Seventy Years of Broom Battles >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News

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While the big events on Chesapeake Bay tend to come from the Annapolis Yacht Club, the Eastport Yacht Club, the Severn Sailing Association, Tom Price offers this story of two other organizations along the West Coast.


Few team races between two clubs have such a wonderful history. Seventy years is a long time to fight over a worthless old broom.

The story goes that in 1951, on a well lubricated raft with members of the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron and the Chesapeake Sailing Club, a discussion ensued on interclub races. Challenges were thrown with offers of ‘sailing lessons’ and a one-candle offer so the losing team could find their way back after finishing so late.

While a club boasted of having “glided” the races, an old worn broom soaked in water passed by. The sweeper was pulled out of the harbor and became the wanted prize for a team race with three boats from each club. I’m sure no one from either club dreamed that he would still compete with enthusiasm.

During the first decades, The Broom faced competition from similar category cruise ships. Tight races took place between the magnificent NY 32 sloops and the club-owned Owens Cutters. Very humorous and pleasantly insulting challenge letters have been a wonderful part of instigating each year’s event.

Later models such as the J / 30 were used with the host club supplying the boats. Gibson Island has a long history of one-design keelboat fleets and the event took place in their Ensigns, J / 22s and more recently in the charming International 210.

One year it was proposed that The Broom would be competed in two visiting 12-yarders, American Eagle and Weatherly.

This year, the event took place for the first time in Gibson Island’s new fleet of sonars. These very balanced boats were perfect for this type of racing. In a series contested on September 11, Gibson Island claimed a 3-1 best-of-five victory.

The event received an official “Proclamation” from Governor of Maryland Hogan, and with a grand ceremony, the old broom, who looks a bit ragged, will be dressed in the GIYS burgee for the year.

To note: Tom Price is the Sails Director for Gibson Island Yacht Squadron.


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