Dorchester Skipjack Committee volunteers are gearing up for this year’s Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race, to be held on the Choptank River off Cambridge on Saturday, September 22, beginning at 10 a.m. The annual race began in 1997 and, with Deal Island’s Labor Day race, is one of only two skipjack races still being held on the Chesapeake Bay.
While a number of skipjacks that participate in the Deal Island race are not able to make it up the Bay to the Cambridge race, the Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race offers spectators free and more accessible views of the vessels that do compete. The start/finish line is generally just off Long Wharf, and views of the mid-portion of the race can be found from Great Marsh Park. Eight to ten skipjacks are anticipated to participate this year.
In an effort to bring more attention to the race, Skipjack Committee volunteers brought additional activities to Long Wharf for the event last year and plan on further expansion this year. Bleacher seating once again will be provided and more food and gift vendors and exhibitors are expected. Bill Smith will return to offer cannon salutes. A special regatta for radio-controlled skipjacks also is planned, along with race-week activities by Cambridge Main Street. All of the race-day activities at Long Wharf are free to the public.
Guests can meet and greet the skipjack captains and crews on Friday evening, September 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Jimmie and Sook’s Restaurant in Cambridge. The reception is sponsored this year by Craig’s Drug Store. Reception tickets are $25 if purchased in advance or $30 after September 14 and are available online through the current race page of the Nathan’s website, www.skipjack-nathan.org.
The nonprofit Dorchester Skipjack Committee assumed responsibility for organizing the race last year and has made a commitment to keeping it alive to support the skipjacks and the community. The boats compete for pride, not prize, with each participating skipjack receiving equal show-up money, which comes from sponsorships and donations. The skipjack Nathan of Dorchester, acting as host vessel for the event, donates her portion back to the race to allow larger awards to the other skipjacks.
The winning skipjack and her captain’s names are engraved on the permanent Choptank Heritage Cup Trophy, established and sponsored by the National Bank of Cambridge. The trophy is kept on display at the Dorchester County Visitor Center. The winning captain receives a smaller version of the trophy to commemorate the win. Capt. Wade Murphy, Jr., won the 2011 race with his skipjack, Rebecca T. Ruark.
In addition to the National Bank of Cambridge, other major annual sponsors are the Nathan Foundation and Snappers Restaurant, where the post-race luncheon and trophy presentation are held.
Additional sponsors and donors are being recruited by committee volunteers to help support the race and the skipjacks. A range of sponsor levels offers various recognition opportunities, from banners on participating boats to program ads and listings.
Race programs, skipjack race t-shirts and 50/50 raffle tickets will be available all weekend, at the reception, during the race at Long Wharf, and at the Nathan’s booth at Sunday’s Dorchester Arts Showcase. Proceeds all benefit the Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race.
For more information, to become a race sponsor or to make a donation, contact the Dorchester Skipjack Committee at 410-228-7141 or visit its website, www.skipjack-nathan.org.
In photo: Capt. Stanley Larrimore, center, once captain of a number of historic skipjacks, presented the Choptank Heritage Cup Trophy at Snappers Waterfront Café after last year’s race and congratulated the captains who participated. Left to right, Capt. John Price of the Ida May; race winner Capt. Wade Murphy Jr. of the Rebecca T. Ruark; Capt. Lawrence Murphy of the Thomas Clyde; Capt. Larrimore; Capt. Casey Copsey of the Caleb W. Jones; Capt. Mike Gosman of the Lady Helen; Capt. Frank Newton of the Nathan of Dorchester. Not shown, Capt. Ed Farley of the H. M. Krentz.
In photo above: A view of last year’s Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race just off shore from the Dorchester County Visitor Center.