The oldest commissioned ship in the Canadian Navy has a pedigree that goes back to 1880 when George Gooderham sailed the first Oriole as the flag ship of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club of Toronto. Gooderham who was for several years, Commodore of the Toronto club built Oriole II in 1886 and Oriole Ill in 1909.
In 1921, the last of the Orioles - then called Oriole IV, was thought to be the most majestic of all R.C.Y.C. flagships. Statred by the Toronto Dominon Shipbuilding company but due tp labour problems, she was completed by George Lawley and Sons, A Boston Shipyard for the sum of $100,000.00. She was the largest of the many yachts designed forthe Lakes by George Owen of New York: 90' overall, 60' WL, 9'6" keel and centerboard draught. She was the last word on navel architecture for her time, ketch rigged with a 105' mainmast and 55' mizzen and her marconi rig influenced the speedy adoption of this rigging and sail plan still in its infancy. She was launched at Neponset Mass, June 4, 1921.
In the final race of 1922 to Oakville, skipped by Norman Gooderham, she collided with a 60 footer - Haswell which was dismated, while jibing on the run to the Eastern gap in a fresh westerly. Oriole soon pulled the head out of her mainsail inthe jumpy seas off Toronto Island and reached Oakville under power. Soon after, the mainmast was reduced to 89'
During the Second World War, ORIOLE was loaned to the Navy League, whose president was Gordon C. Leitch of Upper Lakes Shipping. Mr. Leitch then purchased her and sent her to the League's Sea Cadet camp in Georgian Bay. From 1943 to the end of WW II she trained personnel of the Royal Canadian Navy under a dollar a year rental agreement. Following the war, ORIOLE remained in the Toronto area until November 1949 when the navy chartered her again for a dollar a year as a new entry training vessel attached to HMCS CORNWALLIS near Digby, Nova Scotia. Subsequently moved to Halifax in 1951, she was commissioned HMCS ORIOLE June 19, 1952 and two years later the navy moved her to the West Coast to become a training vessel to VENTURE the Naval Officer Training Centre.
In 1957, the RCN purchased her for $14,500. HMCS ORIOLE is both the oldest vessel and the longest serving commissioned ship in the Canadian Navy.
The ship is a regular participant in the annual Swiftsure Classic race from Victoria to the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and return. Every second year ORIOLE sets out on the Victoria to Maui International Yacht race. She sailed in what is now a world famous race, in 1978 which gave her a first place finish, in a long distance race, and first overall in the Diamond Head to Victoria race commemorating the bicentennial of Captain James Cook's 1778 voyage of discovery.
The race is held every two years and in 1990 she finished in second place.
ORIOLE remains much the same as the original. She has no winches for sail hand ling, all halyards and running back stays are rigged luff upon luff to give sufficient mechanical advantage to sail her. ORIOLE's total sail area is 1,100 square meters. Her distinctive red , white, and blue spinnaker displaying an orange oriole is 600 square meters.
The vessel's overall length is 31 meters and she displaces 92 tonnes.