In 1880, the newly founded Toronto Canoe Club adopted as its burgee a white flag with a red ring. Under this symbol, which was derived from a design of the Royal Canoe Club of London, England, the T.C.C. by 1920 had become the largest club of its kind in the world. The original impetus was to provide opportunities for amateur canoeists to race and cruise, but from the start sailing played a part in club activities. In 1939 T.C.C. was reorganized as the Toronto Sailing and Canoe Club. From these beginnings evolved a tradition of active canoeing and sailing participation on a regional and international basis. For 138 years, the Red Ring has symbolized an active aquatic sports presence on the Toronto waterfront.

A series of early clubhouses were built in Toronto’s Inner Harbour, expanding in size each time as the membership grew, until in 1911 the newly formed Toronto Harbour Commission decided to develop deep water slips in the harbour to accommodate large freighters. After World War I the T.C.C. was moved to the western waterfront shoreline, which by then was protected by construction of a breakwall stretching from the Western Gap to the Humber River. The club at this time occupied a grand house on a four acre estate at the foot of Dowling Avenue and developed ambitious plans for lawn bowling, tennis, badminton and swimming, which also included championship hockey and rugby teams.

The club however, went deep into debt until in 1929 it was near financial collapse. Triggered by the expropriation of waterfront lands, the T.C.C. negotiated the sale of its property in Parkdale to the City to pay off its debts and agreed to lease a portion of the waterfront – still occupied by the TS&CC, where it was able to survive in reduced circumstances as an aquatic club. Sailing membership increased from the 1930’s onward until in the 1960’s, sailing was the predominant activity. In the winter of 1957 the club suffered a disastrous fire that completely destroyed the clubhouse along with 100 dinghies and canoes stored inside. The clubhouse was rebuilt in 1960 with a loan from the City, and is still in use today.

A fierce storm in January 1978 brought hurricane force winds that tore out portions of the breakwall as well as both of the club’s permanent docks. Fortunately the Federal Government agreed to rebuild the damaged portions of the seawall the following winter, as the club is dependent on this shoreline protection against the occasional violent storms on Lake Ontario originating from the south.

Today the Toronto Sailing & Canoe Club continues to serve a diverse membership, many coming from the local communities, but also from outlying areas of the city. There are healthy fleets of racing and cruising keelboats, sailing dinghies, canoes, outrigger canoes, kayaks along with as many as six Dragonboat teams. TS&CC operates as a volunteer organization, each member being required to contribute his or her time to the operation and maintenance of the club, helping to keep membership costs affordable. One of the mandates of the club is to provide opportunities to race, with the belief that competitive racing develops sailing skills. And to further the development of skills, the club runs a very successful sailing school program for both children and adults introducing them to a lifetime enjoyment of sailing, including some disadvantaged youth from the local community.

The motto of the club is “a club for people that want to get out on the water”. Today the club is host to a wide range of events that reflect the diverse membership. Since 1970 the club has hosted the Icebreaker regatta, the Canadian Olympic Classes sailing event, the first of the season. Another important event is the International Outrigger Challenge; bringing together outrigger canoes, stand up paddleboards, surf skis and kayaks from the U.S and around the world.

In an effort to live up to their motto and “get people out on the water“ the club offers a wide range of memberships. There are senior memberships for people that own boats, crewing memberships for those wanting to get out on other people’s boats, paddling memberships for those who want the challenge of the 6 person outrigger canoes or dragon boats, canoe or kayak memberships for those who love some quiet, independent time on the water and fleet memberships for those who want the experience but not the burden of boat ownership. If anybody needs help learning there is also the well-regarded school. Included with all memberships is the camaraderie of a community of people who share an interest and are happy to passionately discuss it. It can all be done in our pleasant clubhouse and bar, which members and non-members often rent for weddings, parties etc.

For 138 years the Toronto Sailing & Canoe Club, located at 1391 Lake Shore Blvd W., has provided exactly what it promises: a pleasant and affordable way to enjoy the natural treasure of Lake Ontario from its jewel of a location on the north shore.

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