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The Tale of the Great Bras d’Or Cup

There are only a few short weeks left until the first Race the Cape sail race! Taking place in Cape Breton’s stunning in-land sea, the ceremonies begin on July 17th and the race finishes up on July 22nd.
Boats from all over Nova Scotia will be racing on our shining waters, travelling from St. Peter’s, to Ben Eoin, to Baddeck, to North Sydney, and finally to Sydney for the awards reception and closing ceremonies.

Each of the four legs of the race have had unique names chosen for them by the directors of Race the Cape. The names tell stories; on top of relating to the location where the leg is taking place, they also represent Cape Breton’s four main cultures: the Mi’kmaq, the French, the Scottish, and the English.

Sponsored by Yacht Shop, sailors taking part in the longest leg, Leg Three : The Great Bras d’Or Cup, will be navigating the largest channel that connects the Bras d’Or Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. It is known as the Great Bras d’Or Channel, and has a significant relevance to some of the pioneer European settlers of our island. Naming this leg the Great Bras d’Or Cup allows us to pay homage to the great French adventurers who first mapped Cape Breton’s waterways.

Over the years there have been many suggestions as to the origin of the lake’s name, but there is one that surpasses them all in popularity and grandeur: local folklore says it was named Bras d’Or, meaning “arm of gold”, upon the settlers witnessing the sun setting over the waters, and the rays being reflecting off of the glistening in-land sea. The European first settlers in this area are said to have been French, which in turn explains the name Cape Bretoners all know and love today – Bras d’Or Lake.

Bras d’Or also has a claim to fame: in the summer of 1886, Alexander Graham Bell, famous scientist and inventor, built his estate on a peninsula opposite Baddeck. He named it “Beinn Bhreagh”, meaning “Beautiful Mountain” in Scottish Gaelic. Bell resided there until he passed away in 1922, after using the Lake to test many of his various research projects, such as airplanes on the frozen ice and hydrofoils.

The Flight of the Silver Dart was performed over Baddeck Bay. This flight was recognized as the “first official heavier-than-air powered flight in the British Empire”, which at the time included Canada. The airplane was designed by Bell and others in his home Beinn Bhreagh. In January of 2009, a commemoration of this event took place 100 years later when a replica of the original aircraft was flown in the same location during the same month.

The Great Bras d’Or Cup starts on July 21st off the Bras d’Or Yacht Club in Baddeck Bay and finishes at the Northern Yacht Club in North Sydney.

Check back tomorrow to read the story of the final leg: Cibou Cup.