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News Feature

Brooklin & Castine
Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 23, 2020 and Island Ad-Vantages, July 23, 2020 and The Weekly Packet, July 23, 2020
Popular sailing race series returns
Shore-side events canceled

Castine Classic

Yachts race towards Camden during 2019’s Castine Classic.

Penobscot Bay Press file photo

by Eli Forman

Time for sailors to dust off those burgees and slip on their Sperries—the Wooden Boat Series is once again bringing a fleet of classic yachts to local waters.

The three-day series of races starts with the Castine Classic on Thursday, July 30, setting sail 19.6 nautical miles across Penobscot Bay from Castine to Camden.

On Friday, boats sail back across the bay to Brooklin for the Camden Feeder Regatta, passing through Stonington before heading to the finish between Babson Island and Naskeag Point.

Saturday, August 1, the fleet heads up Eggemoggin Reach and back, for the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta.

The Castine Classic will begin at approximately 11:55 a.m. and the Camden Feeder Regatta at 11:20 a.m.

The first of eight boat classes racing the ERR starts at 11 a.m., with the final under way at 11:40 a.m.

For all the landlubbers who may be wondering what constitutes a classic yacht, Castine Classic founder and organizer David Bicks offers a simple definition: “It’s like the supreme court ruling on pornography,” he chuckled, “you know it when you see it.”

Bicks elaborated that classic yachts tend to first of all be made of wood, and second, follow the designs of luminary 20th century racing yacht designers such as Olin Stephens, designer of the legendary Dorade which won the 1931 Transatlantic Race.

For extra local sailing lore trivia points, Dorade has made occasional appearances in the Castine Classic, including a notable appearance in 2001 celebrating Stephens’ 100th birthday at which Stephens himself was present.

Though not quite as classic, fiberglass boats that are faithful replicas of older wooden designs are also welcomed, albeit in a separate race class, said Bicks.

The Wooden Boat Series has a storied history in the region.

The first ERR was held in 1985, “with 13 wooden boats and a dream,” according to the official race website, erregatta.com.

The Castine Classic is a little younger, first run 21 years ago, said Bicks.

As is the case lately, when usual events occur in unusual times, several things will be different about the races this year.

According to Bicks, all shore events for the Castine Classic, which usually include a celebration at the Castine Yacht club, are canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The annual party normally held at the WoodenBoat School campus for the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta is also canceled.

A statement on the ERR website reads: “We are committed to staying entirely off the WoodenBoat campus.”

For the Castine Classic, social distancing and masks will be required at all times while on the town dock, and boats are prohibited from rafting, that is, tying up to each other.

In light of these circumstances, Bicks expects half the usual fleet of 40 boats.

As of last Friday, Bicks said, only 17 or 18 boats have registered. He expects around 20 boats total.

Despite the lower numbers, “we will have an impressive fleet,” Bicks wrote in an email to the newspapers.

Notable boats racing this year include Black Watch, 68’ designed by Sparkman & Stephens, built in 1938; Mah Jong, 52’ also designed by Sparkman & Stephens, built in 1957; and Spartan, 72’ designed by Herreshoff, built in 1913.

For curious shore-bound spectators, Dyce Head Lighthouse in Castine affords an unquestionably picturesque view of the Castine Classic fleet leaving town, while the Isle au Haut mail boat dock in Stonington is a great place to watch the Camden Feeder fleet go by, spinnakers aloft in a southwest breeze.