Robert Sexton
Inducted: 1988

Boat builder Bob Sexton, holding a saw and leaning over a partially built racing boat
Bob Sexton in the early 1900's, leaning over a partially built racing boat
(approximate year: 1900, size: 43kB, source: Regatta Museum).


Bob Sexton was born at Bonavista in 1859. On moving to St. John's, he became a friend of Dr. H.H. Rendell. Both were interested in yachting. Sexton worked as a carriage builder and built boats on the side.

Rendell believed he could design a shell which would be at least 10 seconds faster then the Iris, the masterpiece of Phil Mahoney. Sexton built a model based on Rendell's design, which was copied from designs then in use in England. They presented this to the City Boat Club in 1867 and they commissioned a shell.

Rendell continued working on and improving the design. Eventually Sexton built a shed in his backyard and, without assistance, built a new racing shell. He had no mechanical aids nor any steambox to bend the cedar planks. He was unable to build from blueprints so he and Rendell plotted out the shell on their dining room tables using hat pins for markers.

Their first boat, the Glance, was launched in 1895. It was 49 feet long, several feet longer then the Mahoney boats. Skeptics said "She's too long to turn quickly" or "She'll swamp", but on Regatta Day 1895, the Glance swept 13 first place finishes out of 14 races.

In 1896, the Committee refused to allow the Glance to enter as no other boat could compete with her, so they decided to rebuild Mahoney's Iris. Ten days before the Regatta they stripped it and added a new bow, stern and keel.

The Iris won 11 of 14 races and the public concluded that there was no use fighting Sexton's boats. The only thing to do was build new ones.

Rendell stated
"This is a record in boat building which will never be beaten and it goes to show what a wonderful workman Bob was, I greatly doubt whether a man could be found today capable of doing so much high class work single handed in such a short time."

In 1901, they built the famous Blue Peter, which they believed was their masterpiece. All succeeding boats were built from her moulds. In 1952, Past President Mike Hawley made a complete set of drawings of the Blue Peter at the CLB Armoury. All boats since have been built to these specifications.

Bob Sexton died in 1944. In a 50 year career, he built 15 six oared shells and 4 four oared shells for the St. John's Regatta Committee, 2 x 6's for Bell Island and 4 x 6's for Mundy Pond. Unfortunately, he left no successor. In 1948, when new boats were required, they had to be imported from England.


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