20th Anniversary Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race

Special to the Dorchester Banner/DSC The Nathan of Dorchester rolls out for the annual races. The Dorchester Skipjack Committee has announced that the 20th Anniversary Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race will be held in Cambridge on Sept. 24.

Special to the Dorchester Banner/DSC
The Nathan of Dorchester rolls out for the annual races. The Dorchester Skipjack Committee has announced that the 20th Anniversary Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race will be held in Cambridge on Sept. 24.


CAMBRIDGE — The Dorchester Skipjack Committee has announced that the 20th Anniversary Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race will be held in Cambridge on Sept. 24. The free event starts at 10 a.m., is open to the public and the race will start and end by Long Wharf.
For the public’s enjoyment the race will feature play-by-play race coverage and information about each boat. Long Wharf will also feature a selection of vendors and exhibitors. The Model Guild from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum will race radio controlled skipjacks while the big boats race down the Choptank River.

Last year high winds caused several boats to withdraw before the start of a very fast race. The leader of the pack and 2015 race winner was Rosie Parks while the rest of the fleet battled for second place, won by Cambridge’s own Skipjack Nathan of Dorchester.

When oyster harvests shrank in the 1970s and 1980s, the area lost a number of active Skipjacks. Around 1900 600 to 800 Skipjacks were working on Chesapeake oyster beds, but only a few Skipjacks survive today. Due to an increase in recent oyster harvests and catch limits favoring Skipjacks, several old boats have recently returned into service, and several hulks are either undergoing extensive repairs or are awaiting funds for restoration. The actively sailing Skipjack population now stands at about 20 boats, although many no longer dredge for oysters, and almost no one follows tradition and dredges while under sail.

Years ago, you could find informal Skipjack races in every port on the Chesapeake with some of the most famous races held at Havre de Grace, Sandy Point, Cambridge, Rock Hall, and Deal Island. Races were, and still are rather informal affairs and can be full of surprises. The races evolved from the need for Skipjack captains to shake out rigging and sails, and shape up crews prior to the start of the next oyster season. Today only two Skipjack races survive: the Cambridge race and the Labor Day Skipjack race at Deal Island. The Cambridge race’s participation has steadily grown and 12 to 15 Skipjacks are expected for the 2016 race.

1880 Bank of Cambridge sponsors the Choptank Heritage cup trophy. Each year the trophy is engraved with the winning boat and captain’s name and is displayed at the Dorchester County Visitors Center. The winning Captain or boat owner takes home a smaller version of the cup. All Skipjacks that race receive the same “show up purse” prize money which is used to defray some maintenance costs.

The race is the Dorchester Skipjack Committee’s way to help keep the remaining Skipjacks actively afloat. This year’s Skipjack race promises an excellent chance for spectators to get a close up view of the best of the surviving Skipjacks as the boats sail to the finish line by Long Wharf.

For more information, to become a race sponsor, or to make a donation, contact the Dorchester Skipjack Committee at 410-228-7141 or visit www.skipjack-nathan.org.

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