Chesapeake Bay Skipjack
The Ida May won the Deal Island Skipjack Race for the Third Year in a Row!!! Here is the full article from the Daily Times of Salisbury by journalist Julia Rentsch. The article is entitled:
"With a sharp cannon blast, they were off.
A fleet of skipjacks — traditional sailboats used in the Chesapeake Bay for oyster fishing — took off with the shot. It was a bright morning with a blue sky of wispy clouds and a light breeze, and the sails filled gently, sending the boats on a slow, if dogged, glide forward.
It was a calm start to what would become a nail-biting race, with two winning captains competing down to the wire for first place in the 60th annual Skipjack Race at Deal Island, Maryland, on Labor Day.
Visitors come from far and wide to see these boats, with their full white sails, once again dot the bay's horizon line. One hundred years ago, a fleet of skipjacks oystering on the bay would have been a common sight, but the style of boat has become a rarity.
Today, only about 20-25 skipjacks are working boats; more exist as pleasure boats. Almost all sailing skipjacks are restored and refurbished, as many originals were built around the turn of the 20th century.
Aboard the skipjack Ida May on Monday, the foam hissed and waves splashed as the bow cut through the water, steered by Capt. Shawn Ridgley.
"Slow and steady wins the race," said David Gladden, assistant professor at Salisbury University and son of the Ida May's owner, Gordon Gladden.
The Ida May, originally built in 1906, is a lighter boat and easily moved to the front of the pack from the start. The boat is in good condition thanks to the Gladden family, despite having been rebuilt three times in its life.
The Ida May has a history of wins — it came in first in 2017 and 2018 under Ridgley, and in 2013 under the captainship of John Price. But the crew weren't cocky; they kept an eye on the Rebecca T. Ruark, captained by the winningest captain in Deal Island Skipjack Race history, Wade Murphy.
As the Ida May rounded the buoys marking the race course, the 14 people aboard acted as ballast, moving from one side of the boat to the other at Ridgley's order. Halfway through the roughly three-hour race, the Ida May was in front by a sizable margin.
On the deck, Gordon Gladden reminisced about going out on the water with his father, a sailing enthusiast who at one time owned 12 skipjacks in addition to a host of other boats. The Gladden family has been involved with skipjacks for over 100 years, he said.
The Ida May was his father's pride, Gordon Gladden said.
"I feel almost a necessity to keep the tradition (of skipjack sailing) alive," he said, noting that while there once were a thousand of these boats in the Chesapeake, only a handful remain today.
In other words, the race is never really in the bag until you've finished.
As the Ida May sailed past its last buoy, the lead boat was in for a surprise: There was the Rebecca T. Ruark, neck-and-neck.
Built in 1886 in Taylor's Island, the Ruark is older and heavier than the Ida May, but its bigger sails gave it a valuable speed boost. Briefly, the Ida May stole the Ruark's wind as the boats sailed closer and closer.
The Ida May's crew watched Murphy's movements.
"If he gets into the fresh air, we're toast," the Ida May's First Mate, Mike Oh, said.
With a gust of wind, the Ida May pulled forward.
"This is the most critical 300 yards we've had all day!" Ridgley said, as the people aboard crouched down on the port side to ensure they didn't create any drag.
The crew's efforts paid off: The Ida May pulled ahead of the Ruark, and won the race handily.
With the 60th annual Skipjack Race finished, the Ida May slowly returned to the Deal Island Marina, where its passengers and crew would head off to enjoy the Skipjack Festival, perhaps grabbing a classic soft crab sandwich for lunch.
When asked about his secret to winning (aside from top-notch sailing), Ridgley pointed to the Ida May's great condition as a big help in clinching races.
"The electric motor underneath doesn't hurt either," Ridgley joked."