TREMONT — Hang on to those baseball caps and grab some ear protectors. It’s the middle of June, and the Maine lobster boat racing season is here. Nine of the 10 events planned count toward the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association’s season-long points championship.
Cameron Crawford’s Wild, Wild West won the diesel Class L and diesel Free-for-All races, as well as the Fastest Lobster Boat Race with a speed of 54.8 miles per hour Saturday in Boothbay Harbor, according to Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association President Jon Johansen. That boat has an 1,100-plus horsepower Isotta Fraschini diesel pushing a light, James West 28 hull.
On Sunday, June 25, racing comes to Bass Harbor. Races are held outside the harbor in an area that can get rough if a strong wind is blowing against the tide.
On July 2, Moosabec Reach will be the scene of the annual Fourth of July weekend Beals Island/Jonesport races. Last year, Jonesport enjoyed a visit from Dodge It, a fast 30-footer that came all the way from Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia, to challenge the lobster boat speed-record-setting Foolish Pleasure from Beals Island. An engine problem aboard the local boat ended any competition, but a return visit may well be on the docket.
Shawn Alley’s Little Girls, a wooden Calvin Beal 28 that dominated last season’s racing, experienced a problem with its big Ford engine that couldn’t be rectified in time for the boat to make the trip to the Midcoast from its home on Beals Island. According to Johansen, Alley hopes to be ready for the Moosabec Reach races on July 2.
Among the boats that did show up for the first race of the season was Winifred Alley’s Last Design, which was under construction by Beals Island boatbuilder Ernest Libby Jr. at the time of his death some seven years ago.
Running on Sunday in Rockland, after an eight-year absence from racing, was Wes Shute’s always competitive Southshore 30 Daydreamer with a 454-cubic inch Chevrolet under the platform.
Eight days after running on Moosabec Reach, the racing fleet will gather in Stonington Harbor on Sunday, July 10, to race on the Deer Island Thorofare in sight of Maine’s busiest lobster port.
After a weekend off, racing will resume July 24 on the Midcoast in Friendship, but there will be no races in nearby Harpswell this summer.
On Saturday, Aug. 13, Winter Harbor will host its 52nd annual Lobster Festival, and what is often the largest racing fleet of the season will churn the waters between Schoodic Point and Grindstone Neck. The next day, it’s back to Pemaquid on the Midcoast for the Merritt Bracket Memorial Races – which do not count toward the season-long MLBRA Points Challenge championship.
To qualify for the Points Challenge, a boat must compete in at least three sanctioned races. A boat that runs in six or more races will be scored by taking the five best finishes.
While some venues may run local races, for the points challenge, the fleet is separated into 18 classes – eight for gas-powered boats, 10 for diesels – divided by length and horsepower.
On Aug. 20, Long Island boatyard owner Steve Johnson will get the chance – subject always to the vagaries of racing high-powered boats – to show off his Elizabeth in her home waters. The next day, racing moves to Portland for the final event of the season – a major fundraiser for the Maine Multiple Sclerosis Society.
As of this writing, the sign-up period for each of the races is between 8 and 9 a.m. on race day, with the first starter’s flag scheduled to drop at 10 a.m. The exception is Long Island, where sign-up will begin at 1 p.m., and the racing starts at 3 p.m.