ELLSWORTH — As attention begins to turn from boat motors to snow blowers, the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association reports that the summer racing season was a resounding success.
With 10 events on the card spread over venues ranging from Portland to Jonesport-Beals, according to MLBRA President Jon Johansen, 823 boats took part in races last summer. That’s the largest number of boats ever to compete in the summer racing series.
Over the past several years, the number of boats signed up to race has increased steadily. Last year, Johansen said, 739 boats entered the summer races. In 2010, the number of entrants was just 520.
With 167 boats signed up, the Winter Harbor races saw the biggest jump in entries. Last year, only 96 boats showed up to race along the shore of Schoodic Point. Johansen attributes most of the increase to the remarkable grand prize that racers could win in a post-race drawing: a bare hull for a brand new Mitchell Cove 35 lobster boat.
While the chance to take home a brand new hull had to be a major factor in boosting attendance, the Winter Harbor races weren’t the only ones that attracted a bigger fleet than a year ago.
The Moosabec Reach (Jonesport-Beals) races drew 25 more boats than they did last year.
Anyone who follows lobster boat racing knows that they have changed. Boats are, by and large, bigger. Engines are more powerful than ever and even real working boats are achieving some eye-popping speeds. There’s another change, though, Johansen said.
“In years past the parties were legendary,” indeed they were, “but now it seems that racers just enjoy getting together for a fun time, especially on the double race weekends.”
Maybe that’s a reflection of the lobster industry’s frequently expressed concern that more and more of Maine’s lobstermen are getting — there’s no other way to put it — old.
Whatever the age of their owners, a number of boats turned in stellar performances throughout the season, among them the virtually unbeatable diesel-powered hot rod Wild Wild West, owned by a decidedly young Cameron Crawford, and a pair of genuine challengers: Tom Clemons’ diesel-driven Motivation and Shawn Alley’s gasoline-powered Little Girls.
Several classes produced tight competition throughout the season for the championship. Among them, Heather Thompson in Gold Digger nipped Nick Wiberg in Miss Katie for the Diesel Class J (boats 36 feet long or more, engines between 551 and 700 horsepower) title and Jason Chipman, in Miss Amity, and Eric Beal, in Kimberly Ann, duked it out all season for the Diesel Class M(B) (boats 40 feet or more with engines between 501 and 750 horsepower) title, narrowly won by Miss Amity.
The Maine Lobster Boat Racing will put the final wrap on the 2019 racing season with its Annual Banquet and Awards Ceremony scheduled for Saturday Oct. 19 at Robinson’s Wharf on Southport Island.