WINTER HARBOR — The 55th annual Winter Harbor Lobster Festival this Saturday will feature plenty of the eponymous crustaceans to eat, lots of arts and crafts to see and what should be a stupendous set of lobster boat races on the waters off Schoodic Point.
With two special twists, this year’s Winter Harbor Lobster Boat Races should attract a large and enthusiastic fleet.
First, the post-race prize at this year’s drawing among competing racers is a spanking new 35-foot Mitchell Cove lobster boat hull.
Second, but probably more of a draw, this year’s races will honor Keith Young, who was instrumental in organizing and running the Winter Harbor Lobster Boat Races for 40 years and in persuading members of the marine industry to donate what has become a tradition of ever more spectacular grand prizes.
Through seven lobster boat racing events, in waters between Harpswell and Moosabec Reach, this year has seen strong fleets and extremely competitive racing, especially Downeast. The diesel-powered Wild Wild West continues to dominate as the fastest lobster boat, even if it doesn’t fish, but has been challenged by newcomer Maria’s Nightmare from Jonesport. With its 2,500-horsepower Chevrolet in good order, it actually beat the diesel-driven demon in the World’s Fastest Recreational/Working Boat Race on Moosabec Reach, where 125 boats signed up to race the last weekend in June.
Big fleets turned out too at Bass Harbor the previous weekend and at Stonington the following Sunday, though Harpswell and Friendship drew only about 30 boats each on the weekend that lobstermen rallied in Stonington against proposed whale safety rules.
With nothing else on the agenda, this weekend’s racing at Winter Harbor on Saturday and at Pemaquid, where the Merritt Bracket Memorial Lobster Boat Race is scheduled for Sunday, should both draw large numbers of racers.
In Winter Harbor, sign-ups get underway on the fish pier at 8 a.m. and racing gets underway, assuming the weather cooperates, at 10. The best place to watch the races is aboard one of the many spectator boats that anchor along both sides of the race course, but for those without access to the floating grandstand, there’s good viewing from the Frazer Point picnic area on the shore of Schoodic Point.