By Sheila Dassatt
With the boat racing season coming to an end for this year, I felt it only appropriate to do a story about it. Congratulations to all that brought home trophies, hat prizes, cash and of course, “bragging rights!” What a great time it can all be for fishing families, participants and our racing audience. I’d like to give special thanks to all that do the hard work of sponsoring the races and setting everything up, such as sign up and keeping track of each race, recording the times, winners and the radar gun operator, pace boat and so on. Thank you, Jon Johansen for your dedication to these races. We know how long you have been doing this and your dedication is well appreciated! I remember a “young” reporter and photographer, asking if he could hop aboard the Red Baron with us to cover the race at Winter Harbor in the early eighties……guess who that was?!
A lot of folks have asked me along the way, how did this all get started? This is not a new sport by any means. It still goes on to this day……when the day’s haul is over, it was always fun to see who was the fastest boat coming into the harbor. My grandfather, James Holland used to do it back in the early years. He needed a fast boat, as he also used to move lobsters as well as his participation with the “prohibition days.” The stories are probably way more than I can tell!
My earliest memories are with my family going to Jonesport on the 4th of July for a traditional picnic with my grandparents and folks. My brother, Glenn, had a passion for the Jonesport beauties (boats that is), and the annual boat race. We were very young at the time, and started our own Family Tradition. As time went on, history took its own course, and in the eighties, the rest of the story continued on. Dad, Corliss needed a boat for lobstering, so the Red Baron was built at the family boat shop (red because of left over gel coat), and the story of Snoopy and the Red Baron was popular at the time (explaining her name). So the Young Brothers, Arvin and Arvid of Corea, built the Sopwith Camel to fit with the popular cartoon, by Charles Schultz. So the challenge made the spectators simply Love It! The song, Snoopy and the Red Baron by the Royal Guardsmen was being played by local radio stations at race time. It was great fun!
In the beginning, Dad and Glenn ran the ‘Baron and the Young Brothers challenged with the Sopwith Camel. More boats were built and jumped in on the Heyday. If I do another article on this, I will mention them for sure. They are definitely popular boats, each with their own story. I will mention my Dad and Andrew Gove racing each other with Red Baron and Uncle’s UFO. That was priceless for their ages at the time!
I asked my daughter, Christy for some inspiration, and she had great memories, right away. She remembers the “innocence of being one of the boat race kids, hopping from rock to rock, nearly slipping into the water-the independence as a child, yet they knew that we were all watching over them.” Race morning, there was typically fog, with the anticipation of the sun breaking through the haze, making race day possible. The mornings were misty and cool, to break the hot humid days the proceeded. The anticipation was great, with the women in our family packing lunches and making sure that everyone still made it a picnic. That’s how I met my husband, Mike. He showed up at the dock with a cooler of sandwiches and liquid embellishment……accompanying my Dad’s invitation to come along. As time went on, he became part of the wrench turning team. I never knew what he looked like, his butt was always sticking out of the engine hold! That’s also how friends were made and future families. Once they became part of the racing circle, everyone was family and always will be.
Sometimes we would win, sometimes we would lose, but it never broke our spirit. Of course, I’ll never forget the day at Stonington, when the fog closed in during the race. We could hear the roar of the engines, but couldn’t see any of them until we saw the bow of the red boat breaking through the fog to win the race. That was the Red Baron, and what an exciting race that was! I believe that was the first Jimmy Stevens Cup Race.
We have seen a generation of our own kids become involved, Andrea, Ed and Christy and now the next generation of kids are becoming involved, usually starting with the skiff races. One reason that I am going there with this article is the simple fact that with our fishing industry, our way of life is not just fishing and regulations. Fishermen work very hard and have for generations, following strict conservation rules to help make it possible for years to come. When the day’s work is done, there’s time to start new family traditions. If our family had the privilege to help make this possible, by leaving our mark and tradition on this industry, we are proud to be part of it. Thank you and Godspeed.