SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Friendship sloops from along the Maine coast will converge on Southwest Harbor for the 26th annual Southwest Harbor Rendezvous on July 14. The friendly race will be easily viewed from the shore.
The distinctive gaff-rigged sloops were originally used for lobstering. The first boats of this type were built in the town of Friendship and the first regattas were held there beginning in 1960.
Scott Martin of Tremont took over organizing duties last November from Miff Lauriat, who first orchestrated the Southwest Harbor gathering two and a half decades ago.
Lauriat is a veteran racer and has won the Rockland race 23 times with his Jarvis Newman-built fiberglass sloop Salatia.
Twelve of the more than 240 active Friendship sloops are moored in Southwest Harbor, with three more calling other harbors on Mount Desert Island home. This unusually high density made organizing a rendezvous easy, Lauriat told the Islander last year.
Martin owns Eden, which is moored beside Salatia in Southwest Harbor. Both Salatia and Eden will be on the line for this year’s race. Martin won the race in 2016.
Only six boats have registered so far, Martin said, but more will register closer to the date. He expects 15 to 20 boats on the line.
Sixteen boats took part last year. Joe Neilson’s Hieronymous was the winner.
Martin said the race is friendly, but still competitive. Every boat sets sail at the same time and there are no scoring handicaps. The only award is bragging rights and the blast of the cannon at the end.
“Miff’s idea and energy was to keep it a friendly race,” he said. “It’s basically to get all of the anxiety out.”
The Southwest Harbor rendezvous and race does not have a formal relationship with the Rockland events. The race serves as a tune-up for local sloops before going to Rockland for the regatta. The boats based on Mount Desert Island that operate charters or regular passenger trips usually participate, too. These include Surprise, Alice E., Helen Brooks and Chrissy.
Martin said this race is the “deadline day” for getting his boat in the water.
“Thank God for this race or else I would never have my boat in [the water] in time,” Martin said. He said the only change he may make to the event is a short parade to show off the boats prior to the race.