The Maine Coast’s beautiful bays, rocky islands and picturesque mountains have long been renowned as an ideal backdrop for some of the best gatherings in the wooden-boat world. 2023 Camden Classics Cup (July 27-29) provided regatta participants, their friends and families, and the local community with fantastic racing that showcased the best of what these storied waters can deliver. While not all of 86 classic and modern yachts that gathered on the waters of Western Penobscot Bay sailed home with trophies, of course, it’s fair to say that everyone decamped with get-you-through-the-coming-winter memories of great racing, wonderful camaraderie, and welcoming onshore hospitality and entertainment.
Rain might have besieged coastal Maine in the days leading up to the regatta, but blue skies prevailed on the morning of Friday, July 28, giving crews great views of Mount Megunticook to the west and islands to the east.
“Few sights are finer than seeing these boats sailing these beautiful waters,” said Holly Paterson, event director of the 2023 Camden Classics Cup. “People come to this regatta as much for the beauty as the great racing, and it’s fair to say that both were on display on Friday.”
Some also come to strut their school colors, as was the case with the crew from the Maine Maritime Academy, who were racing aboard Wizard, a 1930 Herreschoff Fisher Island 31. “They were ecstatic,” said Joseph Lobley, the MMA’s yacht donation program manager, about Wizard’s the crew, which consisted of current students, recent alumni, and some faculty members, including the team’s coach. “Some of these sailors just got back from their senior cruise—that’s 70 days at sea, but they made time for this regatta.”
The waters may have started the day looking blue and flat, but white caps were punctuating the scene by the afternoon. This allowed most classes to enjoy a single long-course race, while the two Day Racer classes contested three shorter races.
“We were seeing almost 20 knots by the end of the day,” said Drew Lyman, president and owner of Lyman-Morse. “Rails were getting buried and boats were flashing their undercarriages. That’s as good as it gets, especially when there’s a great party waiting ashore.”
This latter attraction was supported by Lyman-Morse’s recently upgraded Camden Marina, where guests can expect upscale facilities, including an extensive wharf boardwalk area replete with restaurants, a distillery, an espresso bar, a boutique, and a cocktail lounge. “Everyone enjoyed Friday’s cocktail party,” said Paterson, adding that for some teams this spilled over to dinner reservations at onsite establishments Salt Wharf and Barren’s Distillery & Restaurant, while other crews strolled to nearby downtown Camden.
Saturday morning began with the traditional Parade of Sail, which brought the fleet of classic yachts through Camden Harbor. The Camden community lined Lyman-Morse’s wharf and the town’s sidewalks to watch these gorgeous ladies strut their classic lines on one of New England’s most picture-perfect harbors. And, for anyone in the crowd who was more interested in terrestrial beauties than nautical ones, the morning also featured a regatta village including the Mid Coast Classics Car show, a scallop tank from Hurricane Island, and vendors.
Despite regatta organizer’s best efforts, the wind was AWOL throughout the afternoon, with the arrows on GRIB files pointing in as many directions as the boats that were moored in Camden Harbor. Some crews took full advantage of the delayed race and lack of wind and enjoyed a swim in the bay.
“This wasn’t the outcome that we were aiming for, but it was the right call,” said Lyman. “Racing is important, of course, but our bigger goal is always to welcome our guests and deliver Maine hospitality, regardless of the weather. Fortunately, it’s not so hard to have a great time here, especially when there are so many beautiful boats to see, and so many accomplished sailors to meet.”
Saturday afternoon’s Post Race Party and Awards Presentation provided a great chance for attending sailors from all different classes to socialize, recall exchanged tactical fisticuffs and silky-smooth racecourse maneuvers, and to recognize those teams that topped the regatta’s different leaderboards.
Mermaid, Brooke Parish’s 46-foot Sparkman & Stephens ketch, took first place in the Classic 1 class. They were joined in the class’s top three by Arrluuk, Steve Frary’s 58-foot L. Francis Herreshoff-designed ketch, and Nora, Alec Brainerd’s 40-foot Sparkman & Stephens-designed yawl.
The Classics 2 Concordia Class saw tactical fisticuffs exchanged between five Concordia-built beauties, with Snow Falcon, Andrew Breece and George E. Gans III’s 39-foot yawl beating out Phalarope, Thomas Ashton’s similarly drawn yawl, and Otter, Robert Keefer and Sue Pfau’s Concordia 41, to win this class.
Racing in the CRF Schooner and Gaff class was dominated by three John Alden designs. Lars Forsberg’s 47-foot staysail schooner Spirit proved the boat to beat, followed by Phineas Sprague Jr.’s 74-foot staysail schooner Lion’s Whelp, which was built to John Alden’s traditional lines; Nigel Bower’s 65-foot Heron completed the class’s top trifecta.
The CRF Vintage 1 class boasted design diversity—ranging from a New York 32 to a 12 Metre—but, by the time the sails were flaked, furled, and repacked, Chris Bouzaid’s Bijou II, a 38-foot 30 square meter, was in the pole position. Joe Robillard’s 68-foot Sparkman & Stephens yawl, Black Watch, took second place, followed by Any Tyska’s Gleam, a 12 Metre that was drawn by Clinton Crane in 1937.
In addition to winning their class, Bouzaid and his Bijou II crew collected the prestigious 2023 Camden Classics Cup trophy.
Boats racing in the Day Racer 1 and Day Racer 2 fleets scored three shorter-course contests. John K. Hanson Jr. and Polly Saltonstall’s Frolic, a Dark Harbor 17.5, posted two bullets and a fourth-place finish to claim first place, while Jeff Serrie’s crew aboard Ellen, his Dark Harbor 17.5, posted a 3-2-1 to take second place. Paul Koch and his crew aboard Ponyo, his Camden Class Sloop, finished in third place after registering two seconds and a third.
The top of the fleet was more consistent in the Day Racer 2 class, where Paul Hamlin’s Indigo, a Quickstep 24, collected two bullets and a second-place to take top honors. Sam Masterman and his crew aboard Rasputin, his 24-foot Ostkust sloop, posted a third and a pair of twos to take second place, while Jon Hamdorf and his crew aboard Ida Rose, his 26-foot Sea Bird Yawl, earned a fifth and two thirds to round-out the top three.
The Spirit of Tradition class has a reputation for turning heads, both on the racecourse and during Saturday’s Parade of Sail, but—eye candy aside—competition turned plenty serious when the starting sequence began. Connell Cannon and Matthew Reinhardt’s Verissimo, a 63-footer drawn by John Alden and Company and built in 1998, was the fastest gun in this 13-strong fleet, taking both class honors and the coveted Lyman-Morse Trophy. Tenacious Holdings LLC’s Zemphira, a Stephens Waring-designed 76-foot sloop, took second, while Antony Merck’s Anna, a Stephens Waring-designed and Lyman-Morse-built 65-footer, took third.
The PHRF Spinnaker class welcomes more contemporary boats such as Ubuntu, Hank Sesselberg’s J/105, which bested 16 rivals to claim class honors. Tamarack, Geoff Emanuel and Bob Kellogg’s Baltic Farr 44, took second place, while Mischief, David Schwartz’s Sequin 40, took third.
Finally, John Fitzgerald and crew aboard Moondance, his Sabre 36, won the PHRF Cruising 1 class after staving off big-fleet advances from Tango, Todd Galen’s J/42 SD, which finished in second place, and Petronella, Luis Echarte’s Finngulf 41, which took third place in this 14-strong class.