Maine lobstermen have always had a thing about being faster than the other guy. Even back in the days of the sloop boats, there were impromptu races out to the grounds and back in. That intensified once fishermen started strapping — first gasoline and then diesel — engines to the bottoms of their boats.
Individual towns began sponsoring races and then participants formed an association — the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association — with classes, points and even a year-end banquet.
Every year the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association meets during the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, which is held the first week in March at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. Those sessions have pretty much focused on the here and now: electing officers, hashing out rules and regulations and deciding if races should be added to the schedule.
Last year the group took a step back — way back — by instituting a Maine Lobster Boat Racing Hall of Fame. To make that list, a person had to have contributed to lobster boat racing. It could have been as a racer, key organizer, boatbuilder or engine builder.
Ten people were inducted in 2012:
• Gus Alley, a racer and organizer;
• Benny Beal, who captured a lot of attention 30 years ago when he raced Benny’s Bitch and then the Stella Ann, a 50-mph-plus boat;
• Isaac Beal, who had the Christopher, a dominant boat in the gasoline class;
• Merle Beal, for nearly three decades a constant presence in the 38-foot wooden Silver Dollar;
• Richard Duffy, of the boatbuilding shop Duffy & Duffy and an avid racer;
• Jerry Farrin, who organized the Merritt Bracket Lobster Boat Races in Pemaquid;
• Will Frost, a major influence on lobster-boat design and whose torpedo-sterned lobster boats, the Red Wing and Thoroughbred, were known for their speed in the 1920s and ’30s;
• Corliss Holland of Holland’s Boat Shop and a constant threat in the 32-foot Red Baron;
• Ernest Libby Jr., who designed and built the Marguerite G., which won the World’s Fastest Lobster Boat title four years in a row;
• Arvid and Alvin Young, of the Young Brothers boatshop and builders of the Sopwith Camel.
Then last Saturday (March 3), lobstermen went into the Samoset’s Rockland Room and elected five new members:
• Freddy Lenfestey, whose wooden Laura W. was a dominant force in the 1970s;
• Louis Stuart from Cundys Harbor, who raced the Voop, which had a cored hull with a double skin of glass on each side, lacked a keel, a windshield, and went close to 70 mph with a 1,000-hp engine;
• Andy Gove, who raced the Uncle’s UFO, a 36-foot Northern Bay with a 900-hp Mack;
• David Taylor of Boothbay, who was always on the race course with his Misty, a Crowley 33;
• Brian Robbins, an important force in the development of the racing association.
There weren’t any major rule changes at this year’s meeting except to alter the cubic-inch displacement on gasoline engines. Classes have been based on a displacement either up to or over 502. Now the line of demarcation is 525 cubic inches.
One race was added to the schedule. It will be at Long Island, which is just off Portland, on June 30. That brings the number of races to 13, from Portland to Eastport.
The opening race is scheduled for June 15 in Boothbay.