SV Dorothy, Oldest Canadian-built Sailboat, Wins 2024 Classic Boat Award

SV Dorothy

Apr 16, 2024

The Maritime Museum of British Columbia is most pleased to announce that one of its iconic sailboats, Dorothy, has won the 2024 Classic Boat’s Award for “Restored Sailing Vessel of the Year under 40ft.”
Classic Boats, an internationally renowned magazine featuring vintage boats, launches its Awards each year to “celebrate the best vessels in the sometimes unsung world of classic and traditional boatbuilding and restoration.”
For Dorothy to qualify for the Award has been an arduous task that took well over a decade with donor funding from around the world, painstaking structural repairs and thousands of hours of volunteer labour restoring her to her original beautiful lines.
The Awards 2024 ceremony took place April 3rd at the Royal Thames Yacht Club in London. Royal Canadian Air Force Colonel Jonathan Bouchard of the Canadian High Commission accepted the Award on behalf of the MMBC and all the people who supported her refit.
More than 15,000 votes were received in the “Restored Sailing Vessel under 40ft” category. Although it’s not known how many votes Dorothy received, we’ve heard there was “clear water between her and the second-place nominee.”
Dorothy was built by John J. Robinson in 1897. Her owner, Victoria barrister William H. Langley, kept her for 47 years, racing and cruising her in regional waters. A subsequent 13 owners sailed her until she was donated to the MMBC in 1995. At that time, she was experiencing geriatric problems. The Museum didn’t want the gaff-rigged, single headsail sloop to moulder away so in 2011, she was shipped to Gabriola shipwright Tony Grove. Over the next decade, he refurbished her structural elements using as much traditional materials as possible. “Dorothy was around long before me,” Grove said. “I feel very privileged to have been part of her timeline, restoring her alongside everyone else who put their hands and hearts into making her whole again for the next generations and for her legacy.”
After leaving Grove’s boatbuilding shop, she was ferried to Ladysmith’s Maritime Society where Dorothy historian and boatwright Robert Lawson spearheaded a group of volunteers who, using original drawings, photos and logs, restored the mahogany interior; painted the hull and topsides; refinished the mast, portholes and all brass and bronze; installed rigging and new sails and thereby restored her original, sleek, elegant looks.
“I don’t think a project like this could be easily replicated,” Robert Lawson told me. “We did it with donations large and small from all over N. America but without government funding. Our volunteers weren’t boatbuilders but in their age range of 67-82, they brought their life skills and dedication to the refit.”
Angus Mathews, a former Dorothy owner and the MMBC board member liaising with all refitters said that people have often asked him how Dorothy has survived more than 126 years. “My response is that she’s always attracted people who care,” he said. “People have supported her refit and voted for her in the Classic Boat Awards. And it‘s especially due to people like shipwrights Jim Dryburgh, Brian McMillan, Hugh Campbell, Tony Grove and Robert Lawson who brought their skills to keep her going over the years. We are grateful to them all.”
Dorothy will be on prominent display at MMBC’s Classic Boat Festival in Victoria’s Harbour,  Labour Day weekend, 30 August–1 September 2024.
Marianne Scott

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