Weekend of classic boat races begins in Castine
CASTINE — The Castine Classic Yacht Regatta, which opens a weekend of classic sailboat racing Downeast, got under way Wednesday afternoon with harbor visits from two of the world’s most famous yachts, Dorade and the schooner America. That was followed by a symposium hosted by Douglas Adkins, author of the definitive biography of Dorade.
Thursday morning, the fleet is scheduled to gather at 11:30 off the red-and-white harbor bell buoy for the start of the 17th annual Castine Classic Yacht Race to Camden. Hosted by the Castine Yacht Club, the first of the three racing classes was scheduled to get under way at 11:55 a.m., weather permitting. Starts for two additional classes are scheduled at 10-minute intervals.
The planned starting times may be optimistic. Over the past few years, several starts have been delayed by fog or lack of wind.
The Castine-to-Camden Yacht Race through Penobscot Bay is a precursor to Friday’s Camden-to-Brooklin feeder race that precedes the 32nd annual Eggemoggin Reach Regatta, scheduled for a Saturday morning start near the Torrey Islands, Center Harbor and the WoodenBoat School.
Sponsored jointly by Brooklin Boat Yard and Rockport Marine, the race attracts a fleet of as many as 125 classic wooden sailboats ranging in length from a scant 24 feet to 100 feet or more and divided into seven classes based on size, age and rig.
The 15-mile course carries the fleet down the reach, into Jericho Bay around Egg Rock and the Halibut Rocks off Swan’s Island before heading home to a finish between Babson Island and Naskeag Point. Last year, Richard Schotte’s 70-footer Isobel, launched by Brooklin Boat Yard in 2011, posted the fastest elapsed time for the day. The oldest boats in the fleet were two N.G. Herreshoff designs, the Bar Harbor 30 Desperate Lark and the 46-foot gaff-rigged Nellie, both launched in 1903 and still sailing strong.
The 52-foot yawl Dorade was designed by Olin Stephens in 1929, at age 21. In that golden age of sail, the boat took the sailing world by storm, scoring decisive victories in 1931 in both the Trans-Atlantic and Fastnet Races and was greeted upon its return to New York City with a ticker-tape parade to City Hall.
The following year, Dorade went on to take her class in the Bermuda Race and then, in 1936, win the Trans-Pacific Race from California to Hawaii.
More than 77 years after that West Coast triumph, Dorade returned to serious racing and, under the stewardship of Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy, recently achieved success in these same races.
In 2013, the yawl finished first overall on corrected time in the 2,225-mile Trans-Pacific Race.
Last summer, Dorade sailed from Newport, R.I., to Cowes on the English Channel and finished second in class in the 2,800-mile-plus Trans-Atlantic Race, then finished seventh overall in the 356-boat Fastnet Race to Ireland, knocking more than seven hours off the time recorded by Stephens and his brother Olin in the 1931 event.
The schooner America, sailed by Troy Sears, is the official ambassador for the 2017 America’s Cup, the oldest trophy in international sport.
America is a 139-foot replica of the vessel which started the Cup tradition in 1851 by crossing the Atlantic from New York on under sail and defeating a fleet of British yachts to win the Royal Yacht Squadron’s “100 Guinea Cup.”