The 23rd annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race gives residents, tourists, and maritime buffs another chance to see seafaring history alive and in action this week.
Race chair Nan Nawrocki says that 30-plus schooners under sail is a sight to behold.
“It’s something that steals your heart,” she says. “It gives you goosebumps.”
The race features schooners new and old, large and small, wooden and fiberglass, in a “mix of modern and traditional.” The main rule is that the boats must, of course, be schooners, or sailing vessels with at least two masts, the aft (rear) mast being taller than the fore mast.
The race even includes a schooner tugboat, or tugantine. The “Norfolk Rebel” is a working tugboat, and has been a major part of the race since its inception 23 years ago.
Piloted by Captain Lane Briggs, the “Norfolk Rebel” met the “Pride of Baltimore II.” in the first schooner race. The “Pride” is a replica inspired by Captain Thomas Boyle’s “Chasseur,” which sailed out of Fell’s Point and was a thumb in the eye of British during the War of 1812.
Since the original match between the “Norfolk Rebel” and the “Pride of Baltimore II,” the race has attracted greater interest and as many as 55 entrants.
“We call it a fun race, but, yes, there are official rules and the boats are handicapped,” says Erica Denner, communications coordinator for the race.
“They race for bragging rights.”
The schooners also race to promote maritime history and support the preservation of Chesapeake Bay. Up to now, the race has raised over $150,000 for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s interactive educational programs for children.
“To this day, a big part of what we do is education,” says Nawrocki.
Race-centered activities kick off today, Oct. 9, with “Sail Around the Square.” Starting at 5:30 p.m. with registration at the Grunwald Club, 2825 O’Donnell St., participants collect playing cards from various O’Donnell Square establishments while partaking in food and drink specials. At the end of the evening, prizes are awarded to the participants with the best poker hands.
Tomorrow, Oct. 10, is the Parade of Sail, with boats sailing from the Baltimore Marine Center’s Lighthouse Point, around the Inner Harbor, and back.
Top vantage points are Canton, Fell’s Point, Inner Harbor.
On Thursday, Oct. 11, the main event happens. Schooners take off from a point just south of the Bay Bridge at 1:30 p.m., and race 127 nautical miles to Portsmouth, Virginia.
Entering the race is a mix of private individuals, organizations, and companies.
“People that get involved with schooners usually have a unique personality,” says Nawrocki.
For more information on the race, visit www.schoonerrace.org.