Eighty-eight boats came to Saturday’s Winter Harbor lobster boat races, the next to the last race of the 2020 Maine Lobster Boat Racing season.

That’s appreciably fewer boats than the 168 that showed up to race last year in Winter Harbor – but in 2019 the big prize was a new 35-foot Mitchell Cove hull, and the races were also in honor of Keith Young who had been organizing the event for 40 years. This year’s prize for anyone entering any of the races was a 4-wheel-drive pickup, obviously not the same attraction as a new lobster boat hull.

Still, there were plenty of boats for the 29 races that started with workboats that had to be 24 feet and under with inboard, outboard or outdrive, any horsepower, and must have a working hauler, which was won by Little Miss Abbey at 13.2 mph, to the last race of the day the Fastest Lobster Boat. Wild Wild West, a West 28 with a 1,050-hp Isotta Fraschini, won that one at 63 mph.

An ongoing battle since the Bass Harbor races on June 28 has been between High Voltage (AJ-28, 400-hp Yanmar) and Bad Influence (Holland 32, 350-hp Yanmar) in Diesel Class E (336 to 435 hp, 24 to 33 feet). High Voltage has predominated — sometimes by just a few feet — and last Saturday was no different with High Voltage first across the finish line.

A couple of new boats showed up. One of them was the Miss Mariena, a Wayne Beal 32 with a 500-hp Cummins. In Diesel Class G (436 to 550 hp, 36 feet and over) Miss Mariena was matched up against Right Stuff, a Libby 34 with a 500-hp Cummins that has dominated Class G. But not at Winter Harbor for as Miss Mariena, Right Stuff and Obsession were heading down the course, Right Stuff “had a problem,” says Jon Johansen, president of Maine Lobster Boat Racing.

“He broke his steering system,” which sent Right Stuff heading off the course in a wide turn. Johansen says he heard that “as he was on his way to run into a boat, he shoved it into reverse and the rudder hit the prop.” Miss Mariena won the race.

Diesel Class M(B) (40 feet and over, 501 to 750 hp) had to be divided into two heats with 14 boats signed up to race. Kimberly Ann, a Calvin Beal 42, 750-hp FPT, won her heat and the finals.

The last race of the season is this Sunday in Portland. Typically 55 to 60 boats show up, but there might be more on Sunday as Johansen says — despite the long run — “there’s a slew of boats coming from Jonesport.”

One change from the past several years is that the races aren’t being called the MS Harborfest Lobster Boat Races, because the MS Society of Maine is no longer a sponsor. Starting this Sunday, it’s simply the Portland Lobster Boat Races. Still, this will be a fund-raising event with money raised for the scholarship fund that will be given at the annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum next March.

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

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