Winifred Alley’s 34-foot Aiden Mariner (center), on its way to winning in Diesel Class F at the Winter Harbor Lobster Boat Races on Saturday afternoon. JON JOHANSEN PHOTO

Winter Harbor Lobster Boat Races draw huge fleet

WINTER HARBOR — “If you build it, he will come,” a disembodied voice tells Ray Kinsella, the character played by actor Kevin Costner in the 1989 film “Field of Dreams.”

That bit of dialogue has become one of the most widely quoted, or misquoted, in cinema but the thought seems to apply in real life as well as in the movies.

Last Saturday at the Winter Harbor Lobster Boat Races, everyone who signed up for the event qualified for a chance in the annual post-race prize drawing organized by the event’s sponsors to win something to build — the bare hull for a brand new Mitchell Cove 35 lobster boat — and come they did.

According to Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association, 167 boats signed up to race at Winter Harbor and earn the right to participate in the drawing.

“They came out of the woodwork,” Johansen said Monday morning.

With so many boats running, just over 100 ran at Stonington late last month, it was no surprise that the announced 10 a.m. starting time was long gone before the first of the day’s 30 races actually got underway and late afternoon before the racing was done.

“They started about an hour and a half late,” Johansen said. “It was probably 3:30 before everyone got off the boats.”

Once the first starter’s flag actually fell, spectators and participants enjoyed some spectacular racing, including another round in the ongoing slugging match between Cameron Crawford’s diesel record holder Wild Wild West and Jeremy Beal’s gasoline-powered rocket Maria’s Nightmare.

Running solo in the race for non-working boats of any length and horsepower, Wild Wild West, driven by a 1,050-horsepower diesel, was clocked at 53 miles per hour running down the course between Schoodic Point and Grindstone Neck. That was fast, but it was well short of the 60.4 miles per hour diesel record the 28-footer set three years ago in Bass Harbor but has never quite equaled.

Earlier in the day, Beal’s newcomer to the racing circuit — a 28-footer with a 2,500-horsepower Chevrolet V8 — was clocked at 53 miles per hour.

That set up another potential confrontation between the rivals. The new gasser beat the older diesel boat for the fastest lobster boat title on Moosabec Reach late in June and anticipation for the match race was high.

For much of the Fastest Lobster Boat Race, Johansen said, the duel lived up to the anticipation but, in the end, Wild Wild West came away with the win. Tom Clemons’ Motivation finished second and Maria’s Nightmare gave everybody a scare.

“There was a little issue in the last race,” Johansen said. The sea had grown “nasty” as the afternoon wore on and Beal twice “laid Maria’s Nightmare up on its side” to the point where the boat’s propeller was almost visible.

If there’s any question about what size boat is the most popular in the lobster fleet right now, the diesel Class M(B) fleet is a dead giveaway. The class, for boats at least 40 feet in length with engines between 501 and 750 horsepower — big, powerful, expensive — drew more than 30 entries that raced in three separate heats before the top four boats from each squared off for a final race.

That race was won by Jason Chipman’s Miss Amity, turning better than 35 miles per hour with Eric Beal’s Kimberly Ann — the two boats have been swapping class wins all season — right on its transom.

On Sunday, a smaller fleet than usual gathered in Pemaquid for the Merritt Brackett Memorial Lobster Boat Races. The lower number of entrants, Johansen said, might be the result of the late finish at Winter Harbor. On Sunday, racers will gather for the final event of the year, the MS Harborfest Race in Portland.

Noise and speed notwithstanding, this year’s Winter Harbor Lobster Boat Races had a poignant atmosphere.

Before racing got underway, a boat passed up the race course scattering the ashes of Beals Island fisherman Galen Alley, who died in January. Alley owned and raced Foolish Pleasure, which still holds the record for the fastest lobster boat on the water.

Afterward, the 55th annual Winter Harbor Lobster Festival and Lobster Boat Races honored Keith Young, for many years the principal organizer of the races and a driving force in attracting donations of substantial grand prizes to the annual post-race drawing ceremonies.

Young is currently battling cancer and, for the first time in decades, was not involved with this year’s races.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]
Stephen Rappaport

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