CAMBRIDGE — A Maryland tradition has moved to Memorial Day Weekend. The 106th Cambridge Classic Power Boat Regatta, the oldest powerboat race in the United States, opens a jam-packed summer of events May 28-29 in Dorchester County.
Twelve classes of boats featuring hydroplanes, runabouts and Jersey speed skiffs will race each afternoon from noon to 5 p.m. on the Choptank River off Cambridge’s Great Marsh Park, 1 Somerset Ave. Spectators can tour the pit area beginning at 10 a.m. Admission is free with a $5 a day charge for in/out parking.
“Since 1911 when Alfred I. DuPont and the Cambridge Yacht Club organized the first race, the Cambridge Classic has been an important part of Dorchester County’s heritage,” Amanda Fenstermaker, Dorchester’s tourism director, said. “It’s an economic driver for our region, and we expect to generate even more spectator interest by moving the 2016 event from late July to Memorial Day Weekend.”
Part of the APBA Inboard Power Boat Circuit in 2016, the Cambridge Classic fleet ranges from the classic Jersey speed skiffs turning on their sides and going airborne at 70mph to the 1,500-horsepower grand prix boats that reach speeds of 170mph and finish the five-mile course in three minutes.
“This will be one of the first big races on the East Coast in 2016, and the Memorial Day weekend date will allow us to increase the number of competitors and include national championship events,” said Allen Nelson, vice commodore of the Cambridge Power Boat Racing Association. “The weekend’s races will include the summer national championships for the Jersey speed skiffs and 1.5-litre hydroplanes.”
For the first time in several years, Cambridge native and world champion driver Tom Thompson is expected to compete in the grand prix and 2.5-litre modified events. In prior years, the Cambridge Classic has conflicted with Thompson’s Peters & May H1 Unlimited Hydroplane racing schedule.
Boats in the Cambridge Classic will race on a closed, five-mile course on Hambrooks Bay. Spectators can watch the race from the bleacher and concession area at Great Marsh Park.
“A lot of people come and go throughout the day,” said Nelson. “You can watch a full afternoon of races or you can catch three to four events in an hour and walk into town to shop and enjoy a bit to eat.”
The best part of the event, according to Nelson, is wandering the pit area.
“It’s a great family sport and fans of all ages can view the boats and meet the racers. It’s amazing to see the look on kids’ faces when drivers pick them up and put them in the cockpit.”
Spectators can also watch the Cambridge Classic from the water. The fleet will raft at Rooster Point. A no-wake zone will be established from Howell Point to the Choptank River Bridge.
On May 27, the eve of the races, the Cambridge Classic and the county will host Rockin’ the Choptank, a free concert featuring the music of Blackwater at the Dorchester County Visitor Center Amphitheater at Sailwinds Park, 2 Rose Hill Place. The concert is sponsored by Comcast Spotlight. In addition, the Cambridge Rotary Club will place 200 American flags on the park’s berm for its Flags for Heroes fundraiser.