ROCKLAND — Maine’s summer lobster boat racing season opened last weekend with turnouts of nearly 50 boats both at Boothbay Harbor on Saturday and at Rockland on Sunday.
Both races drew several new boats, including several from Downeast, and both events saw some impressive speed runs, though no records were broken.
This year, race organizers established two classes for boats built primarily, or exclusively, to race rather than fish.
Gasoline-powered boats running in Class E may use turbo- or superchargers on their engines and boost their power, legally this year, by injecting nitrous oxide into their fuel mixture.
Diesel-powered pure race boats such as Cameron Crawford’s 1,150-horsepower Wild Wild West now race in their own class rather than running against boats that actually fish, or are at least said to. Entrants in the racing boat only Class O still will be allowed to run in free-for-all races and compete for the fastest lobster boat title.
Blustery weather and rough seas greeted boats coming to Boothbay Harbor from the east Saturday morning, but the course inside the harbor was smooth and the racing fierce.
Only one boat, Steve Johnson’s Bud & Dawn, ran in the supergas class that once saw boats such as Galen Alley’s Foolish Pleasure, Benny Beal’s Benny’s Bitch and, long ago, Voop and the Young Brothers’ Sopwith Camel come to the starting line. Bud & Dawn twice topped 41 mph, the second time in the gas free-for-all, far cry from the 70 mph-plus record set by Alley several years ago. But there was more to come.
Wild Wild West twice topped 56 mph, once running solo in its Class O race, the second time leading a pack of eight boats in the diesel free-for-all. Second in that race was Tom Clemons’s Motivation, which turned in a 49.1 mph speed in its two-boat class race, narrowly beating racing regular Miss Karlee and also winning the title of fastest working lobster boat.
Crawford, just in his 20s, and Johnson, considerably past them and a long-time racer, squared off to determine the fastest recreational lobster boat in the last race of the day, and quite a race it was.
Wild Wild West roared up the course past moored boats and marina slips clocking 55.9 mph, but Bud & Dawn found an extra dozen mph somewhere after its class race and crossed the finish line close behind, clocking 54 mph.
On Sunday, the races moved to Rockland, and that closer venue was enough to bring out several new boats from east of Penobscot Bay, among them Kathy Lymburner’s new wooden 32-footer Emma G, built by Peter Buxton of Stonington and racing in diesel Class H, Heather Thompson’s 36-foot Wayne Beal-built Gold Digger racing in diesel Class J and Steve Carver’s Holland 35 Another Dirls.
Racing in diesel Class G — boats 28-35 feet with engines from 436-550 horspower, the West Jonesport-based Another Dirls had to be the sentimental favorite at the races. In September 2016, the popular Carver’s fishing and racing boat Bigger Dirls was destroyed by fire while on the mooring. Although the boat went well, Another Dirls finished second in its class behind Dana Beal’s Right Stuff, which came all the way from Bunker Harbor to race.
There were some remarkably close finishes at Rockland.
Bud & Dawn clocked 41.9 mph running solo in its class and 48.4 mph in the gasoline free-for-all, but finished second in that race to Randy Durkee’s Holland 32 Black Diamond running with a smaller displacement engine.
There were some eye-popping speeds. Wild Wild West led the way with a 55.5 mph speed running unopposed in the race for non-working diesel boats, but there were plenty of boats that clocked speeds well into the 40-plus range.
Clemons’s Motivation ran 47.7 mph in its class race then came back with 49.4 in the diesel free-for-all and an even faster 49.5 in the fastest lobster boat race. Right behind him was Andrew Taylor’s Blue Eyed Girl which ran the course a shade over 46 mph.
Racing moves to Bass Harbor on Saturday (see related story), then on to Moosabec Reach a week later on Saturday June 30.