CASTINE – Fair skies and a spanking breeze greeted the 36-boat fleet that came to the starting line for the 19th annual Castine Classic Yacht Race last Thursday. By day’s end, though, the spank faded to a pat, and left the slowest boats wallowing to the finish line off Curtis Island outside Camden Harbor.
The fleet was divided into four classes, three “Classic” divisions and one for newer “Spirit of Tradition” boats. The oldest boat in the fleet was Mashnee, a Herreshoff-designed Buzzards Bay 30 launched in 1902 and raced by Matthew Wall in Classic A. Anna, the newest boat in the fleet, was launched this spring and raced by Antony Merck against six other Spirit of Tradition boats, the oldest of which was Brooklin Boat Yard owner Steve White’s Vortex, launched in 1990.
The four classes started at 10-minute intervals with the first, Classic C, getting the gun at noon and thrashing across the starting line between the race committee boat and the Castine Harbor entrance bell heeled well over on the port tack. The last group—the Spirit of Tradition class—crossed the line at 12:30 with the southwesterly still strong.
Shortly before 4 p.m., Marilee crossed the finish line outside Camden Harbor and earned the Ames Cup, awarded to the overall winner among the Classic boats.
Sailing in Classic A, the 92-year old New York 40 designed by Sparkman & Stephens for the New York Yacht Club completed the 19.6 mile course in just under 3 hours, 31 minutes with a corrected time of just two seconds under 3 hours, 10 minutes.
The only boat with a faster corrected time was the 90-years-younger Blackfish, launched last year by Brooklin Boat Yard. The winner of the Spirit of Tradition class, Blackfish sailed the course in just over 3 hours 21 minutes—about one minute faster for each decade newer than Marilee.
In Classic B, the winner was Leaf, a 38-foot Luders 24 built in 1946 sailed by Chris Bouzaid. Palawan, the 48-foot Sparkman & Stephens sloop built in 1952 for IBM president Thomas Watson and now sailed by Scott Gazelle, took second—just under three minutes faster through the water but six minutes slower on elapsed time. Otter, a 41-foot Concordia built in 1954 and sailed by Robert Keefer finished third in class but won the Phalarope Trophy awarded to the Concordia with the fastest corrected time.
The Classic C fleet struggled with a dying breeze late in the day. The 30-foot Atlantic class sloop Silverfish, sailed by JB Turner, crossed the line first, followed more than an hour later by Abigail, an Alden 39, and the Sparkman & Stephens-designed Finali.
In the Spirit of Tradition class, Blackfish, the 49-foot Brooklin Boat Yard/Jim Taylor-designed sloop sailed by Ron Zarella took honors, besting Anna, the newly launched 65-foot sloop built by Lyman-Morse and sailed by Anthony Merck. Isobel, a 69-foot Stephens-Waring designed sloop sailed by Richard Schotte and scratch boat in the fleet, took third place.
The Castine event kicked off three days of classic boat racing, culminating in the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta.
The race was preceded on Wednesday afternoon by a symposium chaired by America’s Cup sailor, author and yachting commentator Gary Jobson, celebrating Maine’s current crop of custom sailboat builders.
The Ames Cup, awarded to Marilee as overall winner of the Castine Classic, honors the memory of former Castine residents Richard Glover Ames and Henry Russell Ames who were lost at sea on June 19, 1935, south of the Grand Banks in an unsuccessful effort to save their father who had been washed overboard during the Newport to Bergen, Norway, yacht race.