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Hoist the gollywobbler

2022 October 1

Every summer schooners gather off the coast of Maine where sailors raise gaff topsails and fishermans and race a series of classic regattas that keeps maritime history alive

Schooners are beloved in Maine because of the Windjammer fleet and its integral part of the state’s summer economy. Area business such as Bristol Marine’s Shipyard at Boothbay Harbor, Hodgdon Yachts and the rest of the vibrant marine community, help to keep alive the type of craftsmanship, history and spirit of coastal Maine. It was nearby Hodgdon Yachts in East Boothbay that was instrumental in supporting the return of the Shipyard Cup newly configured as a classic yacht regatta under the umbrella of the Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club. Tim Hodgdon, president of Hodgdon Yachts, hosted the original Shipyard Cup Regatta.

Steve Frary steers the schooner at the start.

“The heritage of the area’s long-standing shipbuilding tradition inspired the Shipyard Cup name and the introduction of a major classic yacht racing event to the area is a perfect fit that we are very excited about,” Hodgdon said.

Boothbay Harbor Shipyard president Andy Tyska has been working to increase participation in the Boothbay Harbor race, drawing from the beautiful classic yachts in Rhode Island and beyond. Tyska competed onboard the vintage Clinton Crane-designed 12-Meter Gleam, which was built by the Henry B. Nevins Yacht Yard in City Island, New York in 1937. 

“To have a course nestled in and around the islands and waters of Boothbay was spectacular,” Tyska said. “The race committee was also very open to the idea of speaking to the participants about what they wanted. We had 60 volunteers taking part in this event and 450 people at a party at the Boothbay Harbor shipyard pier right over the water. This gave classic boaters and people in the community a great chance to participate.”

Tyska said that the yard is about to relaunch the 128-year-old schooner Ernestina/Effie Morrissey after a recent restoration and will be sailed by the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

“One of the things that is key is that this community is renowned for its workmanship and expertise in the trades. We have the expertise and craftsmen who care about these vessels,”  he said. “What we have in Maine is an amazing workforce that is set to really continue these boatbuilding traditions. “

Tyska said that the ultimate goal of the regatta is to keep the level of competition great and maintain a great energy around classic yachts and people in the community.  Participation is already up in the second year of the Shipyard Cup.

It takes many hands to strike the sails aboard Narwhal.

“Not only were the courses ideal for the schooner and classic yachts in their separate classes, but the competition was incredibly fierce,” Tyska said. “We are not just parading around the race course even though we are respectful of the boats. We are racing into tight corners and maneuvers. It is exciting to be at this level and caliber of competition.” 

Frary said that the close racing against other schooners was the key to the event.

Narwhal is a fairly new boat for us and it has been fantastic to race other schooners, particularly as they are like teachers where you learn a bit more each time,” Frary said. “Not only did we have great competition, but we have been totally taken in by the character, charm and history of Boothbay.”

Sprague said that the Boothbay Regatta is a great lead in to the series of classic yacht races that are a high point to a Maine summer.

“Most of these crews are not paid professionals and are mostly friends and family but these are great opportunities to have success as a team and also really learn how to do this type of close racing,” Sprague said. “Boothbay Harbor really pulled out all the stops. The Camden Classic is a great example of how to run these events and the people at Lyman Morse have done an amazing job with that event. What is nice is the flavor is different at each one.” 

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