Skipjacks traditionally were laid up when not oystering and started sailing again in September to shake out rigging and get boats and crews ready for the upcoming fall and winter oyster season. Informal races started with friendly competition between local crews. These informal skipjack races were once held in every port from Havre de Grace down to Solomons Island and as many as 80 or more local skipjacks and other sail powered workboats would participate in any of the dozen or so races held each year. Today fewer than 20 Skipjacks still sail and only two skipjack races survive. The race in Cambridge provides an excellent opportunity to see most surviving traditional Skipjacks up close and under sail as they race on the Choptank River.
The Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race is sponsored by the Dorchester Skipjack Committee. The skipjack race is held the third Saturday in September. The host skipjack is the Nathan of Dorchester.
Each race is unique with up to 12 of these fast-disappearing icons of the Chesapeake competing in a swift or leisurely event, depending upon the wind. The beautiful Choptank River provides a perfect course for the race, offering great views from its banks.
A race festival begins with a parade of boats at 9am heading out of Cambridge Creek. The race itself begins around 10am, depending on weather conditions.
The parade of skipjacks and race start and finish are best viewed from Long Wharf Park (near High and Water Streets in Cambridge, MD). Join us and celebrate maryland’s skipjacks with food and gift vendors.
A radio-controlled skipjack regatta takes place from the docks at Long Wharf, providing competitive entertainment while the full-size skipjacks are on the middle legs of their race.
This is a race for pride and to help preserve these wooden skipjacks . Each participating Skipjack receives around $700 in show-up money. The show-up money gives each boat much needed funds for maintenance and preservation and, of course, the winning boat and her captain get bragging rights for the next year!
well Over the years, the Dorchester Skipjack Committee has raised and donated over $100,000 to help preserve our vanishing skipjack fleet. We return the Nathan of Dorchester’s show up money to give the other boats larger shares. Nine to twelve skipjacks participate in each race, depending on their availability and their seaworthy condition. The only other surviving skipjack race on the Chesapeake Bay is the annual Deal Island Labor Day Race, which has been held for almost 60 years.
BUSINESS SPONSOR PACKAGES are available. Download below, or contact us for more information.
Donations to the Skipjack Race may be made online using the Donate Now button below, or by downloading the donor form below and mailing to:
Dorchester Skipjack Committee, Inc.
Attn: Skipjack Race
P.O. Box 1224
Cambridge, MD 21613
Winning captains have their names engraved on the Heritage Cup Trophy, established by the 1880 Bank of Cambridge, and they receive a smaller version of the cup, engraved to commemorate their victory. Ida May won the 2018 Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race.