The 2012 Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race will take place on the Choptank River off Cambridge on Saturday, September 22nd. The race starts at 10 a.m. and generally lasts until about noon. There is no charge to watch the race or to enjoy the activities at Long Wharf, where vendors set up about an hour earlier.
Volunteers of the nonprofit Dorchester Skipjack Committee assumed responsibility for organizing the annual race last year, with a commitment to keep it alive and build it into a community event. New activities at Long Wharf during the 2011 race attracted more people to watch the event and the committee has been building on that new beginning for this year.
Cannoneer Bill Smith will be at Long Wharf once again with his big gun to fire salutes at the beginning and end of the race. Additional vendors have been invited. Several local nonprofit organizations, such as Cambridge Sail and Power Squadron and Horn Point Laboratory, will feature exhibits on their activities. Author Vince Gisriel will be on hand to sign copies of his book, Hearts Away, Bombs Away, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
A radio-controlled skipjack regatta will take place from the docks at Long Wharf, providing competitive entertainment while the full-size skipjacks are on the middle legs of their race. The regatta will be held by members of the Model Sailing Club of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
The buyboat Thomas J will act as committee boat for the race. The 52-foot vessel was built by J. S. Jenkins in 1951 in Severn, VA. She is owned by Thomas Parker, with Rolph’s Wharf her home port.
Participation in the Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race always is dependent on the weather and current condition of the individual boats. Skipjacks probable for this year’s race include Rebecca T. Ruark, Ida May and Thomas Clyde, which came in first, second and third, respectively, in the 2011 race; and Caleb W. Jones, Hilda Willing, H.M. Krentz, and Nathan of Dorchester, the Dorchester Skipjack Committee’s host vessel, whose home port is Cambridge. A number of other skipjacks have been invited and may participate if conditions and schedules allow. Updates may be found on the Nathan of Dorchester website’s race pages.
The Nathan Foundation, the National Bank of Cambridge, Snappers Waterfront Café and the Dorchester Skipjack Committee are the annual host sponsors of the race.
Each year, Snappers welcomes captains and crews to both a pre-race coffee and captains’ briefing and the post-race luncheon and trophy presentation. Capt. Stanley Larrimore, once captain of a number of historic skipjacks will present the trophy to the winning captain again this year.
The National Bank of Cambridge sponsors the Choptank Heritage Cup Trophy on which the winning captain and boat’s names are engraved. The trophy is on permanent display at the Dorchester County Visitor Center. The race winner receives a smaller engraved trophy to commemorate the win. All boats receive equal show-up money, provided by the contributions of sponsors and donors to the nonprofit event. The skipjack Nathan of Dorchester donates her portion back to the race to allow larger awards to the other skipjacks.
Other currently committed 2012 race sponsors include Tri Gas & Oil, Rommel’s Ace Hardware, Aero Energy, Cambridge Canvas & Sail Loft, Cianci Chiropractic Center, The J.M. Clayton Company, Jimmie & Sook’s Raw Bar and Grill, Provident State Bank and The Talbot Bank. Bailey Jewelers once again has provided a raffle prize, a silver skipjack pendant.
Craig’s Drug Store is sponsoring a reception where guests can meet and greet the skipjack captains and crews. It takes place Friday evening, September 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Jimmie and Sook’s in Cambridge. Reception tickets are $25 if purchased in advance or $30 after September 14 or at the door. Tickets are available online through the current race page of the Nathan’s website, www.skipjack-nathan.org or may be reserved by calling 410-228-7141.
The race is part of a full weekend of activities in Cambridge, including the dedication of the new lighthouse at Long Wharf Saturday evening and the Dorchester Arts Showcase on Sunday. Cambridge Main Street is planning its own race-week activities, including specially decorated store fronts.
Skipjack race t-shirts, also sponsored by Craig’s Drug Store, free race programs, 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 Showcase, where the Nathan will offer free sails. Proceeds all benefit the Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race.
Race Committee Chairman Lou Hyman encourages everyone to come out and support this endangered icon of the area’s maritime heritage. “There are so few skipjacks left that events like this, where we can get a bunch of these boats together all at the same time, are becoming rare,” he said. “Getting people to come out and see the skipjacks up close and watch how they sail is important in building support for the efforts of those who are working to maintain and restore the aging vessels in the fleet.”
For more information, to purchase reception tickets or to make a donation, contact the Dorchester Skipjack Committee at 410-228-7141 or visit its website, www.skipjack-nathan.org.
In photo: A view of last year’s Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race just off shore from the Dorchester County Visitor Center.