The 2012 C&C Yachts Reunion and Conference Brings Canada’s Greatest Sailboat Brand Back to Life.

Is there a C&C on your dock? Yes. Did you ever race against a C&C? Likely. Do you own a C&C? Did you ever own one? The chances are extremely high that we have now included every one of the Canadian sailors and crew out there in the Canadian Yachting Nation.

Each and every one of us has certainly had contact with this famous brand. I don’t own one, but I race against a C&C 27 and a Viking 28 every Wednesday. I crewed on a 41 at Youngstown one summer. My first boat was built by CS, another Canadian builder that followed the example of their rival C&C, building pretty, high function fiberglass boats that populated clubs and marinas across Canada. I am reasonably confident that your experience, while not the same, nonetheless included a gamut of C&C related contact.

More than any name among the cars we drive, the brand of refrigerator we open or the shoes we wear, the C&C identity has touched virtually every Canadian who sails, or has sailed in the past 40 years. It is part of our heritage both as a country and in our individual experience.

Just about every C&C craft built over the company’s life is still afloat and that includes more than 1,000 C&C 27 plus hundreds 24s, 25s, 29s, 30s, 32s, 3s and 4s. The Ontario 32 and Corvette (both early C&C designs) and the 35 still sail on, as do hundreds of larger models. There are thousands all over the world including many that sail under other brand banners – like the 350 Trapper 27s built in England. They are essentially your classic C&C 27 and every bit as popular in the UK as they are here.

C&C averaged around 1,000 boats a year according to its founder, George Cuthbertson and at its height commanded 50% of the Canadian market and an astonishing 20% of the market in the US (there were a lot of domestic builders in the US and yet C&C kicked.) As George points out, this was not a case of cheap imports to America; during that time the Canadian dollar was above par and the company was paying the best wages in the industry. The success came from leading in technical design and manufacturing efficiencies.

In a low key, Canadian kind of way, C&C rose quickly to dominate North American boat builders, yet remained basically invisible to us since they have always just been there. After all, fish can’t see the water we swim in. But C&C Yachts ruled not just the Canadian boat industry, but set a standard for the world from the late 60s to the early 80s.

C&C reunion in Hamilton

A lot of perspective on this historic company came into focus at a reunion held this April in Hamilton Ontario. The event brought a roomful of C&C alumni together to both catch up on collegial love ‘back in the day’ but also to look at this amazing company and its accomplishments. And its demise.

The weekend included good social events, but became really interesting at the panel discussions. To distill a full day of the thoughts of many of Canada’s top boating designers, builders and marketing folks – most of whom are still leaders in the boating world - into a few words is a tough assignment, but here goes. C&C combined leading design, innovative manufacturing and a marketing team based in on-the-water knowledge to produce the world’s best boats for two decades. They are a pretty modest group, but yes they were that good.

The last word goes the people who worked there

At the event, we fired up the Canadian Yachting video network to interview a number of those in attendance. We certainly didn’t interview all the big names at the event, but the ones we caught nicely captures the spirit of the company and its creations.

Chuck Bentley - a wildly enthusiastic big boat competitor who managed C&Cs custom division with Eric Bruckman. On a personal level, Chuck owned a C&C designed, Belleville Marine built Corvette, a Hinterholler built C&C 35, and two boats built by the C&C custom shop that he acquired second hand. Chuck said, “Of those, Manitou was my favorite, just because it was a great sailing boat. Of their entire range, I think the C&C 61 was their breakthrough boat, because it displayed their expertise up in whole world, not just Canada.”

“C&C set the standard of what people came to expect. They defined the racing-cruising genre.”

Don Green – arguably C&C’s best customer. They built three yachts for him over his sailing life – he started up with a 35-footer then stepped up to a 36. Then he opted for something “more adventurous.” Don decided to take on the Canada’s Cup against the United States and he commissioned C&C to build a flat-out racing machine and from all accounts gave the company carte blanche to make it happen. Don said, “Of course I love Evergreen but Red Jacket, the SORC winner in 1967 was the boat that really caught my attention and the world’s.”

“Evergreen, was a great success story going on to win the Canada’s Cup and setting the standard for high-tech design and manufacture at the time. We had a lot of fun, we had a lot of setbacks and a lot of steps forward but through it all, what a team to work with!”

Mark Ellis – started as a designer at C&C in 1970 and went on to become the sales manager for the custom division until 1975. Like so many C&C alums, Mark went on to a high impact career designing a fleet of successful sail and powerboats including the Niagara 35 and Limestone 24. Mark told us, “In my view the most significant boat was launched just before I joined. Manitou marked a change from the narrow Red Jacket design into beefier boats with wider sections aft and forward that were very good power reachers as well as upwind – that changed the C&C design philosophy.”

“I came to C&C from the US Northeast and I had seen a lot of top builders there. C&C’s design and production was way ahead.”

Don Finkle – signed on fresh out of school at RCR Yachts in Youngstown NY, one of the largest dealers during the company’s entire history. Don is the founder of the Youngstown Level Regatta, the best freshwater regatta anywhere. he said, “To me personally, the most significant boat was the C&C 29 that came out in the fall of 1976. The class association we started is still active today. I loved that boat because we had such close one-design racing.”

“To work with the best designed, best performing boats in North America making customers really happy was a joy.”

Mike Vollmer – design office 1974- 78. Mike was lead designer on Dynamo and Cricket, the C&C 29, most of the racing spars of the time. He said, “The C&C 43s were a lot bigger boat in terms of loads – big strong boats. The 61s were the same, even bigger. Evergreen with its F-board and other composites led the way to the high tech boats of today”

“It was a fabulous place to work with the brightest people! The cruisers of today look like the racers of the 60s and 70s - light commodious boats that are easy to sail. C&C led the world and changed boats forever.”

Rob Turner - joined in 1979 to open a sales office in eastern Toronto, then C&C retail in Port Credit then moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake and left C&C in 1995 well after the company had been sold. Rob commented, “Evergreen was the definitive boat. There were so many breakthroughs in terms of the design and construction. The sails were ‘green garbage bags’ the first Mylar sails ever used.”

Steve Killing - joined C&C’s design office straight out of university in 1972 until 1979. Steve said, “Evergreen was very important – light, very beamy. I worked on it then sailed on her as foredeck. The C&C 40 was a great cruiser racer, esthetically very pleasing. The 27, 30 and 35 were designed before I was there, but those are the classics and are still in great demand even though they’re 30 years old.”

By John Morris

Photo #1 - Cuthbertson and Cassian designed Erich Bruckmann built custom 50 footer Inferno, racing in SORC in 1967. With her smaller 40' sister Red Jacket, Inferno would help to establisha reputation for Canadian quality in bothdesign and constructionthat would lead directly to the formation of C&C Yachts two years later.

Photo #2 - Built with revolutionary high tech materials and techniques, Don Green’s Evergreen returned the 1978 Canada’s Cup to this country.

Photo #3 - The C&C Yachts office staff in 1973, from left to right - Mark Ellis, Steve Killing, Rob Mazza, Rob Ball, Tony Godwin, Ruth Gard , George Cuthbertson, Ruth Smith, Len Cox .

Photo #4 - On the Saturday evening, as many of the former C&C Yachts employees as could be located, gathered on the lawn at the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club for this group photo. George Cuthbertson and his wife Helen (beige jacket) are the third and fourth from the right in the front row.