Friendship sloop races to set sail July 19 through 21

Jul 11, 2018
Friendship sloops race in Rockland harbor July 19-21. Above, Gladiator, out of Friendship, moves into the lead in a previous year's race.

Rockland — Maine's original lobsterboats, world famous Friendship sloops, will again convene for their 58th annual homecoming "Friendship Sloop Days" races in Rockland harbor July 19 through 21. Recognized as the sailing icon of Maine, Friendship sloops are admired by boat lovers for their combination of seaworthiness and good looks.

Originally designed and built in and around Muscongus Bay and Friendship, just to the south of Rockland, these were the boats that every Maine coast fisherman used to set and haul their traps, and was the vessel that created the lobster industry that Maine is so well known for today. Any vintage photo of a Maine harbor would be filled with working sloops at their moorings, setting sail and at the fishing wharves unloading their catch.

Immediately recognizable by their curved clipper bow and gaff-sailrig, today these sought-after collector's items have been restored and rebuilt by owners who appreciate the boats' elegant Victorian-era lines and grace..

A notable new addition to the fleet this year is the Blackjack, launched July 7 in Rockland at the Sail, Power & Steam Marine Museum. An authentic vintage launching by a team of oxen was attended by hundreds to see the result of the complete rebuild of the famous 118-year-old Morse-built sloop. Successfully launched, Blackjack will be on display for all to see and learn about her design and restoration.

The races are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the town landing, with an announced Parade of Sloops before Saturday's race. Spectators can relax under the visitors' tent, keep up with the race action, buy a hat and window sticker, and enjoy food and drink at the harbor eateries.

Visitors can also board Rockland tour boats, offering trips out to the course for up-close racing action. Plan to be there in late morning to catch the first cruise, or get a seat under the tent after the skippers begin to set sail from the town dock about noon. Race begins at 1 p.m. off the Rockland Breakwater.

PA updates will offer race progress, live videos are planned on the Friendship Sloop Society Facebook page, and the Sail Museum will have a shuttle for the two-minute ride to its location, featuring Maine marine history, as well as the newly restored Blackjack.

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