SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The Southwest Harbor Rendezvous, a curtain-raiser race for the Friendship Sloop Society’s annual Homecoming Rendezvous and Regatta in Rockland, is set to change organizers for the first time in its 25-year history.
Scott Martin of Tremont will assume organizing duties from Miff Lauriat, who organized the Southwest Harbor gathering a generation ago. Lauriat is a veteran racer and has won the Rockland race 23 times with his Jarvis Newman-built fiberglass sloop Salatia.
“I have big shoes to fill,” Martin said. “He taught me everything that I know.”
The Friendship Sloop Society currently has 284 boats in its registry.
A popular fishing vessel in the days of sail, the first boats of this type were originally built in Friendship on the Midcoast. The first FSS regattas were held there beginning in 1960.
As a large number of participants and spectators descended on the town, officials shut down the event. In 1983, the event was moved to Boothbay Harbor before settling in Rockland in 1995.
Martin is the owner of Eden, which is moored beside Salatia in Southwest Harbor. Eden was the first boat Martin worked on when he moved to Mount Desert Island after studying at the University of Maine. After Martin purchased the boat, he began racing in 1997.
“I came in dead last in my first race,” he said. “I slowly worked my way up the order.”
In 2016, Martin finished first, edging out Salatia, which had bested Eden the year before in the Rockland races.
The Southwest Harbor rendezvous and race does not have a formal relationship with the Rockland events. The race serves as a tune-up for local sloops before going to Rockland for the regatta. It also gives the boats busy with the tourist trade on Mount Desert Island a chance to race without making a long transit.
Twelve of the 241 active Friendship sloops are moored in Southwest Harbor, with three more calling other harbors on MDI home. This unusually high density made organizing a rendezvous easy, according to Lauriat.
Sixteen boats took part in the race last year. Hieronymous, captained by Joe Neilson, took first place.
“If it wasn’t for that race, I might not be on the water,” Martin said.
Martin plans to start a Wednesday series during summer months during his tenure to grow participation.
“Maybe the charter boats could work a race into their schedule,” he said.
Martin did not plan on changing the philosophy of the race, a simple race with no number crunching, elaborate trophies or handicap, just as Lauriat started.
“The cannon at the end is your only award,” Lauriat said. That and bragging rights.