ROCKLAND — Not even the normally refreshing ocean breezes of Penobscot Bay could offer a respite from the heat wave that engulfed the Midcoast the past week, but those hot temperatures could not melt the passion and love of sailing for the captains and crew of 15 boats that returned to Rockland Harbor and the waters in and around the breakwater for the 61st annual Friendship Sloops homecoming regatta.

The races in Penobscot Bay were Thursday through Saturday, July 21-23 and each day saw hot, humid conditions with temperatures 90 or higher, with varying levels of wind.

From left, Noel, Freedom, Tannis and Rights of Man. Photo by Ken Waltz

There was, however, strong wind for the third day of racing Saturday and when the final boat crossed the home mark Salatia was the overall winner.

The Friendship Sloops are classified in Division I for those 27 feet and shorter and Division II for those 27 feet and longer.

Westwind, a Div. II boat, attended the celebration but did not race.

Friendship Sloops prepare for the parade of sails. Photo by Ken Waltz

The names of boats, division and overall place after three days of races were: 1, Salatia, Div. I; 2, Jabberwocky, Div. II; 3, Freedom, Div. II; 4, Banshee, Div. I; 5, Hegira, Div. I; 6, Celebration, Div. I; 7, Inherit the Wind, Div. II; 8, Tannis, Div. II; 9, Lady M, Div. II; 10, Rights of Man, Div. II; 11, Gladiator, Div. II; 12, Sazerac, Div. II; 13, Noel, Div. II; and 14, Gaivota, Div. II.

Doug Riley plays the fiddle during the parade of sails. Photo by Ken Waltz

Adding to the unique, historic maritime atmosphere was the fiddle playing from Doug Riley from the dock during the parade of sails.

For more than six decades the Friendship Sloops, initially used as fishing/lobster vessels, have returned home to coastal Maine to race. Originally, home was Friendship and the hey day of the races were in the 1960s and 1970s in the waters off that small coastal community. During that time, the races often attracted more than 50 vessels.

At some point in recent times the races were held in Boothbay before finding a more recent home in Rockland.

Rights of Man, left, and Lady M. Photo by Ken Waltz

The Friendship Sloop Society hosts the races. For more information, click here.

According to the official annual booklet published by the society, “This is a story of a family of boats and how they weathered more than a century of change and why they still have a passionate following.”

The Friendship Sloop was developed around 1880 for fishing and lobstering in Muscongus Bay and has survived as one of only a few regional types now recognized as an American sailing classic. It is certain fishermen had seen a Gloucester fishing boat and, being impressed with their lines, incorporated those features into their own hull designs.

Gladiator, left, and Banshee. Photo by Ken Waltz

The basic form was scaled up or down depending on length (averaging 21 to 38 feet) and followed a set formula. All had an elliptical or counter stern, most a clipper bow, long bowsprit and all were gaff-rigged. The cutter-rig sail plan was distinctive  and functional for the tending of traps and lines while underway, one of the boats special attributes.

Many names are remembered as builders of these sloops: Carters, McLains, Collormores, Winchenbachs, Stanleys and others, but Wilbur Morse’s name comes up as the “father of the Friendship Sloop” because of the large number he produced in his shop in Friendship.

In modern times, Bernard MacKenzie of Scituate, Mass, sailed his Voyager in a Boston Power Squadron race in 1960 and won the race against much stronger competition of Bermudian rigs with large spinnakers and genoas. This inspired MacKenzie to have a home race in Friendship Harbor starting in 1961.

The Friendship Sloop Society is a non-profit organization which began in 1961. Sloops registered with the society total 285, from the oldest wood original, which still sails, to the newer fleet of fiberglass models developed by Jarvis Newman in the 1970s.