|Christina and Nick Lemieux displaying lobster boat racing trophies.|
Several weeks ago, I wrote about the summer sport of lobster boat racing. Interestingly, a week later the Wall Street Journal published an article on Maine lobster boat racing. The article gives a nice history of the sport:
“In the old days, when Maine lobstermen sailed schooners, races were usually casual affairs involving fellow townsmen trying to beat each other back to a harbor after a day of fishing. Beginning in the 1920s, individual towns along the coast began holding more organized races. Eventually, working lobstermen found themselves racing against vessels manned by boat builders, seafood merchants, auto mechanics and retired teachers.”
The article also touches on the great lobster boat racing rivalry of the 1980s, which brought back many memories for me. As the article mentions, the heated competition was between two boats: the Sopwith Camel and the Red Baron. The Sopwith Camel, owned by the Young Brothers (Colby, Arvid and Arvin) “was named after the famed World War I British biplane, one of which shot down German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen” ( better known as the Red Baron).
My father was not only a good friend of the Young Brothers, he was also good with engines and did a lot of the engine building/repowering for the Sopwith Camel during those racing years. Many summer weekends during my youth were spent travelling up and down the coast with my family, as my father got the Camel’s engine in shape for the next race. Mostly I’d watch the races from our boat or from the shore, but once or twice I had the thrill of riding in the Camel when she was going at full steam. She was so fast (around 60 miles an hour if I remember correctly) that my father would make me lay down flat on the floor in the stern of the boat to ensure I wouldn’t be thrown overboard if we hit a wave. They even rigged the boat with a seat belt strap so that the driver (often Vid) could strap himself in standing up so he wouldn’t be thrown into the engine if the boat jolted sideways (racing boats are so light that they often go airborne when they hit a wave under full speed). I have a collection of vintage t-shirts from my youth and by far my favorite is my Camel Race Crew t-shirt. I still wear it today and will have to upload a picture of me in it when I have a moment.
The rest of the article speaks to the various lobster boat race categories and prizes – a bit of cash (usually $200 or less) and “hat drawings wherein all entrants win some sort freebie donated by local merchants. Drawing prizes range from $100 bills, lobster traps and motor oil to gift certificates for boat-painting services and pizza.”
All in all, I thought the Wall Street Journal did an excellent job of bringing to life the unique sport of lobster boat racing. It brought back some wonderful memories for me as well.
To read more about Maine lobster boat racing, click here.