STONINGTON — If last weekend’s doings off the tip of Deer Isle are any indication, lobster boat racing in Maine is more popular than ever.
On Sunday morning, 106 boats registered for the Stonington Lobster Boat Races. With seven events left in this year’s 12-race season, that represented the largest fleet of the year and just one boat shy of the record turnout, according to Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association President Jon Johansen.
“Last year was a good year for racing and this year, for the most part, it’s up significantly,” Johansen said Monday.
All those boats and stunning weather—a light breeze and sparkling sunshine instead of the all-too-common fog—made for just about perfect racing conditions on Deer Island Thorofare.
Unsurprisingly, Cameron Crawford’s 28-foot Wild Wild West, with its 1,050-horsepower Isotta Fraschini diesel engine, won its class race (running unopposed,) the Diesel Free-for-All and the Fastest Lobster Boat Race. Her top speed of the day was 56 mph.
C&C Machine owner Glenn Crawford, the engine tuner and the skipper’s father, said last week that the boat could top 60 miles per hour, “but we haven’t had to do it” to stay ahead of the competition, primarily Tom Clemmons’s 1,000-horsepower Motivation, which qualifies as a working boat, while Wild Wild West is considered a “recreational” boat.
Not to be denied, Motivation took home the Jimmy Stevens Cup as the fastest working lobster boat, closely followed by Andrew Taylor’s Blue Eyed Girl and Heather Thompson’s Gold Digger, a new boat that has smoked the competition this year and again won the Class J race for boats 36 to 39 feet 11 inches with diesel engines between 551 and 700 horsepower.
In a familiar scene, Andrew Gove’s Uncle’s U.F.O. was at the head of the pack in an exhibition race for boats from Stonington and Deer Isle and finished right behind Gold Digger in the Class J race.
Launched 21 years ago with a 900-horsepower diesel, Uncle’s U.F.O. set the pace for diesel-powered boats for more than a decade. Now 88 and, according to Johansen, nearing retirement—at least from racing—Gove put a smaller engine in his boat a few years ago, but it still turned just a hair under 40 miles per hour winning its class race.
Back “in the day,” when gasoline engines powered the fastest boats on the water, the Holland 32 Red Baron was always among the fastest two or three. The boat has been retired for years, but on Sunday morning, before the bright red, outboard-powered 14-foot Baby Baron raced up the course, boatbuilder Glenn Holland said Baron might reappear at the races this year, though not with the giant Ford engine that was once its heart.
He’s saving that engine, he said, for a “special project” that would “open some eyes.” Whatever that might be, it isn’t likely to be unveiled this season, but next year, maybe.
This year, one of the closest battles has come in Diesel Class M(B) featuring Jason Chipman’s Osmond Beal-designed Miss Amity, a 42-footer with a 700-horsepower engine and Eric Beal’s 42-foot Calvin Beal-designed Kimberly Ann with a 750-horsepower diesel under the platform. Both boats have won two head-to-head races. On Sunday, Miss Amity broke the tie, nosing out Kimberly Ann by a half boat-length.
While many lobster boats are named for wives, children or other loved ones, a few carry creative names. Two racing at Stonington this year were Avery Waterman’s Ledge Hammer acing in diesel Class A, and Kaleb Campbell’s Warden’s Worry racing in diesel Class D.
Both won their respective classes, but Campbell also took home the race organizer’s grand prize, a Trap Blaster dip tank from Esposito’s Welding & Fabrication in Surry.
With the lobsters starting to move, fishermen will get a two-week break before racing resumes July 22 in Friendship. From there, racing moves to Harpswell on July 29 before returning Downeast to Winter Harbor on Saturday, Aug. 11.