Preparations are underway for the 2013 Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race, to be held on the Choptank River off Cambridge on Saturday, September 21. The annual race began in 1997 and, with Deal Island’s Labor Day race, is one of only two skipjack races still held on the Chesapeake Bay.
The Cambridge race offers spectators more accessible views of the competing vessels than are possible at the Deal Island race. The start/finish line is just off Long Wharf, and the mid portion of the race can be viewed from Great Marsh Park. About eight skipjacks are expected to compete this year, with additional boats possible if their condition and schedules permit.
The nonprofit Dorchester Skipjack Committee has been organizing the race for the past few years, with 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, derived 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. Ed Farley won the 2012 race with his skipjack, H.M. Krentz.
In addition to the National Bank of Cambridge, other major annual sponsors are the Nathan Foundation and Snappers Waterfront Café, where the post-race luncheon, trophy presentation and this year’s Captains and Crew Reception take place.
Craig’s Drug Store is sponsoring once again both the reception and the race t-shirts. Tri Gas & Oil has signed on as a Boat Sponsor. Other early sponsors include Cambridge Rotary Club and The J.M. Clayton Company. Additional sponsors and donors are needed to help support the event and the skipjacks. A range of sponsor levels offers various recognition opportunities, from banners on participating boats to program ads and listings.
Bleacher seating is provided for spectators at Long Wharf, where there will be food and gift vendors and exhibitors during the morning race. Bill Smith will fire his cannon to salute the vessels as they parade out from Cambridge Creek and signal the official race start. Thomas Parker is bringing his traditional buyboat, Thomas J, down from Chestertown to serve as the race committee boat.
For those who like skipjacks on a smaller scale, there will be a regatta for radio-controlled skipjacks, held by members of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s Model Skipjack Club.
The public can meet and greet the skipjack captains and crews on Friday evening, September 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Snappers in Cambridge. 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.
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 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.