Raceboat Fever Draws Massive Crowds To Gravenhurst, Ontario – Part 1

Image 2-Crowds

Boat nuts everywhere in Gravenhurst last weekend! RMS Segwun in the background.

Raceboat Fever Draws Massive Crowds to Gravenhurst
Part 1 – By Cobourg Kid & Cousin Glen

Last Saturday’s clear skies and warm temperatures coupled with the promise of Raceboat action drew near record crowds to Gravenhurst, Ontario to check-out the ACBS Toronto Chapter’s 33rd Annual Antique & Classic Boat Show.

In an obviously successful bid to raise interest in the history, culture and use of wooden boats, the Chapter decided last year to switch up its standard format to concentrate solely on showcasing antique and classic raceboats on land, in the water and actively racing around a demonstration circuit set up in Lake Muskoka’s Gravenhurst Bay.

According to ACBS Toronto Vice President Kathy Rhodes, total attendance last weekend was somewhere close to 5000 people –considerably higher than recent year’s attendance. She also indicated that more than 140 boats were displayed in water and on land and of those more than 60 were in the inboard/outboard pit areas and ran on the demonstration course throughout the day.

Image 1-Crowds

Hoards of raceboat fans descend on Gravenhurst’s Muskoka Wharf for the 33rd Annual Toronto Chapter ACBS Antique & Classic Boat Show.

Part of the draw involved a planned circuit run of the recently restored Greavette built Raceboat “Miss Canada IV”. Piloted by Harold and Lorna Wilson in October of 1949 MCIV set a new North American record straight line speed of 142 M.P.H. Fuel problems unfortunately kept them from making a return run the next day and previous world record, set by the British Boat “Bluebird II” remained in England despite the fact that MCIV had equaled it.

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“Miss Canada IV” all dressed up and ready to party on the waves.

Strangely, despite a number of successful test runs during the last few weeks, it was that old demon, the fuel system, that marred MCVI’s highly anticipated debut at the ACBS show. Jamie Smith, the restoration team’s coordinator, told the press “there’s still a lot of summer and life left in the famous race boat”.

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Dang! An open engine hatch always spells trouble! To bad Matt wasn’t here – he could probably fix it with a dollar bill. Ha!

Despite Miss Canada IV’s failure to launch, owner Bobby Genovese took the opportunity to take “Miss Canada III” out for several circuits around the demonstration course, a move that was welcomed by the crowd.

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“Miss Canada III” at speed, she’s not “Miss Canada IV” but she’s definitely cool!

Around noon another unrelated issue arose, dock capacity. The best viewing points on the grounds to view the raceboat demonstrations were on the “T” docks that extend out from the two piers. Unfortunately the “T” docks could not handle the throngs of people who wanted to view the action on the course. Noticing that the “T”s were listing, ACBS very wisely implemented a plan to restrict the number of folks who could get out there. Not unexpectedly some race fans were not overly happy about this turn of events, thankfully, calm prevailed.

Image 6-Line-Up-Listing

Ok Mr. even if you’re the Prime Minister, you can’t go out there unless someone else heads back ashore!

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Ok so that thing really is listing!

Arriving at the boat show around noon, I decided to wait out the worst of the dock-traffic and visited the ACBS member’s tent where I was treated to a fantastic lunch cooked up by the capable staff the Blue Willow Tea Room.

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ACBS Headquarters… Where lunch is served and all the important decisions get made…

With lunch over I sauntered over to the Maple Leaf Chapter of the Antique Outboard Motor Club (hard up against ABCS Headquarters) and discovered a very cool world of antique small craft and outboards on display.

Here’s a little taste:

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If you like patina, old marine signs and the smell of old gas, this exhibit is for you!

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A 1930’s Caille outboard and an early speed skiff.

Image 11-Caille Ad

Look Familiar?

Image 12-Mickey-Boy

“Mickey Boy” – built By Peterborough Canoe Co in 1929 and dubbed the “Bullet” – this boat is 11 feet long, with a hull built of thin mahogany planks, decks made of doped aircraft fabric (nitrocellulose yikes!) It also sports novel “slip-skis” mounted along the waterline at the stern quarters. She’s a rare bird, one of two still known to exist.

Image 13-Mickey-Boy-Lockwood-Chief

Dig that 1929 Lockwood Racing Chief Outboard – with two, count, em, carbs!

Image 14-N36

Where would you find a 1930 Jacoby Boat Works 10 foot Flyaway “B” with a 35 Johnson SR-50 16 HP racing motor?

Image 15-Sea-Flea-Fritti-7

“Now that’s what I’m talking about! A very cool 1960s Yellow Jacket design, replete with 1950’s Merc engine recently restored by Chris Taylor, one of the guys behind www.muskokaseaflea.ca”

The Muskoka Sea Flea group has a huge, active website, to learn more you can Click Here to check it out.

Image 16-Future-Racers

Future speed boat kings size up a potential project.

Image 17-Sea-Flea-Corral

Getting ready to race in the Sea Flea Corral.

Image 18-Ventnor-2

Ever seen a Ventnor this small, it has a two cylinder Elto two cycle engine in it with a belt drive. Better hope it doesn’t break … youch!

Ok with the small boats covered it’s time to wander around and take in some of that raceboat action!

Wandering through the Hydro Pits we find…

Image 19-South Paw

Dick Delsner prepping South Paw (Y1) a Lauterbach Hydro.

Image 20-Irishman

Bill Fisk unloading the Irishman (GP-317), a Lauterbach Grand Prix, next to 222 Opeechee (F-222) owned by the Leduc family.

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The Lauterbach (GP-200), owned by Dave Richardson waits impatiently on her trailer.

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Big Chief (A 11) gets a little pre-demo maintenance.

Scrambling back out of the Pit and back down to the main wharf, we find a gaggle of smaller step hydros dockside, among them:

Image 23-LMCIV at Dock

“Little Miss Canada IV” (F29) built by Tom Neff in 1990 and presently owned by Chris Cragg.


Image 24-Skylark

“Skylark”, – originally built in 1956 by Lloyd Smith, she’s been lovingly restored by the Fossey family who have managed to keep much of her original patina intact. Well known as Disappearing Propeller Boat experts, the Fossey’s obviously know how to have fun on the waves be it fast or slow.

By now out on the race course things are beginning to heat up and despite the dock limitations, I was able to capture a few long shots of the action for Woody Boater.

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Jersey Speed skiff “Flying High” (JS-78) hustles by with Bill DeGlopper at the helm.

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“Little Miss Canada IV” at speed and looking good.

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“Little Miss Canada V” built by Jeff Hughes in 2010 screams past the crowd.

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The Fossey’s lead the pack down the narrows between the mainland and Greavette Island.

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Opeechee and the Lauterbach Special Scream past Greavette Island in a wild dash to the finish.

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Several Slippery Sea Fleas Slide by the Safety Boat.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of “The Greatest Race Boat Show in Canadian History” presented by the Toronto Chapter ACBS.

Tomorrow Cobourg Kid & Cousin Glen take us through the impressive collection of wooden Gentleman’s Race Boats that were on hand for the show in Gravenhurst. It’s simply amazing!


14 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Nice story. Your telelphoto lens was definitely able to capture more of the action on the course than we were able to standing on the docks. Thanks!

  2. Sean
    Sean says:

    It was a blisteringly hot day. Really felt for the hydro guys waiting for their turn to to hit the course wearing those big lifejackets and helmets…. I’m sure once out there nobody knew it was hot though.

  3. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    Great reporting, amazing photos! Thanks for bringing the Show to us who couldn’t be there. I look forward to Part II tomorrow.

  4. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    I’ve been patiently waiting for this story. Thanks for the excellent and thorough coverage.

  5. Terry H.
    Terry H. says:

    Not sure if Cobourg Kid has a day job but if he is available, I’m thinking Senior Editor at Woody Boater would be an excellent fit…Another Great article!

  6. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    You would have had to have been a race boat driver to get a better view of the races than what CK has provided. I think I would have been more than disappointed if I couldn’t have been able to get out to the “T” dock. Maybe they should load up the Sequin and put her on the edge of the course next time. A great opportunity to make a few dollars and provide some close action viewing. She could loop the course and then come in for another load throughout the demonstration runs.

  7. Jim Bell
    Jim Bell says:

    I was in attendance and enjoyed every minute. The Segwyn and Winona II were actually rafted for a short time on the outer edge of the circuit but it was awkward to view the race boats as everyone could not fit on one end of the boat to see the race boats. Deck space was limited either fore or aft. I was on the Segwyn and it did not take long to convince the Captains to proceed with our 3 hour lunch cruise of Lake Muskoka. Awesome.

  8. Sean
    Sean says:

    Maybe just to stir it up a bit….and play a little devils advocate…This ACBS show was to be for “raceboats” only, and by invitation. It was a GREAT SHOW.

    Many (real) antique non-raceboats owned by ACBS members were not elegible and therefore not on display. The friday Poker run was to offset this and was a nice solution.

    However, when you really looked at the boats on display there were quite a few non-raceboats.

    Question: does a “gentlemans racer” qualify because of its 2/3 seat status if it has never been raced?

    What about a modern wood boat constructed in the 1990’s and later, that is not even a replica but designed with an older “character”?

    What do people think about a brand new boat (100% new wood) built to ACBS standards over a true antique hull (which is destroyed in the process) having modern power and claiming to be Antique?

    In fairness many of the “replica” boats were listed as replicas and I believe they absolutely belong there to represent the originals…. And, they are honest in their classification. Many of the beautiful boats in question are high dollar, top quality boats, built by wealthy (and active) ACBS members so, you don’t point fingers. I suppose it’s up to ones own moral compass.

    Do these boats in question detract from the REAL antique and Classic boats?

    Don’t get me wrong…there were many lovely boats on display. I love them all. But, the classification of some of these boats seems somehow ‘dishonest” to me.
    (BTW: SKYLARK is one of the most honest boats out there and truly a favotrite patina and all)

    Has anyone else ever considered this? How do you feel about it. I’m not taking sides…I’m just sayn’ 🙂

    • Chris B
      Chris B says:

      Man Sean, that was a lot of thoughts. Believe me all the people involved in the show thought about all of this a lot. We worried about it we had some who were completely against it. Its tough being on the committee of any organization especially when you try to do something different. But in the end we were all convinced to go ahead. We all knew this was going to be a race boat show due to the completion of MCIV so what do you do to make it special. It was decided to make this the best race boat show we were capable of putting together. the greatest race boat show.. In order to get boats from all over you have to generate a big buzz. This is tough task. You need boats from all over to make it this big. Lets not make this too long but your boatshow committee has no big egos or a bunch of guys sitting around a table wanting to show off their boats to the exclusion of others . Everything we do is to help sustain the club and keep it thriving. It can be a thankless job at times but those cold cut sandwiches at dinner make it all so good. We also had many discussions as to what is a raceboat. This goes on forever, authentic race boats, gentlemen racers, new replicas they are all worthy of coming to a show just like any year. All this to say it was a tough show to pull off. But the results in the promotion of our club the new freinships, partnerships developed with many other organizations yes many groups had to work together, the much larger press and publicity gained have all made this club and the hobby stronger. A bigger challenge now it how do we follow this. Sean we may need some help. And yes that newish wood boat on the header that’s was inspired by a race boat but holds 5 passengers so its kind of a runabout is mine. How does it fit in. its kinda cool .

      • Sean
        Sean says:


        I think you missed my point. The show was great. The boats were cool. It was an OUTSTANDING success!. It’s not about the show, It’s not about the committee (that did a great job). It’s not about the organization that was well planned and well executed. I don`t think a better job could have be done by any club!

        I’m talking on a personal level. What each boat is represented as by it’s owner. John Q Public looks at some of these boats believing they are from the 1920`s (or whatever) and they are NEW. He looks at a boat represented as a racer and it never raced. Means nothing to them (J.Q.P)other than they are cool boats…but they are confused.

        I suggest the categories are liberal to say the least but, good meaning souls don`t take advantage. Then, some push up to the edge of the `rules`to claim a birthright. My question is, does this take away from the REAL original boats… It`s a personal answer.

        I ask the questions, as the non-woodyboaters we were with at the show asked questions that made me think. I wanted to hear how others woodyboaters felt on these issues.

        By the way, I love your `King of Harts`She`s (he`s) great looking boat (and VERY cool). I don`t know much about it…I`d love to see an article on it or better yet have a tour!

        • Cobourg Kid
          Cobourg Kid says:

          My article was intended as a fun piece so I deliberately avoided the controversial issues Sean has raised, however, with those cards now on the WB table I felt obliged to throw down my own wild card opinion on those matters.

          I personally had absolutely no problem with the large spectrum of raceboats either on display or participating in the demo run, old, new, reproductions or total reconstructions.

          As Mark Mason wisely pointed out to me during the WB Poker Run, if it weren’t for reproductions, built in accordance with original plans, many of the early raceboats and raceboat lore would be long forgotten, lost to obscure ancient photos.

          Why? Because the vast majority of those boats were, at the end of their career, deemed obsolete and were quite literally sent out to pasture and later to the burn pile, or in some cases sunk..

          It’s important to mention that the ACBS Gravenhurst show was never promoted as a museum quality show and in actual fact the show announcers during the day provided plenty of background info about all the boats, specifically to help explain to the public what they were looking at, be it on the docks or on the race-course.

          Despite the foregoing, Sean is correct in saying there was some confusion percolating within the crowd. I personally spent some time (quite happily) explaining to some visitors why the “Wa Chee We”, a beautiful 1923 Ditchburn Fisher-Allison Class Race Boat had a modern indmar marine engine in it and then threw in the story of how it had been miraculously resurrected from a sunken hulk.

          The point is that I stepped in because there was no boat ambassador on the dock or in the boat at the time. Not to single anyone out that, situation was by no means uncommon, in fact based on my observations over 95% of the boats displayed at the docks had no boat ambassador assigned. The owners of Skylark were in fact one of the very few that stayed with their boat and were available to answer questions.

          Some owners tried to get around the boat ambassador problem by mounting a sign on the dock providing its particulars but it’s hard to read a sign when there is a plethora of folks passing by on a narrow dock.

          So how do we fix the problem? For every public show ACBS should consider making it mandatory for each owner to assign a boat ambassador who will stay with their Pride and Joy and answer questions or tell stories about it to all that will listen.

          If the owner doesn’t want to do that they can train their kid and assign them. It’s great PR experience for them. Don’t have a Kid or your kid is too young? Then hire a kid! I mean there are plenty of them out there that would do the work for modest payment, or even a free ride round the bay after the show.

          What I am saying here is that if you enter a boat in a public show (particularly one with paid attendance) you have a duty to make your boat relevant, to do that you need someone who is not only prepared to answer questions from the public (no matter how inane) but is also happy to invite those questions and tell the boat’s story.

  9. Sean
    Sean says:

    I don’t think “replica” boats are the issue. Either made from plans or a direct copy they clearly say “replica” on the display card with builder and date. I agree with CK that they are an important part of our hobby and history.

    IMPSHI, a replica with modern power was one of the coolest boats at the show…and I saw Mark Mason was sitting in her answering all questions and telling stories about her. An asset to the show and the hobby/lifestyle.

    I will not single out alleged (IMO) mis-represented boats as I believe it is a personal thing. I’m trying to keep the tough questions general. It’s not an ACBS “classification” issue as the right classes exist. (maybe the criteria of those classes should be revisited). and now I think on it, CK could be right. It very well might be an information/education/presentation issue…

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