Following the tumultuous outcome of the 1922 International Fishermen’s Race, the fate of the series seemed uncertain — but that sentiment proved to be short-lived, due to the ever-growing public interest in the races.
A new challenger was also emerging from the A.D. Story shipyard in Essex, MA — the brilliant schooner COLUMBIA to be Skippered by Captain Ben Pine. As a result, the fourth International Fishermen’s Race was set to take place off Halifax on October 27th, 1923. Nova Scotia had ruled that the reigning champion BLUENOSE would defend the International Fishermen’s Cup once more.
Gloucester’s elimination race was held between Captain Clayton Morrissey — more eager to fish now than race — of HENRY FORD, and the new and hopeful COLUMBIA with Ben Pine at the helm. COLUMBIA emerged victorious and left for Halifax on October 25th. Due to gale force winds, typical of the season, and other delays, the International Series was postponed and set to begin on October 29th. Columbia arrived in Halifax 38 hours after leaving Gloucester.
All involved in the 1923 series were hoping none of the ill-feelings of the previous year would tarnish this year’s contest — however as soon as COLUMBIA arrived in Halifax, tensions were already running high between the racing committee and the schooner crews.
Despite mounting tensions, the first race went ahead on a moody October day that matched the sentiment in Halifax. BLUENOSE was first across the line and the rest of the race was a constant and hard-fought battle. At one point, Pine, eager to keep his lead, forced the vessels dangerously close to a shoal, leaving BLUENOSE no choice but to bear off — her main boom swinging into COLUMBIA’s rigging and towing her along for a moment before breaking free. In the end it was BLUENOSE first across the finish line by just one minute and twenty seconds ahead. Matched in skill and tenacity, the Nova Scotians had just met their greatest rival.
The second race began in a twenty knot breeze, but quickly piped up to thirty. BLUENOSE was first across the line and once more it was a hard fought battle. Both schooners and their crews found they were being tested by the elements — on board COLUMBIA, a crew member was washed overboard, but managed to make it back aboard the vessel, and BLUENOSE parted her main running back, almost severing Angus Walters and several others, and badly damaging the main topmast. In the end it was BLUENOSE first across the line by two minutes and forty-five seconds.
The International Fishermen’s Cup was to be presented to the crew of BLUENOSE that evening, but shortly before the celebration began, the Americans had put in a protest. They claimed that BLUENOSE had crossed a buoy on the wrong side — to which Angus argued did not advance him any, and also reminded the race committee of Pine’s maneuver refusing to give way in the previous race.
The race committee ruled that each schooner had one race each, and a third race was to take place. Furious, Angus ordered his crew to sail for home. Captain Ben Pine was offered to sail the race alone for The Cup, which he refused, not wanting to win simply by default.
In the end, the racing committee had no choice but to declare the series incomplete. They awarded half of the $5000 prize money to COLUMBIA and put The Cup in the hands of the trustees, until the next race…