BASS HARBOR — After COVID-19 cut about half of the races out the Maine Lobster Boat Racing schedule last year, the annual tradition is back in full swing for 2021.
The races kicked off this weekend in Boothbay and will arrive in Bass Harbor on June 27.
“It’s really a classic Maine tradition,” said Colyn Rich, a Tremont lobsterman who organized the local race. “If you haven’t had the chance to see it, you have to come see it.”
Rich, who’s been racing since he was a child, said fishermen love to compete and see who can earn the bragging rights for the fastest boats.
“I’ve been a part of the lobster boat races ever since I can remember,” he said. “I want to say the first race I drove was when I was 5 years old on my dad’s boat.”
The races have been going on for more than 50 years and now have built up to more than a dozen different classes and 11 races up and down the coast.
In Hancock County, there will also be a race in Stonington on July 11 and in Winter Harbor on Aug. 14.
“It’s just like racing cars,” said Chris Byers, the organizer for the Winter Harbor race. “All those fishermen want to have the fastest boat.”
Last year, more than 100 boats came to the Winter Harbor race.
“I wasn’t going to let COVID get in the way,” Byers said.
He expected this year’s races would also have robust attendance across the board.
“I think it will be a lot bigger this year because people are antsy to do things,” he said. “Everyone has been so cooped up over COVID, I think they’ll go to the races for sure.”
Jon Johansen, the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association president, said that part of the allure is getting all of the lobstermen up and down the coast together.
“A lot of these guys like to go to these other places and talk to the fishermen,” he said.
There is a robust party scene associated with the races, though Johansen said that has tapered off as the lobstermen are getting older. Prizes, such as leases on trucks and new hulls, are commonplace, and there’s often coinciding charity events.
He expected some interesting boats to come out this year, including one that has a helicopter engine in it that has 2,350 horsepower.
In the end, it all comes down to having a good time and putting on a spectacle.
“This is a show,” Johansen said. “We’re there to put on a show for people.”