The Barthel Trophy was deeded to the Yacht Racing Union of the Great Lakes on February 11, 1933 by Commodore Otto Barthel who was joined in making the gift by, George Orr of Chicago and Thomas K. Wade of Toronto.
The first Barthel Series was scheduled to be held on Lake Michigan that summer. The deed of gift states, “The first race is to be held in connection with the Century of Progress International Exposition at Chicago, Illinois, and shall be open to all contestants throughout the world, a special plaque the presented to the winner.” Yachts of the International Eight Meter Class were to be used for this race.The Union’s records show that this competition did not materialize.
The first Barthel Series took place in August of 1937 on Lake Ontario at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Three Eight Meter teams represented Lake Michigan Yachting Association, Inter-lake Yachting Association and the Lake yacht Racing Association respectively. The Lake Michigan sailors won this first competition.
The Trophy was sailed for on Lake Ontario the next year at Rochester Yacht Club and in 1939 at Youngstown Yacht Club. In 1940 and 1941 the Series moved to Lake Michigan and Universal Rule P Class yachts were used for those races. Milwaukee yacht Club hosted first and then was followed by the Chicago Yacht Club in 1941. By 1942, Lake St. Clair had a fleet of Eight Meters and the Barthel competition was hosted by the Gross Pointe Yacht Club.
The Trophy continued in competition in the above manner until 1953. There was no racing from 1954 to 1958. Racing resumed in 1959 through 1964 when Dragons were used for four years until 1968 when the Royal Canadian Yacht Club announced that they would host the event again in Eight Meter Yachts. By now the Union had four Associations. The Inter-Lake team won the Trophy and took it back to the Cleveland Yachting Club where it stayed without further competition until the Union agreed that the North American 40’s would compete for it in 1978 in their Great Lakes Championship Series.
The North American 40’s were used for five years reaching into the 1980’s before succumbing to an end of their use in 1982. An oddity of having the competition sailed on J24’s happened in 1985 followed by another string of races during the 1990’s on the once again revival of the Eight Meters. In 1998, Ted Turner was co-awarded the Trophy for his participation in classic, division race being promoted that year.
With the turn of the century, so did the formula for the use of the Trophy. In the fall of 2002, Scott Jay Spaeth assumed the Presidency of the Yacht Racing Union of the Great Lakes succeeding Rolf Krotseng of Cleveland. It was decided, by consent, that a hybridization of sorts could be helpful to keep the Trophy in circulation and provide promotional power to three of the Lake Associations. The three Lake Associations would be Lake Huron Yachting Association, Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation and Lake Superior Yachting Association. Together, each Association with their historic and distinguished distance races, Bayview Mackinac, Chicago Mackinac and the Trans Superior respectively, would create The Tri Lake Challenge in 2003. The concept was simple but promotionally empowering to each Lake Association involved, it would also allow the Yacht Racing Union of the Great Lakes to award the Barthel Trophy every two years. The Trophy will be awarded to a single yacht, which successfully completes each of the three races, and maintains the best total finishes of all yachts competing for the Trophy. The trophy is in an award cycle of every two years for the reason that the Trans Superior is scheduled for every odd calendar year.
The trophy will be engraved with the year and the name of the recipient for each year it is awarded for its competition. It shall be kept in a secure permanent display or location at all times. The trophy will remain the property of the Yacht Racing Union of the Great Lakes and is considered “on loan” when on display or in safe keeping. Any display is solely at the direction and within the control of its Officers and Board of Vice Presidents. The trophy shall only be removed from its place of display or safe keeping for the purposes of engraving, cleaning, and presentation at an award function. At the discretion of the governing body, recipients may receive a small keeper trophy. The Barthel Trophy is currently on display in the library room of the Kitchi Gammi Club in Duluth, Minnesota.
The ownership and governing body of the Barthel Trophy shall be that of the Yacht Racing Union of the Great Lakes, who’s Officers and board of Vice Presidents who alone, based upon a popular vote of two thirds majority, may amend the Deed of Gift.
Scott Jay Spaeth, President
Yacht Racing Union of the Great Lakes