BASS HARBOR — The arrival of summer brings lobster boat racing back to Maine. The season kicks off on Saturday, June 18, with races in Boothbay Harbor, followed by races in Rockland Harbor on Father’s Day.
The June schedule continues with a race in Bass Harbor on Sunday, June 26, which has been held here for 14 years, and features lobster boats competing in various categories.
Boats will race in categories based on the type of fuel they run on, length of boat, as well as size of engine. Boats that are under 24 feet have a category, and boats over that length are split into two categories depending on whether they run on gasoline or diesel.
Within these categories are several classes: Gasoline powered boats are divided into classes based on the number of cylinders that they have, and classes for diesel powered boats are based on general horsepower range.
There is also a category for wooden-hull lobster boats and even a free-for-all category where boats from any category can race to be the overall fastest boat across classes.
There is usually quite a turnout for competitors, according to Colyn Rich, who organizes the Bass Harbor event.
“In the ballpark of 60 to 70 competitors,” said Rich.
The races are a huge attraction and draw thousands of spectators. Rich said that as many as 2,000 people have come to watch, some from the pier and others from their own boats.
Crowds are known to be rowdy and full of excitement, and the partying is just as important as the racing itself, said the organizer.
The prizes at this particular event differ from many of the other races in the region, and Rich likes it that way. Prizes are not awarded for overall winners, or winners of a certain category.
“We don’t do that,” Rich said. Instead, the prizes are drawn raffle style. “The slowest boat can win the best prize.”
Awards at these races often consist of cash prizes or items donated by sponsors. Fishing gear and marine equipment are common.
Lobster boat racing has been a long-standing tradition on the Maine coast since lobstermen in Jonesport-Beals began racing their boats decades ago. A circuit has emerged with races at several locations throughout the summer.
Bragging rights and pride have always been at stake, and lobstermen are known for modifying their boats and engines to gain an edge in the competition. Some extreme measures have been taken in the past, such as removing equipment from the boats, or parts of the boats themselves – sometimes mid-race.
Registration for the event will be open from 8-9 a.m., with the race starting at 10. Viewing is best from the water, as room for spectators is limited on the pier.
Lobster boat racing continues throughout the summer at several locations up and down the coast, and will return to Hancock County again on Saturday, July 10, when Stonington will host a race.
18 (Saturday) – Boothbay Harbor
19 (Sunday) – Rockland Harbor
26 (Sunday) – Bass Harbor Pier
2 (Saturday) – Jonesport-Beals (Moosabec Reach)
10 (Sunday) – Stonington
17 (Sunday) – Friendship
24 (Sunday) – Harpswell
13 (Saturday) – Winter Harbor
14 (Sunday) – Merritt Brackett (Pemaquid)
20 (Saturday)- Long Island
21 (Sunday) – MS Harborfest (Portland)
15 (Saturday) – Awards Banquet, Robinson’s Wharf & Tugs Pub, Southport