2022 Great Schooner Race

The 45th annual Great Schooner Race, which took place on Friday, July 8th, was a demonstration of seamanship and sportsmanship at its finest on Penobscot Bay.  The race, North America’s largest annual gathering of tall ships, includes Maine Windjammer Association vessels and a few visiting traditional sailing vessels racing for the coveted Cutty Sark trophy. Friday’s race capped off a week of great sailing for those who were lucky enough to get a place on one of the participating boats.

Race festivities begin Thursday evening as the windjammers gather in Rockland Harbor in anticipation of the following day’s race. One could argue that this evening alone is worth the cost of admission as guests are treated to close-up views of all the vessels under full sail and two local lighthouses to boot!

Schooner Mary Day sails past the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. Photo: Ken Waltz/MaineStay Media

One of the lesser known, but highly entertaining, traditions is the pre-Schooner-Race small boat regatta. Crew members and guests together race among the anchored windjammers in small sailing or rowing tenders or even paddle boards. Awards are given not only for speed, but for spirit and costume as well, and racing “tactics” include water-gun deployment and muffin launches to ward off oncoming racers. 😁

This year’s small boat race was won by Victory Chimes’ North Haven Sailing Dingy. The best crew spirit award went to J. & E. Riggin – “for utter disregard for their comfort.” Sounds like they went all out!

Small Boat Races Photo: David Stewart

Passengers and crew line up for the Small Boat Races Photo: Tracy Sheppard

Friday brought sunny skies and a warm crisp breeze. This year’s race course was an approximately 10-mile round-trip circuit between Rockland breakwater lighthouse, the entrance to Rockport Harbor, and Mark Island.

To level the sailing field the windjammers are divided into racing classes.

 The Coaster class includes the vessels built before 1920, such as Stephen Taber, Lewis R. French, and Victory Chimes – these are the older working schooners designed to haul cargo along the coast.

The Leeward class includes the larger, deeper schooners such as Angelique, Heritage, J.&E. Riggin, and Ladona.

Windward class includes the longer, lighter schooners such as American Eagle and Mary Day.

The smallest schooners fall into the Flying Jib class, like the visiting schooner Olad.

This year Schooner Stephen Taber sailed to victory! Congratulations to the Taber’s captain, crew, and guests!  To see the full list of winners in each class, visit GreatSchoonerRace.com.

After the race, guests and crew all came ashore in Rockland for a post-Race celebration.

With New Orleans jazz fusion band Hadacol Bouncers providing dance tunes, the Sail, Power and Steam Museum providing the event tent, and our always hard-working windjammer chefs providing a buffet of hors-d’oervres, a good time was had by all.

Many thanks to Marshall Wharf Brewing for donating the beer for reception, Mossy Ledge Spirits  for donating the rum and cordials for the 1st and 2nd  place prizes, respectively, and  Downeast Candies for donating the salt water taffy for the small boat race prizes.

Oh, and did we mention yet that guests got to dunk their captains? Yep, it’s not a celebration without dunk tank. New tradition. 😁

Captain Noah Barnes of Schooner Stephen Taber awaits his fate in our dunk tank. Photo: J. Tobin

Schooners Mary day and J.&E. Riggin race down the bay. Photo Nick Parsons

Schooners Stephen Taber and Victory Chimes. Photo: Sean Sheppard