CASTINE — Sixty-seven years after two old salts, one from Stonington the other from Bucksport, jumped into a couple of sailboats to settle the question of which town produced “real” sailormen, a fleet of nearly two dozen boats with captains at least 65 years of age will sail Saturday, weather allowing, in the 66th edition of the Maine Retired Skippers Race.
This year, skippers and their crews are scheduled to gather on the Maine Maritime Academy waterfront for coffee and donuts at 9 a.m. A skippers meeting with race committee guru Butch Minson is set for 9:30 at the Payson Boat House.
The starting gun for the first boat is scheduled for 1 p.m. off the Castine Harbor entrance buoy.
First sailed on Eggemoggin Reach in the fall of 1952, the race featured two genuine retired blue-water skippers at the helms of identical Controversy sloops designed by E. Farnham Butler of the Mount Desert Yacht Yard.
Captain Frank Delano represented Bucksport in Controversy. Captain Phillip Haskell sailed for Deer Isle in Consequence.
Haskell won, and presented Delano with a clam hod, so that he could earn his living digging clams, as a consolation prize. Haskell himself won the Captain Henry Whitney Challenge Cup. To this day, the Whitney Cup and the clam hod remain the prizes for the first place and last place skippers in the race.
While the first few races were sailed in different venues — in Eggemoggin Reach or Blue Hill Bay and off Mount Desert Island — since 1960 the race has been sailed in Penobscot Bay and hosted by Maine Maritime Academy.
The event is sailed in pursuit race format, with the slowest boat starting first. The race covers five legs over a triangular course between the Castine entrance buoy and Islesboro.
In its earlier incarnations, the race called for skippers to have been born in Maine, or at least to have lived in the Pine Tree State for 20 years or more, and have reached the age of 65. For the past several years, though, the only requirements for a skipper to qualify, other than having reached the age at which Medicare becomes available, is to possess sufficient expertise and strength to take the helm for the first and last legs of the race.
Seventeen boats came to the starting line last year. Falcon, launched in 1936, won in a horizon job on the rest of the fleet and skipper Ed Miller took title to the Whitney Cup.
Richard Stover Jr., skipper of the Puffin II, took home the Clam Hod for finishing last in the fleet, about one hour behind Falcon.