Harpswell gears up for return of lobster boat races

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HARPSWELL — After a four-year hiatus, lobstermen will again be hauling in prizes at the Harpswell Lobster Boat Races.

The races will take place Sunday, July 29, at Pott’s Harbor beginning at 10 a.m. There will be 31 race classes, ranging from non-working boats to Novi boats, with first-, second- and third-place finishers.

The rain date is Aug. 5.

Registration will begin at 8 a.m. at Erica’s Seafood, 505 Basin Point Road, where race merchandise will also be available for purchase.

Larry Ward, leader of the Harpswell Lobster Boat Races Committee, said the races were first held in 1987, and became an anticipated event every summer.

The races are part of a tradition around the state, with a circuit that begins each season in Boothbay Harbor and ends in Portland.

In 1991, the tradition of donating Harpswell’s race proceeds to the Harpswell Santa Fund began. The charitable organization was formed in memory of Ward’s brother, Lewis Ward Jr., a local lobsterman.

According to a press release from the event committee, after costs are covered to put on this year’s event, all proceeds will again be donated to the Santa fund.

The event stalled after the 2013 races due to a shortage of volunteers. Now, Ward said the effort is “stronger than ever.”

“We’re all committed to making this a great venue for locals, tourists and surrounding businesses for generations to come,” he said.

The idea to bring the races back was sparked in August 2017 by Harpswell resident Scott Ring, who was no longer able to help plan the event, but inspired the current organizers to take up the cause.

Committee member Kristina York said Ring started the event’s Facebook page and set up the organization’s email, and then other volunteers “took the idea and ran with it.”

“It just happened,” she said.

One new way committee members have been getting the word out about the return of the races this year, Ward said, is through social media.

“We’ve been reaching out through social media, Facebook, word-of-mouth, signs, and we’ve gotten a great reception from everyone up and down the coast, and even out of the state,” he said.

Ward added organizers are hoping 60-70 boats will participate, and volunteers are still needed, including someone to act as an announcers on the day of the races.

Volunteers will help with tasks such as distributing prizes to winners, assisting with registration, and selling merchandise like Harpswell Lobster Boat Race T-shirts during the event.

Anyone interested should email Ward at harpswellboatraces@gmail.com.

York said several businesses are supporting the race in its comeback year, and winners will receive gift certificates to marine stores, cash prizes, and fishing gear such as lobster traps.

The races are best viewed from the water on either side of the course, she said.

She added organizers are hopeful merchandise will be available for purchase on the event’s website by Father’s Day weekend.

There will also be a free breakfast for participants this year before the races at West Harpswell Baptist Church, 1492 Harpswell Neck Road, from 6-8:30 a.m.

Mike Kota, former owner of Captain Mike’s Seafood in Brunswick, will be preparing the meal, which will feature food entirely donated by local businesses.

Ultimately, Ward said, the group isn’t trying to “re-invent the wheel” in bringing the races back – just “grease it up.”

“We’re trying to bring it back (and) make it a family event again,” he said. “A nice day on the water.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

The Harpswell Lobster Boat Races will return to Pott’s Harbor Sunday, July 29, after a four-year hiatus.

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