Hats off to Retired Skippers Race

On Saturday, with the assistance of the waterfront crew from Maine Maritime Academy, some two dozen sailboats — each with a captain at the helm who is at least 65 years old — will sail out of Castine and into Penobscot Bay for the start of the 66th annual Maine Retired Skippers Race. That is a remarkable achievement.

Most just-for-the-fun-of-it events organized entirely by volunteers don’t last for more than a few years, let alone decades, but the Maine Retired Skippers Race is a glorious exception.

The first race, sailed in 1952, was a grudge match for town bragging rights between two genuine, retired old salts, one from Stonington and the other from Bucksport. The loser took home a clam hod, supposedly so he could support himself digging mollusks rather trying to earn a living at sea.

The skipper of the last boat to finish this year’s race will again earn a clam hod for the mantelpiece.

Traditions wither unless someone works to keep them alive. Hats off to the volunteers from MMA and the maritime community for shepherding the Maine Retired Skippers Race into its 66th year.