First to finish, but not the winner, (from left) de Nouveau leads Northern Light and Loon across the finish line of Saturday’s shortened 66th running of the Maine Retired Skippers Race in Castine Harbor. PHOTO BY DAVID ROZA

Cat’s Paw wins Retired Skipper’s Race

CASTINE — Patience was a virtue for the crews of the 12 boats that sailed the 66th Maine Retired Skippers Race in Castine on Saturday.

Light wind and adverse current conditions led race officials to cut the contest from five legs to three, and convinced four skippers to drop out of the race entirely.

The race didn’t start that way, though. Under cloudy skies and a light northerly breeze, the competitors crossed the starting line without incident. Since it was a pursuit race, the slowest boats led the way shortly after 1 p.m. while the faster boats waited for a few moments until their appointed starting times before giving chase.

All boats were away by 1:34 p.m., but as the fleet approached the first marker at Isleboro Ledge off the island’s eastern shore, the breeze died and the sea took on a look of polished glass glinting with the sunlight of clearer skies. The mercury rose to a balmy 69 degrees, and by 2:17 p.m., race officials remarked that the boats were barely moving.

A few lucky skippers took advantage of an apparent wind created by the outgoing tide and led the way toward the second mark off Turtle Head at the northern tip of Isleboro. But by that point the fleet had strung out so far behind the leader that race officials started calculating the race’s cut-off time. According to the sailing instructions, if any boats were still racing four and a half hours after the last boat started, then the whole race would be called off.

The time of reckoning would have been 6:34 p.m. As the clock ticked toward 4 p.m. and the skies darkened, race officials shortened the contest from five legs to three. The skippers of several of the faster boats, including Joie de Vivre, Fortitude and Phalarope, all radioed in to thank the race committee and announce their retirement from the race.

As the afternoon gradually became evening, the wind climbed from 1.5 knots to 4 knots to 6 and even 10 knots. After a day of sluggish conditions, the remaining competitors seemed to fly down the final stretch, with de Nouveau outpacing Northern Light at the line at about 5:20 p.m.

Because of the shortened race, however, it was Cat’s Paw, under the command of Verona Island skipper Butch Minson, that won the day on corrected time — the first time in several years that the winner was determined based on corrected time around the course.

Minson won the Henry Whitney Challenge Cup, the Gitana/Day Trophy and the Retired Skippers Race Committee Trophy for his efforts.

Castine skipper Ed Miller won the Mace Eaton Trophy for his command of Falcon, which was the first planked wooden boat to finish, and the sixth to finish overall.

Second-place finisher and Hampden resident Richard Wiken won the President’s Cup and the Philo and Sarah Blaisdell Memorial Cup for his efforts in command of Morning Star.

The contest for the Clam Hod, awarded to the last-place-finisher, was hard fought but won by Castine skipper Don Pierce, who commanded the sloop Hilaritas. The name stems from the Latin word for cheerful, which Pierce’s crew certainly appeared to be as they crossed the line under an early evening sky.

David Roza

David Roza

Former reporter, David Roza grew up in Washington County, Maryland, has reported in Washington County, Oregon, and covered news in Hancock County and Washington County, Maine for The American and Out & About.

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