LYRA History – A brief account since 1884
On Saturday, 5 January 1884, at the annual meeting of the Toronto Yacht Club, the formation of a yacht racing association of clubs around Lake Ontario was discussed. After much correspondence, on Saturday, 29 March 1884, delegates from the Toronto YC, the Royal Canadian YC, the Oswego YC, and the Bay of Quinte YC met at the Queens Hotel in Toronto, voting their clubs to become the charter members of the Lake Yacht Racing Association.
It is believed that LYRA is the oldest association of yacht clubs on the continent; no other similar body is known to exist in North America in 1884. The original constitution stated “The object of the Association shall be to encourage yacht building and yacht racing, and to establish and enforce uniform rules for the government of all races in which the yachts of two or more clubs compete.”
In the early years the circuit regatta format predominated. Yachts raced from port to port, day or night, without today’s sophisticated navigational aids. In 1887, the fleet rendezvoused in Toronto and raced to Charlotte (Rochester) for two days of course racing. Then they continued to Oswego, Kingston and Belleville (Bay of Quinte). After World War I, course racing became the predominant regatta mode. However, distance racing was revived in 1921, in part, by Charles Freeman, with his donation of the perpetual Charles Freeman Cup and the institution of that race. The first winner of this new cup was Aemilius Jarvis, with the schooner Haswell, on a stormy course from Hamilton to Kingston.
The original cup was destroyed in a fire in 1931, but a replica was procured immediately from England. In 1937, Mr. Freeman generously donated a new cup for those classes having no chance of winning the Charles Freeman Cup from the big boats. The Louise Freeman Cup was for the smaller yachts in the long distance racing.
Today, the annual LYRA regatta brings together yachts from around Lake Ontario and adjacent waters for almost a full week of intensive and exciting racing, including feeder races to the regatta site, the overnight Freeman Races, and three days of around-the-buoys races, with good food and entertainment between. Anyone who has sailed at the LYRA Regatta knows that the events are truly international, giving U. S. and Canadian sailors opportunities to compete and establish strong friendships.