Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ian Bruce

I was walking down the pier at the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft festival this year and passed one of those varnished Classic look-alike repro Chris-Craft runabouts. I made a mental note that this was an odd duck at this event; I'd never seen a classic motor boat at MASCF, there already being a surfeit of other events that cater to the Classic runabout crowd (the big one is the Antique Boat Museum event at Clayton NY at the beginning of August). Pushing this anomaly out of my mind, I kept ambling along to the end of the pier, perusing all wide variety of paddling, rowing and sailing craft. After fifteen minutes stepping in an around the small boats scattered on the floating dock, I looked back toward the Museum and spotted what looked like a familiar figure standing on the pier next to the Chris Craft. Hard to tell at this distance but it looked like Ian Bruce, the one man responsible for launching the greatest number of fiberglass sailboats in the history of mankind (the Laser first comes to mind, then the Laser II, the Tasar, the Byte, the Megabyte, the Laser 28, and before all that, about 150 International 14's). If it was Ian Bruce, then the reproduction Chris Craft started to make sense. It took me some time to make my way back up the pier and, sure enough, there, standing in the cockpit, was Ian Bruce.

I had heard Ian was developing an all-electric Classic runabout, something that could do 30 knots, an unheard of speed in the all-electric world and here was the boat in the flesh. Ian had brought the boat down from Canada to do the Wye Island Electric Boat Marathon the weekend before (just up the river from St. Michaels) and decided to attend MASCF. Ian had a water pump pack it in the day before the Wye Island race which he and his friend Jack Lynch fixed with some local hardware parts (not sure what needs water cooling in Ian's electric setup on the Chris-Craft look alike). This severely curtailed the top speed to about 9 knots and put him out of the running. His intent is to return next year, fully operational, and smash the record for the 24 mile course. A YouTube video on the Wye Island Marathon (including Ian's Classique Bateaux - Ian has always lived in French speaking Quebec) shows these electric powered craft making good speed around the course.

After producing fiberglass sailboats since the late 1960's, Ian is no longer in the sailboat production business, having sold the Byte and Megabyte lines to Zim in May of 2011. This E-boat project has got Ian's considerable creative talents going full bore and his focus is on making this all-electric Classic runabout a success.

The bulk of our five minute discussion wasn't electric boats, or the state of sailboat manufacturing but reminiscing about Classic International 14's. I consider Ian one of the greatest living International 14 champions. I hope to catch him again in 2013 on his return to racing on the Maryland Eastern shore.

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