The Chesapeake Bay log canoe is uniquely American. By 1859, as an outgrowth of the rush to be first to market, organized racing had become a formal sport. In the words of the Hon. John C. North II, “The Chesapeake Bay log canoes are believed to constitute the oldest class of racing sailboats in the world.”
According to his nominator, Judge North is almost singlehandedly responsible for the modern rejuvenation of the sport of log canoe racing.
For over 70 years North has captained his canoe “Island Bird,” built in 1882 by his great-grandfather. Described as a “living tradition,” he has won every major log canoe racing trophy several times over and has participated in virtually every log canoe race held during the last 70 years – a total of perhaps 500 races.
Judge North’s lasting impact on this sport is reflected in the number of canoes active in racing today. In 1950, only five canoes raced for the Governor’s Cup; today ten to twelve typically enter the six or so major regattas held each year. Of thirty-plus known surviving canoes, eighteen are on the National Register
Articles in the NY Times, SAIL Magazine, SAILING Magazine, Shipmate (alumni magazine of USNA)
Judge North takes every opportunity to expand awareness of the sport by inviting sailors from beyond the Eastern Shore to race, for example in the past he has invited professional sailors and coaches to his home and to match race on his boats.
Founding member and past president of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM), he serves as a Governor Emeritus.
In 2015, the museum presented its Heritage Award to Judge North.
His 2018 book, Tradition, Speed, and Grace, Chesapeake Bay Sailing Log Canoes, published by CBMM, received the Marion V. Brewington Book Prize from the Maritime Committee of the Maryland Historical Society.
Beyond racing, his technical contributions to the sport include working with sailmakers to design new and better sails, testing at the US Naval Academy’s tow tank facility to evaluate hull shapes, and commissioning a naval architect to improve the crafts’ centerboards.
Widely known as a collector and restorer of fine vintage automobiles, and recognized expert on the Bugatti and Duesenberg marques, his cars have been displayed in many concours events across the US and in Europe.