FALMOUTH — The 78th annual Monhegan Race – Maine’s oldest, largest and longest offshore sailboat race – gets underway on Friday, Aug. 3, at 1 p.m.
Hosted in Falmouth by the Portland Yacht Club, this year’s race is expected to draw 33 boats from Maine and other locations, according to PYC member and race spokeswoman Ann Blanchard.
More than 150 crew members and volunteers will be participating, Blanchard said, including nearly a dozen racers from Falmouth and surrounding towns. Boats will compete in six divisions, including categories for two-person crews and for multi-hulled boats.
The number of boats competing this year is up from the 26 that raced last year, she said. But those fleets are dramatically smaller than the ones that competed in the 1970s and 1980s, when entries sometimes numbered more than 100.
The decrease isn’t surprising, Blanchard said.
“What’s happening in sailing is happening in other sports,” she said. “There are so many other activities available today that take away from time on the water. It’s harder than ever for families to get together.”
The race starts in waters between Long and Peaks islands, where boats head south for the open ocean. After rounding a buoy, they sail northeast toward Monhegan Island, where they again change course and return to Casco Bay.
The precise path of the race varies, but this year’s race will follow one of two courses, either 128 or 103 nautical miles long. (For landlubbers, that’s 147 and 119 miles, respectively.) The PYC will announce the course Friday morning, based on conditions, Blanchard said.
Boats also are competing on 83-nautical-mile and 67-nautical-mile courses.
The race typically takes about 20 hours to complete, but boats sometimes straggle in days after the starting gun. According to the Gulf of Maine Ocean Racing Association, the fastest voyage was made in 1992, when the 73-foot sloop Encore completed a 97-mile course in 10 hours, 47 minutes.
The race weekend kicks off Thursday evening with a crew party at the PYC clubhouse on Old Powerhouse Road. Awards will be presented on Sunday afternoon at a ceremony where 15-album recording artist and sailor Jonathan Edwards is scheduled to appear.
Sailboats compete in last year’s Monhegan Race. This year’s event begins Friday.