ROCKLAND — Not even rain, heavy winds or hail for a period of time on one of the three days — or remnants of an ongoing pandemic — could stop an historic fleet of boats from making their appointed rounds around the course during the Friendship Sloops Society’s 60th Homecoming Sailing Regatta Thursday through Saturday, July 22-24 in and around Rockland Harbor and Owls Head.
Video from this event will appear later with this story.
The weather was ideal at times during the event, not held in 2020 due to COVID-19 but back in 2021, with nearly 20 boats moored at the docks off the public landing when not out on the water doing what they do best — namely, majestically sail across the ocean.
Thursday and Saturday held beautiful conditions, if not always the amount of wind desired, where Friday, at times, included more challenging conditions, including rain and hail.
The event traditionally has been held as much about fun, camaraderie and family tradition as competitive racing
The sloops have a storied history as working vessels, traditionally lobstering, but have been used for racing for six decades, including early on in Friendship when the annual event often drew 65 or more boats. More recently, the event has been held in Rockland.
The overall results for the fleet for 2021 included: 1, Tannis; 2, Salatia; 3, Freedom; 4, Ray of Hope; 5, Hegira; 6, Lady “M”; 7, Rights of Man; 8, Banchee; 9, Jabberwocky; 10, Celebration; 11, Gladiator; 12, Old Baldy; 13, Inherit the Wind; 14, Petrel; and 15, Gaivota.
The results among the two divisions were:
Division II — 1, Tannis; 2, Freedom; 3, Lady “M”; 4, Rights of Man; 5, Jabberwocky; 6, Gladiator; 7, Inherit the Wind; and 8, Gaivota.
Division I — 1, Salatia; 2, Ray of Hope; 3, Hegira; 4, Banchee; 5, Celebration; 6, Old Baldy; and 7, Petrel.
The society’s annual yearbook and guide stated “this is the story of a family of boats and how they weathered more than a century of change and why they still have a passionate following.”
The society sponsors the local event, but there are other classic boat races, regattas and rendezvous throughout New England.
The society’s yearbook states: “The Friendship Sloop was developed around 1880 for fishing and lobstering in Muscongus Bay on the Maine coast and has survived as one of only a few regional types now recognized as an American sailing classic.”
The booklet goes on to state that fishermen had seen a Gloucester fishing boat and, being impressed with their lines, incorporated some of those feature into their own hull designs.
The basic form was scaled up or down depending on length, with the average being 21 to 38 feet, and followed a preset formula. All had an elliptical or counter stern; most a clipper bow; low bowsprit; and all were gaff-rigged. The cutter-rig sail plan was distinctive and functional for tending lobster traps and lines while underway, one of the boat’s special attributes.
While there are many builders of the sloops, Wilbur Morse is recognized as the “father of the Friendship Sloop” because of the large number he produced in his shop in Friendship and where the sloop gradually acquired its name.
The boat nearly was relegated to extinction around 1915 due to the invention of motors and modern equipment, but “her fine lines [and] seaworthiness” made it a popular boat with a niche group of sailors.
Bernard MacKenzie of Scituate, Mass. was inspired to have a homecoming race in Friendship Harbor in 1961 and the rest is history.
The Friendship Sloop Society is a non-profit organization. Sloops registered with the society total 285, with the oldest wood original from 1899 still sailing, to the newer feet of fiberglass models developed by Jarvis Newman in the 1970s.