Great Schooner Race becomes onshore spectator’s sport
Hailed as the largest annual gathering of traditional tall ships in America, the Great Schooner Race will celebrate its 36th anniversary on Friday, July 6 in Penobscot Bay. Hosted by the Maine Windjammer Association, nearly two-dozen schooners will race from the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse to Camden Harbor in multiple classes based on vessel size, history and design.
The race is scheduled to get underway at 11 a.m., with each class starting 15 minutes apart. Based on wind and tide, the exact race course will be determined at a Captains’ Meeting held aboard the three-masted schooner Victory Chimes on Friday morning. The schooners are expected to arrive in Camden by mid-afternoon, where they will be tied up for the evening.
Unlike most sailing events that involve a high degree of skill and training, the Great Schooner Race welcomes many first-time sailors to participate. Guests learn the basics of sailing in the few days leading up to the race, or even hours, as in the case with several schooners in this year’s race. While the captains and their licensed crews are responsible for safety and strategy, guests get to steer, handle sails and contribute to the schooner spirit that is the hallmark of this event.
Spectators can watch and photograph the race from the Rockland Breakwater that marks one end of the starting line. Cheering from the lighthouse is highly encouraged as the schooners jockey for position. For the captains competing in the Coaster Class comprising the oldest vessels, a LeMans start will be featured: at the sound of the cannon, these skippers will race in rowboats from the lighthouse float to their schooners and then head for the starting line.
According to Meg Maiden, director of the Maine Windjammer Association, “This is the first time in 15 years that we’ve set a date and location for the race. In the past, we just designated a Race Week and then picked the nicest day to race. This year we’ve got more schooners participating and we’ve made it easy for spectators on shore to enjoy the event too.”
For more information about the Great Schooner Race, visit greatschoonerrace.com or call 800-807-WIND.
Courier Publications news staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.