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Thunderbird Fleet #4 RVYC Annual Report January 2011

The Thunderbird Revolution continues to gain steam and the Fleet continues to renew itself with new owners taking the helm of well known club boats.  As many know it’s a winning design that has staying power, it’s durable, versatile and when a new owner takes the helm they know their future is full of promise and possibilities.  The Thunderbird is just right for racing, cruising and a lifetime of family fun.  In 2011 the RVYC will be celebrating 100 years of its Royal Warrant, and it is worthwhile acknowledging that Thunderbird Fleet #4 will be marking its 50th anniversary with the RVYC.  The interwoven story of the RVYC and the Thunderbird started with Ned Ashe’s Mary D II; the design soon caught-on and in 1961 Fleet #4 was founded.  The indefatigable Ashe was one of many RVYC Commodores and Flag Officers who have sailed the venerable Thunderbird over the years. Truly, a Thunderbird is a boat that can take you anywhere.  

The last year had many highlights and it is difficult to know where to begin.  Based on merit of individual achievement Adrian Betanzo should be singled out for bringing Zig Zag back into action on Cadboro Bay. Zig Zag, with sail number 158, is the Fleet’s oldest boat and it had been dormant for time. Adrian’s dedication and determination is remarkable, he has brought the boat back to life with a wooden mast and the result is stunning.  The Fleet also welcomes Brock Radelet who is currently reworking Tiger Tiger and we are keen to see her out on the race course, but we are already enjoying Brock’s company at our many social events.

The Crew of Scooter, Duncan Stamper, Keith Provan, Mark Malleson, and Steve Isbister represented the club in Toronto in August at the International Thunderbird Championships held at Ashbridge’s Bay Yacht Club.  They successfully defended their 2007 Internationals title on a borrowed boat, One Too Many, by sailing a near perfect regatta with 6 firsts and 5 seconds in 11 races against a fleet of 14 boats.   The crew of Compound X,  skippered by Kyle Henehan, trailered their boat from San Diego and  sailed in the north-east districts the week prior to the Internationals winning handily with 6 firsts in 6 races.  Compound X managed to place 2nd with 26 points and local Toronto legend David Holmes on Rattle Ya Dags was third with 32 points.    

The Scooter Crew’s victory makes them only the second crew to ever successfully defend an International Thunderbird Championship. The first being Grant Chyz of Fleet #2 in 1991 and 1993 on Raptor.  However,  RVYC’s Fleet #4 holds the honour of being the first fleet to ever win the title three times straight. The RVYC should be very proud that Fleet #4 has produced four of the last six International Champions, beginning with Bob Britten in 1999 on Hocus. The current dynasty starts with Vidas Stukas in 2005 on ‘Blew Bird’ in Toronto and Duncan Stamper on Scooter in Victoria in 2007 and One Too Many in 2010 in Toronto.  In this 50th anniversary year we should also recognize Fleet #4’s first International Champion, John Malleson, who won the trophy on Sunday, sail number 900, in 1971. Noteworthy too is Ashe’s 1965 record setting win of the Swiftsure Juan de Fuca race on  Mary D II.  It was a record that stood for a decade. George Redzich also won the Swiftsure Juan de Fuca race in 1985 with his T-Bird Sea Jay. 

The next International Championship will be held in local waters in 2012 and there are already reports that Britten and Stukas want the title back.  There is little doubt that a RVYC crew will win the next title and the competition will be intense.

Locally, the Thunderbird Fleet Championships were held on June 26th on a brilliantly beautiful day.  There was an amazing turnout of 8 boats. Winds were ideal in the 15 to 20 knot range from the southwest and then south – which meant extremely tired crews as Malcolm, Tim and Simon on race committee ran 7 excellent races back to back.  Whenever the last boat finished, the horn sounded for the start of the next race.  By the sixth race, certain skippers plaintively asked if this was the last race, while Bob Britten on Hocus was hoping for several more to make up a deficit against Vitas on Owl, who was the victor.

Fleet #4’s annual Totem Cruise on the Victoria Day long weekend and was well attended. Four T-Birds, Kolus, Cool Breeze, Seahawk and Owl,   made the trip to Long Harbour outstation despite a mixed weather forecast. Boats leaving on the Saturday were greeted with a beautiful beam reach chute ride in 10 to 15 knots from Ten Mile Point to the end of Sidney Spit. Most boats managed the trip in 5 to 6 hours; very good time indeed for the far end of Long Harbour.  Barbecuing followed shortly after everyone's arrival. On Sunday the Fleet made its way into Ganges for exploration and lunch. After returning to Long Harbour happy hour was hosted under the distinctive bright yellow bimini of Kolus, which afforded a sunny feeling to the crowd.  An impromptu potluck emerged inside the tight space of the outstation as everyone looked for a warm dry place to cook dinner. By 5:30 am Monday morning all T-Birds were underway back to Cadboro Bay, with all arriving safely before 11 am.

The Fleet website (, which was created by Ian Gable, continues to spread the word of the Thunderbird Revolution as it receives thousands of hits from around the world. The site also features an incredible video of Scooter running with the wind on a Boxing Day 2010, the same day the Annual Rum Races scrubbed due to high winds. This extraordinary video is testimony to the resilience of the design and the tenacity of those who choose to embrace the Thunderbird Revolution.

In closing I do want to say a special thanks to all those Thunderbird owners, current and former who have maintained a very fine fleet over the years. The Fleet has wonderful camaraderie and a special feel of fraternity which can only come from those who love to sail and to be with other who love sailing too.  Everyone is willing to lend a hand for the common good and no-one more so than John Booth, who it can be said without exaggeration, that without him there would likely be no Thunderbird Fleet at the RVYC. Also special thanks to John Edwards, the most recent Thunderbirder to take on Flag Officer duties, who did a terrific job as the club’s Fleet Captain in 2010.

Finally, I would like to say thank you to the Thunderbird Fleet #4 Executive.

Fleet Captain: Vidas Stukas

Communications: Ian Gable

Treasurer/Membership: Bryan Cameron

Social Convener: Hilary Dawson

Fleet Measurer: Vidas Stukas


Geoff Morrison

Thunderbird Fleet #4 President
Sirocco (1140)
January 2011