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Women & QCYC (Part 2 of 3)

By: Richard Slee (as published in June 2018 Issue of Clipper Magazine)

This is Part Two in a series of articles that grew out of research I did at the request of Mark MacRae for historical articles for the Clipper Part One, published in the May Clipper, gave a history of the first 105 years of the participation of women at QCYC. This part will offer profiles of our three women commodores and two other women who, without holding the highest office, made especially notable contributions to the Club. Part Three will tell the story of the Women Skippers Race. (There may also be a Part Four, as indicated in the final sentence of this one.) It is fitting to reflect on the history of women at QCYC this year, as it marks the centenary of female suffrage in Canada. The information in this article is drawn from rosters and Clippers, supplemented by interviews and personal correspondence.

The Women Commodores of QCYC

Commodore Moira Coull: 1997-98

Moira served as Junior Club Chair for three years starting in 1993. In her first year, after a fire in the Junior Club, she had to build everything up from scratch because all the equipment had been stored in the garage by the bridge. She worked closely with Genco and the insurance company to replace some of the fleet, and with RCYC to gain access to their pool for swimming tests. She continued the tradition of the Rubber Ducky Dinghy Race and dance which had been started in 1990 by the former Junior Club Chair, Bobby Peat, and John Moorhouse.

In 1995 Moira was elected Vice Commodore; there were also three other women on the Board. In her first year, she formed a Safety Committee. In 1997, in her first year as Commodore, she introduced Board meetings where members were invited to bring concerns; appointed a new caterer (the old one had skipped without paying taxes); negotiated a new lease; opposed powerboat races in the harbour; and personally washed and stained the ceiling in the restaurant. (But she had to use the Vice Commodore Norrie Macdonald's yacht, Born Free II, to review the fleet at Sailpast in 1997.)

In 1998, when Moira was the only woman on the Board, a committee was formed to report on a mandatory work hours system: their conclusions were reported in the November Clipper and approved at the AGM that month. As if that were not achievement enough, during her term of office the Planning Chair introduced a five-year capital budget, and the Club got both an official and an unofficial webpage.

Moira was a strong supporter of the history of Queen City and tried as often as she could to stick with tradition and maintain the culture of the Club while still building its reputation as the friendliest club on the Lake. As Commodore she had QCYC host the twelfth Set Sail for Hope - a fund-raising event for Camp Trillium, a camp for children with cancer - which up to that time had usually been hosted by RCYC. Another first was her invitation to the Council of Commodores to QCYC in 1998. The Club had apparently never hosted the Commodores before as it was feared that transportation would be an issue. It wasn’t, and the meeting was very successful.

Moira Coull studied at the Ivey School of Business and at Ryerson University, worked as an Integrated Network Senior Manager at TELU, and retired from Bell Canada as Director of Business Internet High Speed Product/Marketing Management. Moira and her husband John had been coming to the Club for years in the 70s before joining; at that stage, they raced with Bobby Peat on his Viking 28. They became Associate members in July 1987 and lived on Ward’s Island, finally becoming Senior members in 1989 with their boat Scott Won, a Tempest. In 1991 their daughter Shannon taught in the Junior Club. In 1992, in her first year as Chair of Junior Club, Moira introduced a successful adult sailing program which was continued in 1993. In 1993, she had senior members invite Junior Club members to crew on Wednesday night races. Kristen Coull, another daughter, started driving our tenders in 1996 and became a captain in 1997. John and Moira acquired a 42-foot custom-built C&C that had been damaged in a bad fire, and restored it. They called her Genevieve. In 2003 they moved to Cherry Valley in Prince Edward County, and continue to sail Genevieve out of Picton. They wrapped up a four-year sail “The Down East Circle Route” at the end of the summer in 2016. For the blog of their trip go to https://www.sailblogs.com/member/log.

Commodore Pat Whetung: 2010-11

Pat Whetung, another top contributor to the Club, became an Associate member in 1995 and a Senior Member with her boat One More Time in 2000. Also in that year she joined the Board as Secretary. She served a total of eleven years on the Board, six of them on the Management Committee. She was Secretary for two years, Treasurer for four years, House Chair for one year, Vice Commodore for two years, and finally Commodore in 2010-11.

She organized the Boat Show booth, the 2006 Heritage Day (after the clubhouse fire), the 120th Anniversary Celebration in 2009, the Tuesday night educational seminars, and an informal crew bank. Pat regularly participated in member-run social events such as Christmas Tree Decorating and Ground Hog Day.

As a sailor, Pat took part in many QCYC activities, including Club races, LORC races, CORK (three years), the Women’s Sailing Association weekly races, and other regattas (LORC, C&C Owners, NOOD Regatta 2004/05/06, Lake Ontario Short Handed Races, and AHMEN). She was also Skipper of the first all-women crew in the Lake Ontario 300 White Sail division. The flags displayed on her boat at Sailpast are a testament to her success. As a cruiser she has sailed Thailand (two trips), New Zealand, and the Thousand Islands (two years).

Pat is third-generation Japanese and a fully-fledged, card-carrying person of Indian Status. She grew up in suburban Toronto and attended several Toronto schools, finishing with the University of Toronto where she took undergraduate courses in Accounting, Management, and Economics. She also owned and operated a manufacturing, wholesale/retail and fine art gallery family business on the Curve Lake First Nations Reserve which employed over five hundred workers with fifty management staff. This included building the Whetung Art Gallery. For twenty-five years Pat was an agent for Canadian artists from coast to coast, specializing in Native Art. She ended her working life at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and retired from that job in 2002. Pat also sat on Provincial advisory committees to the Premier and consulted on economic development on four reserves across Canada.

As Commodore, her philosophy was, “If the Board isn’t working for the current and future members at all times... then what is our purpose?” A major initiative started during her tenure and led by Ron Mazza, the Planning Chair, was planning for the building of a new learn-to-sail facility. During her time as Commodore there were surveys to track membership demographics and to identify any shift in membership preferences. She insisted on transparency, with careful communications, and encouraged member involvement. She also built up the cash reserve with a balanced budget and then came in under budget. While she was Past Commodore, she started planning for the new mast crane including disassembly, finalizing the budget and construction in time for spring mast stepping. There was also the Snug kitchen replacement, starting the tax appeal process with Past Commodore Jim Thorndycraft, and coordination of the annual revision to the Members’ Handbook. All in all, a busy and successful term of office.

Commodore Jacqui Cook: 2017-2018

Our current Commodore, Jacqui Cook, joined the Club in 2002. When she and Eriks became members, they bought the Shark Knot Jaffs, but in the fall of that year, they resold Knot Jaffs and bought Hot Tamale, a Pearson 30. The whole family had looked at a number of boats, but their son liked the “cave” quarter berth. In 2008 they bought Wild Jasmine, a Tartan 37, as they one day wanted to go south.

In 2006 Jacqui joined the Board as Membership Chair for two years. She felt this was a great way to know the membership; with new members, she could greet everyone by name. She was also Treasurer for five years. The new approach to budgeting was a real challenge: "We know how much money we are going to have by May and then spend it over four months." She became Vice Commodore in 2015 and Commodore in 2017. Jacqui has participated in the Marine Railway replacement, applesauce rationing at Pig Roast, and the Tom Sawyeresque painting of the water system uprights at the moorings. (She tells the story of how she got paints of different colours and she'd start painting, and someone would come along and ask what she was doing, and they would join her and start painting - kids included.) She also created the online banking bill payments, did a new members' survey, and coordinated the booth at the Boat Show.

She married Eriks Rugelis in 2000 and is the proud stepmother of two great people, Karina and Martins. Jacqui is currently a professor at George Brown College in the School of Marketing, Centre for Business. Before that she was a Senior Marketing Manager, mostly for technology companies. She worked at Tucows Internet Services, Simware, and at iStar, and the first Canadian ISP - where she met Eriks. She was also VP Marketing for the Womens' Network and before that was with Telesat. She has an MBA from McMaster University but is also proud of holding the Girl Guides Canada Cord, the highest honour a Guide can earn (she had to collect lots of badges). She unfortunately spent her first year as Commodore fighting the rising tide of flood waters, I might add rather successfully! In her own words, “Through our combined efforts we saved the clubhouse, fixed the grounds and marine yard, fixed docks and tires, held fabulous events, raced, ate, drank, and had a rocking good time.”

Women Who Need Mentioning

Leaving the Great Women theory of leadership, I need to mention a few women who were not Commodore but made significant and important contributions to QCYC. As Wayne Lilley states in the Centennial Book, “If women had been given short shrift for some time at QCYC, the trophy presentations on Awards Night 1988 proved they had arrived: long-time race committee stalwart Kay Walker was awarded the Jack Albertson Trophy for outstanding service to the club.” This was a trophy donated by the late actor Jack Alberston, a cousin of George Annand, Commodore 1960-61. It would not be won again by a woman until it was awarded to Gail Smith in 1997.

Kay Walker, who had joined the Club with her husband in 1950s, served as coordinator of the Race Committee into the 1990s. Marlyn and Norrie Macdonald remember how they were saddened to hear of her death in March 2013: “In her day, Kay scared the bejeezus out of many a neophyte racer at Queen City and many of us learned the art of racing boats much more quickly than we might have, just to avoid her wrath. Just the decibel level of her voice was enough to send you running. She was, indeed, one of the characters of the club and the Island community and her dedication to the race committee at QCYC was exceptional; Kay came out in all kinds of weather and made sure she gave us the best course to make the race interesting and challenging.”

I have already mentioned Mary Partridge; however, much more needs to be said. When Mary and Wayne joined the Club in 1983, they decided that Mary would be the senior member since she didn’t mind going to meetings and Wayne had no patience for them. “At the time there were only two other female senior members in the Club and only senior members were permitted to vote at the AGM,” says Mary. That left many active women members without a voice in Club affairs - a situation made worse if the couple’s male senior member died or they split up.

As QCYC Membership Chair at the time, Mary was determined to broaden the membership and encourage better participation at meetings and volunteer activities by giving spouses of senior members full voting privileges. At the 1990 AGM she spearheaded a motion to approve a “Senior Membership Unit” category. This was a progressive move and gave QCYC a contemporary image in the sailing community. “In subsequent years, the club was invited to consult with many other clubs who were also seeking to develop a more modern membership structure,” says Wayne Lilley. In the late 1980s the female spouses of senior members were doing much of the volunteer work at the club. As an example, he points to the research and planning work done on the 1889-1989 QCYC Centennial book, which he wrote and Steve Manley designed.

Mary held the positions of Membership Chair (1993, 1994, 2000, 2001, 2002), Treasurer (1995 and 2000), and Planning Chair (2006 and 2007), a total of nine very productive years on the Board. One of her early initiatives was to pioneer the Club’s presence at the annual Toronto Boat Show. QCYC became the first yacht club to put up an information display there, infusing the membership with new pride and energy in the winter. Although the booth was pricey, it paid for itself with new recruits to the Club. Mary was successful, during both terms as membership Chair, in rebuilding the QCYC membership base. “People just didn’t know about our small club,” says Mary. Its uniqueness is its location on the Island. I knew that if you told our story, they would come.”

Conclusion

One of the things that became obvious to me reading through reams of historical materials, is that women must have played a huge role in supporting the Club that was not recorded for posterity. That has in part been rectified in the last thirty years by writers like Wayne Lilley and others who contributed to the Clipper. The history of the first hundred years of the Club is marked by a continuous series of assessments, bonds and debentures, the last ($175) being charged to members in the summer of 1993. Since then we have had to my knowledge no special assessments. Could it be that the participation of extremely qualified women on the Board led to better financial management and control? I believe that in part that it did, though I also have to admit that easier financing through the banks and the diligent efforts of men like David Hall, who was Treasurer in 1992-4 and 1998, Commodore in 1995-6 and again in 2002-3 when he implemented floating docks–a move that increased membership significantly and put us on a sounder financial footing.

It is amazing to realize that in this decade, if the Vice Commodore Genia Vanderkruk is elected as Commodore in 2019 and serves through to 2020, women will have served as Commodore longer than men at Queen City Yacht Club.

My next article on Women at QCYC will be about the Women Skippers Race. I have decided to add a fourth part for publication in October. If you know of a woman who has made a significant contribution to QCYC, please let me know at richardslee@teksavvy.com.