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My Involvement with the Y Flyer

By - Richard Quinlan of St. Mary’s Lake and CYC


I’m still quite involved in sailing the Y Flyer. Each year I help organize an Alberta event, and I’ve twice travelled east - in 2014 and 2018 (also in the early ‘70s). We have an annual ‘Western Y Weekend’ at Pigeon Lake (SW of Edmonton), and the attached photo shows us in 2017 - all the Y’s lined up along the beach for a pre-sail ’show & shine’. The next photo shows some of us, including my wife, Dee, and me racing in the Itaska Yacht Club races (formerly Pigeon Lake Yacht Club.) 

I know quite a few details of the Alberta Y Flyer history, which started in the 1950s with fleets at Edmonton YC, Calgary YC, and Pigeon Lake Yacht Club (home club of both Doug Bell and me).  There were also a few boats at Wabamun Sailing Club and a few other clubs in central Alberta. There were around 100 Y Flyers actively racing here through the 1960s. It was very competitive with some excellent sailors in all three of the main clubs. The fleets died out everywhere by the 1980s, except CYC where they held on for a few more years. The arrival of Fireballs and several fibreglass boats like Seaspray, Hobie, FJs, and many others sort of killed off the Y Flyer, and the commercial builder in Edmonton retired and closed up shop in the mid ‘70s. The notable exception to the demise of the Y Flyer is at Pigeon Lake/Itaska Yacht Club (a small cottage club without a clubhouse) where there is still a fleet of half a dozen boats - much down from the fleet of 30 when I was a kid there. Members at PLYC/IYC have sailed Y Flyers pretty well every week of every summer from 1950s to present. I also have a small fleet of Y’s now at St. Mary’s Sailing club with 2 private boats and 2 club boats.  

I know of the big eastern fleets that existed in places like Fanshaw YC in London, the Hudson YC, and several others like Pointe-Claire YC. Currently, there are three remaining and quite active eastern fleets - at Sudbury YC, Belwood Lake YC, and Norway Bay, Quebec. The really big fleets are in SE USA - places like Charleston, Kentucky, and especially Atlanta Yacht Club which has 40 Y Flyers in their fleet! 

Certainly there was quite a Y Flyer culture at CYC, and it was fairly distinctive, as all the boats were home built, so each was a bit different. When we were junior sailors, we’d move our club teams between EYC, WSC, IYC, CYC and Glenmore Sailing Club, and race in whatever boats the club offered. At EYC, WSC, and GSC, it was in the club-owned Flying Juniors, but when we visited either CYC or PLY/Itaska YC, we’d all sail in the members’ Y Flyers, as they’d all loan them for the junior southern or northern Alberta qualifying regatta, and then the provincial junior championship regatta which flipped from a northern to a southern club each year. All the Y Flyers were a little different, so to make it fairer we’d swap boats throughout the regatta (can’t remember if it we’d switch every race or every half-day). It was lots of fun sailing and afterwards socializing ashore. My perspective is mostly from the Edmonton area, but Mike Hooper remembers the Ys at CYC well as his family sailed them. He would have more information on the really excellent CYC Y Flyer sailors, such as Spencer Lea, Alf Lea, Ken Penley, and some of the really successful juniors, like Dave Shaw. 

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