Saturday, June 19, was the day — the first race of the 2021 Maine lobster boat-racing season. That was in Boothbay Harbor, which last year canceled its race because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Four more races would also be canceled.) The Rockland Lobster Boat Races were the next day, followed on June 25 by races in Bass Harbor, and on July 3 at Moosabec Reach.

Altogether there are 11 races on Maine’s racing circuit, with the last one scheduled for Aug. 22 in Portland. The Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association runs each event with 28 to 30 races, over a course averaging just under a mile long.

At Boothbay, 44 boats arrived to sign up for a racing schedule that started off with Class-A skiffs 16 feet and under powered by outboards up to 30 hp and ended with the Fastest Working Lobster Boat Race. Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association figures bad weather kept more boats from showing up.

Spectators watched from the shore, and from 30 to 40 boats that lined the course.

A race that got a lot of attention was Diesel Class K — 701 to 900 hp, 28 feet and over. Blue Eyed Girl, a Morgan Bay 38 with a 900-hp Scania, won that race at 50.6 mph, just ahead of Maria’s Nightmare II, a Mussel Ridge 28 with an 800-hp Nanni, which crossed the line at 47 mph.

Maria’s Nightmare II then edged out Blue Eyed Girl in the Diesel Free For All at 50.1 mph, but Blue Eyed Girl won the fastest working lobster boat race at 51 mph.

At the end of the day about 35 lobster boats set off on a 40-mile run to be in Rockland for the next day’s races, where 64 boats showed up for racing.

Blue Eyed Girl continued her dominance in Rockland, winning Diesel Class K at 50.6 mph, the Diesel Free For All against seven other boats at 47.5 mph, and the Fastest Lobster Boat race at 45.6 mph.

A boat that still brings back memories is the 32-foot Foolish Pleasure that when owned by the late Galen Alley and powered with a 2,000-hp alcohol running engine, set the record of 72.8 mph (there was an unofficial time of 80 mph). Mark Freeman, her current owner, put a smaller, 650-hp engine in Foolish Pleasure. Still, that was good enough to win the Gasoline Free For All at both Rockland and Boothbay with a best time of 46 mph.

At Bass Harbor, Mark Freeman’s Foolish Pleasure started to go airborne at 39 mph after hitting some chopping seas. Jon Johansen photo.

Miserable weather predictions knocked down the enthusiasm of some would-be racers as only 36 boats showed up for race No. 3 at Bass Harbor on Mount Desert Island. That was down by about 14 boats down from a normal Bass Harbor race day.

There was a breeze and some chop on the course that sent at least one boat airborne. Notable for taking flight was Foolish Pleasure in Gasoline Class D, V-8, 376 to 540 cid, 28 feet and over. When nearing the finish line, Freeman hit the throttle and Foolish Pleasure went airborne with over half of her keel out of the water at 39 mph.

With so few boats showing up, some races combined boats from different classes. That’s what happened in Diesel Class K where Janice Elaine, a Northern Bay 38 with an 815 hp FPT, went up against Gold Digger, a Wayne Beal 36 with a 675-hp Scania and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a Crowley Beal 33 with a 650-hp FPT. Both Gold Digger and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot normally run in Class J, 551 to 700 hp, 36 feet and over.

Out of the start, Janice Elaine had a slight edge and held off Gold Digger at 43 mph. Gold Digger was second at 41 mph. Both got points for winning their class and points toward the year-end standings.

In the Diesel Free For All, Janice Elaine took second behind Right Stuff, a Libby 34 with a 500-hp Cummins, which won at 44 mph.

Six days later on July 3, 102 boats were signed up for the Moosabec Reach races. That’s 21 boats more than last year. Moosabec Reach runs between Jonesport and Beals Island and is considered by many to be the home of Maine lobster boat racing and a place where speed has always been highly valued.

At Moosabec Reach, Eric Beal’s Kimberly Ann, a Calvin 42 with a 750 FPT,  beat four boats in Diesel Class M(B) — 40 feet and over, 501 to 750 hp — at 34 mph. Jon Johansen photo.

Of those 125 boats, 27 were skiffs that run in the Work Boats Under 24 Feet class. “No other place gets that many skiffs,” says Johansen. “They shove the biggest outboards they can find on the skiffs.” The dominant skiff was Alpex with a 90-hp outboard in the Work Boats Under 24 feet races. Johansen says Alpex hit 50 mph, winning her race.

A good race was Gasoline Class D, where Shawn Alley’s Little Girl, a 28 Calvin, went up against Foolish Pleasure. Alley, notes Johansen, “calls his engine a mongrel because it’s made up of about three engines.” Little Girl took Foolish Pleasure by a little more than a boat length at 45 mph.

It should be obvious that when the race starter’s flag drops and lobster boats head up the course with throttles pegged hard down, engines are being pushed to their limits. A good example was in the rematch between Little Girl and Foolish Pleasure in the Gasoline Free For All. Little Girl was a full length ahead when suddenly she started slowing down, allowing Foolish Pleasure to move past her and win the race.

When Little Girl crossed the finish line and came to a stop, Alley picked something up from the deck and waved in the air for all to see. It was the Little Girl’s shredded blower belt that had blown off the engine.

A couple of boats that have yet to show up to race are Starlight Express, ex-Motivation, with a 900-hp Mack that Johansen says reportedly has four blowers; and Wild, Wild West, a West 28 with a 1,050-hp Isotta that’s capable of 70 mph. But seven races remain, so there’s plenty of time for them to show up.

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Michael Crowley is the former Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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