It was billed as the Fastest Lobster Boat race. Wild Wild West (West 28 with a 1,050-hp Isotta) was lined up against Motivation (Northern Bay 36, 1,000-hp Cat), Gold Digger (Wayne Beal 36, 675-hp Scania) and Wide Open (Robert Rich 26, 350-hp Chevy).
Normally, Wild Wild West takes these races and it’s not a close call, but not this day. Motivation and Wild Wild West came down the course bow to bow. It wasn’t until just before the finish line that Wild Wild West pulled ahead — barely — winning with a speed of 53.3 mph.
That was the last race of the day at Portland and the last race for the 2018 Maine Lobster Boat Racing Season, which began June 16 in Boothbay Harbor and ended Aug. 19 in Portland. The last race is better known as the MS Harborfest Lobster Boat Races, as it is a fund raising event for the MS Society of Maine.
Fifty-one boats showed up to race, the same number that came to the starting line the previous day at the Long Island races. Long Island happens to be the home of boatbuilder Steve Johnson, a kind of cult figure known for bringing some wacky boats to past races. That included taking the top off a 26-foot cabin cruiser, putting down a new deck and then chaining a 1994 Pontiac convertible to the deck. Johnson controlled the Sunbird from the front seat. Power came from a pair of 200-hp outboard.
This time Johnson chose a more conventional boat, the Bud & Dawn (Jingle Johnson 28, 1,100-hp Chevy). But shortly before his race, the Bud & Dawn developed engine troubles and that was it for Johnson. But it being Long Island there was more than one Johnson in the races. Riley Johnson is a 15-year-old lobsterman who now owns one of Steve Johnson’s old boats, the Lynn Marie (Sisu 26, 235-hp Isuzu). Riley bought the Lynn Marie from Steve last fall, pulled out Steve’s 1,000-hp Chevy and replaced it with the Isuzu.
It was more than enough horsepower as Johnson, racing in Diesel Class A (up to 235-hp, 24 to 31 feet), won his class both days, hitting 31.3 mph at Long island and 31.6 mph at Portland. It’s obvious that the Johnson’s of Long island love to race.
At the end of the day in Portland, there was an awards banquet. The top three finishers in each race received prize money. About 99 percent of that was donated back to the MS Society, says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association. Money was also raised from t-shirt sales and items were auctioned off, such as gift certificates from marine suppliers. Johnson figures that slightly more than $7,250 was raised for the MS Society.
Beyond that Global Oil in Portland gave a voucher for each diesel race for 160-gallons of diesel fuel. You didn’t have to win the race; you just needed to draw the lucky voucher.