SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Twenty boats will hit the waters here on Saturday to compete in the preliminary round of the Friendship Sloop Society’s 24th annual Rendezvous.
Saturday’s race is meant to be a practice round for the three official races in Rockland that are scheduled for July 21-23.
“It’s kind of a tune-up race,” said Miff Lauriat, organizer of the event. There are no handicaps for the racers, no entry fees and no trophies awarded.
The race will begin around 1 p.m. on Saturday. The boats are to begin the competition at Sand Point on Greening Island. The course will be decided dependent on wind and weather conditions, but will be using government markers no matter where the boats choose to race.
Norman Sanborn of the Cranberry Isles will serve his second year as committee boat leader, captaining a boat owned by Janneka Nielson.
Friendship Sloops were developed 100 years ago in Maine to act as a utility boat, “before there were good roads, when people lived closer to the sea,” Lauriat said. Owners of the boats would use them for transportation around the coast of Maine and for fishing and other work.
“It was kind of like the F-150 [pickup truck]” of consumer boats, he added.
The first boats were built primarily around Friendship harbor, just west of Rockland. Three of the boats in Saturday’s race – the 30-foot Amity, captained by Patrick Reilly of Belfast; the 33-foot Alice E, captained by Karl Brunner of Southwest Harbor (the oldest of the entire fleet); and the 32-foot Gladiator, captained by Bill and Caroline Zuber of Friendship – were part of the first fleet of boats to hit the water. All were built around 1900, more than 100 years ago.
Amity was once owned by former editor, publisher and owner of The Ellsworth American James Russell Wiggins. He purchased Amity after moving to Maine and following his time as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, serving from 1968-1969. Wiggins passed away in 2000.
Overall, Lauriat said, the aim of the race is for members of the Friendship Sloops to have fun and create a beautiful scene on the water.