The guys who build lobster boat racing engines have two passions — speed and winning
By Michael Crowley
Some say Maine's lobster boat racing is like NASCAR only on water. Forget that. NASCAR drivers and their pit crews have a catered life of flashy, matching suits and multiple sponsors. Lobster boat racing is jeans and T-shirts and individual boat owners who hope the engine holds together on race day because their pockets aren't deep — and most of them need the engine to go fishing the next day.
About the only thing NASCAR and lobster boat racing share is the racer's passion to be faster than the other guy across the finish line. When the other guy's engine goes up in smoke and a little flame, you want to be, as one engine maverick puts it, "the last guy standing."
In the mind of the lobster boat racing public, the last guy standing is the one at the throttle. He's the one who gets the attention in the press (limited as it is for lobster boat racing). But he's just the most visible part of the equation. The one most people don't hear about is the engine guy (and they are all guys).
When you are talking about tuning an engine for racing, there are two basic categories. The first is the lobsterman who works on his own engine and makes a few modifications to get a little more horsepower on race day, knowing the engine can be de-tuned the following day for fishing. He is not jeopardizing the engine's performance and longevity.
Then there are the boat owners who are just interested in all-out racing and do whatever is necessary to win. The engines in the boats are like nothing you'd find on a boat hauling traps and are generally built and maintained by someone whose expertise is engines and not lobstering. That includes Glenn Crawford in the case of the 28-foot Wild Wild West and Richard Weaver for the 30-foot Foolish Pleasure.
"We are operating on the edge of destruction all the time. We are trying to get the maximum out of everything we've got, and every week we find a weak link. Something not capable of withstanding pressures and strains of what it's put under. But that's racing. That's the driving force, to go where no one has gone before," says Crawford, who operates C&C Machine Shop in Ellsworth, Maine.
Wild Wild West has nailed 50 mph with a diesel and 60 mph with a gasoline engine, though Crawford admits the 60-mph mark was an unofficial time.
As far as Weaver goes, ask people who follow racing and they'll tell you his engines are always near the point of destruction. But he points to races won by fishermen with his engines, including Benny Beal, the Young Brothers and, currently, Galen Alley, a lobster dealer, whose Foolish Pleasure holds the record at 64 mph.