attached.
Rigging shall be as shown on Roué Plans as to position, number and length of stays except as otherwise specified in this Constitution.
Spreaders shall be made of one piece, rigid wood, aluminum or steel.
The method of attaching the rigging to the spar is optional.
Running backstays as shown on the Roué plans shall not be used.
The method for sheeting the mainsail and headsail is optional, but the fittings for the sheets must be placed so that they do not protrude outside or beyond the hull.
Specific dimensions and restrictions as outlined below correspond to the measurement points as shown on the attached diagram. Those identified as mandatory do not have grandfather clause provisions for existing yachts. All dimensions apply to new yachts or replacement of existing equipment.
Other restrictions; adjustable forestays, adjustable jumperstays from deck level, hydraulics of any kind, foil headstays, as well as on board computer systems are not allowed.
The following side and top view drawings were made by Scott Flinn based on a half-hull model crafted by Brian Steves and measurements taken directly from B68 (Freedom, owned by Alan Chandler).
The first twelve boats were built by Barkhouse Boatyard Ltd. in East Chester, Nova Scotia and were ready to be sailed in the spring of 1946. By the summer of 1949, nearly fifty yachts had been constructed by Mr. Barkhouse and a man named Murphy (about whom I have much to learn, including his first name), and were being sailed in various parts of Canada and the New England states.
The two original builders eventually produced 77 boats between them. Many boats migrated throughout the Maritime Provinces, to Ontario and to the New England states, but the core of the fleet remained in Nova Scotia, centered mainly in Halifax but with healthy fleets in Chester and Lunenburg.
In the mid-1960s, George McVay of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia – under license with designer W.J. Roué – began manufacturing a fiberglass version of the Bluenose design from a mold that was made from the hull of Skylark, sail number B71, a wooden boat that remained in very good condition at the time. Sail numbers for these yachts began at 101 and roughly one hundred were eventually produced. Many made their way to Ontario, including a small fleet that was used for the training of naval cadets, and quite a few can still be found throughout the New England states. They were even available for sale in Southern California in the 1960s, and they can still be spotted in places like Marina Del Rey. I am aware of at least one that is actively raced in Morro Bay, California. The McVay license to build Bluenose Sloops was revoked by the W.J. Roué estate in 1972.
The fiberglass boats are quite similar in both style and handling to their wooden counterparts but are generally acknowledged to be somewhat less effective in heavy wind. Their keels are more heavily ballasted than the wooden yachts to compensate for the lighter hull, but the difference in weight distribution leads to noticeably different handling, especially in heavy seas.
A small cuddy closes off a portion of the cockpit that is open in the wooden boats, making it slightly more awkward to race successfully. Similarly, the benches have been removed from many of the wooden boats, adding considerably more maneuvering room in the cockpit. The molded benches in the fiberglass yachts are of course fixed. In spite of this, several fiberglass boats have been competitive at the Championships over the years, though one has yet to win.
In May 2007 Snyder’s Shipyard (Dayspring, NS) was named as the exclusive authorized builder of new Bluenose Sloops – the first builder authorized by the Roué family since 1972. Snyder’s will build from a complete set of Roué plans, including his original table of offsetts. For more information on new Bluenose Sloops, please contact Snyder’s directly at 902.543.8323.
The first 12 Bluenose Sloops were built by John H. Barkhouse, of Barkhouse Boatyard Ltd., in East Chester, Nova Scotia. Construction began in 1945 and the first boats were ready for the summer of 1946. For posterity, the original names and owners (as recorded in the archives of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic) are as follows:
B1 Gilpie N. Gilpin
B2 Stormy Weather P. Beaner
B3 Betty Lou A. Levy
B4 Rowdy A. Gilford
B5 Spindrift S. (or G.) Doane
B6 Shady Lady W. Oxner
B7 Bluenose G. Dauphinee
B8 Penguin D. Currie
B9 Glen Ho D. Hopgood
B10 Pixie D. Cooley
B11 Nemesis C. Wallace
B12 Jolly Moron E. Murphy
A surprising number of these are still actively sailed or even raced, although all of the names and owners have since changed. B7 and B8 have been recent winners of the Championship trophy. To my knowledge, B2, B4 and B5 are also well maintained and still active, and others may be as well. B1 was allowed to fall into a state of considerable disrepair but has since been restored and now occupies a place of distinction at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. You will find it there fully rigged, looking very much as it must have when its sails were first hoisted back in 1946.
Although the fleet is now more than 50 years old, many of the boats are in very good condition. It is not uncommon to have twenty or more yachts from the Halifax and Chester areas, mostly wooden, competing at a single event. Individual clubs also run smaller one-design races, and handicap racing in club fleets is quite popular as the size of the fleet makes it possible to establish a reasonable handicap without unduly penalizing the best skippers and crews.
The most coveted prize by far is the Russell-Youla Trophy, awarded each year to the winner of the Maritime Bluenose Championships, but there are several other events that are also hotly contested.
By the summer of 1949 the fleet was nearly fifty strong. In August of that year, the Halifax Herald donated the International Bluenose Class Championship Trophy, as it had done for the International Fishermen’s Trophy twenty-eight years earlier. The winner that year was a crew from Marblehead, Massachusetts.
A championship competition, open to all Bluenose sloops, is still held every year. However, the international format was abandoned after several boats sank during a particularly stormy weekend of racing. The Maritime Bluenose Championships are now contested by boats from the local fleets and are held in Halifax and Chester in alternating years.
The Russell-Youla Trophy has been presented every year since 1955 to the winner of the Maritime Bluenose Championships. (I do not know what became of the International Bluenose Class Trophy donated in 1949 by the Halifax Herald, or when the word International was replaced with Maritime in the name of the contest.) It was presented to the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron (RNSYS) in 1955 by Miss Kathleen Wylde. It had originally been donated to the Squadron by General Lord Alexander G. Russell and was first won by the schooner Wenonah in 1886.
The format of the contest has changed only modestly over the years. It is always held during the last weekend of August and, since 1986, has alternated location between Halifax and Chester. For many years prior to 1986, it was held exclusively in Halifax, but I am not aware of the full history. Five races are sailed, ideally with three on Saturday and two on Sunday. Occasionally, conditions are such that three races can not be completed on Saturday, in which case at most three are sailed on Sunday. If fewer than three races can be completed in total, the trophy is not awarded, although this circumstance has yet to arise. The course is an Olympic triangle or, in more recent years, a windward-leeward arrangement, with legs ranging from 1/2 – 2 miles in length (a detail I need to check), depending on the conditions. The winner is determined using the Olympic scoring system. Each yacht must comply with class specification rules and carry a crew of exactly three.
Since many of the participants remain the same from year to year, a high level of comradery usually attends the event. There is a dinner of some description followed by award presentations — first, second and third place overall, most improved and best fiberglass yacht — and the traditional throwing of the winning skipper from the dock, no matter how cold or polluted the water may be.
There are several other major regattas in the area at which the Bluenose fleet usually has sufficient representation to qualify for its own one-design class. I hope eventually to provide at least brief descriptions of these events. For now, a simple list will have to suffice.
Reproduced below is a tuning sheet from Sable Sailmakers of Lunenburg, now a North Sails loft. It was written by the designers of the official sail pattern for the class and pertains specifically to sails made from that pattern, but offers many guidelines and suggestions that will be applicable to any Bluenose. It describes only the older low-aspect genoa and not the newer blade jib that is now the officially prescribed foresail. I don’t know if an updated sheet exists or if it does, whether I would be allowed to include it here. I hope that you find at least some value in this version.
As in any One-Design Class the differences from boat to boat are controlled and limited which increases the importance of basic rig tuning and set-up.
This sheet is designed to be used when you first launch your boat. At that time set your boat up according to this.
Wind Speed Halyard Tension Track in/out 0 – 4 small horizontal wrinkles out 4 – 10 small horizontal wrinkles in 11 – 15 no horizontal wrinkles in 16 – 20 no horizontal wrinkles in 21 – 26 no horizontal wrinkles
plus 2 inches tension
Wind Speed Battens Cunningham Outhaul Vang Backstay Traveller 0 – 4 light 0 0 0 0 ½ down 5 – 10 light 0 0 0 0 centre 11 – 15 medium 2 inches ½ 0 2 inches varies* 16 – 20 stiff no wrinkles ¾ 0 as in picture varies* 21 – 26 stiff maximum maximum 0 maximum varies*
* For adjustments of the traveller in wind speeds of over 10 knots the wave pattern is an important factor. If it is flat water or choppy the boat will move best with the traveller gradually eased out as the wind speed builds. In large waves and swells it is better to leave the traveller centred and use the mainsheet to adjust twist in the main to keep the boat fairly level and moving.
Wind Speed Beating Reaching Running 0 – 4 10° – 12° level level 5 – 10 12° – 15° level weather heel 11 – 15 15° – 18° 5° slight weather heel 16 – 20 pinch to 15° – 18° minimum level 21 – 26 minimum minimum level
There is a collection of information relating to the Bluenose Class.