Maritime Photography

Gloucester Schooner Races
September 3, 2000

Gloucester Schooners

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       The 16th annual Gloucester Schooner Festival and Race is sponsored and organized by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and the Gloucester Festival Committee.

        The featured event is the Mayor's race for 100' schooners. Other highlights of this event are races for other classes, Parade of Sail, and deck tours of the U.S. Navy Destroyer USS PETERSON and the USCG Barque EAGLE.

         The history of these schooner races dates back to the International Fishermen's Races which were rooted in the North Atlantic fishing industry. For fishing schooners, racing back to market in order to get the best prices for their catch was an economic necessity and fishermen were anxious to prove the speed and handling ability of their vessels. This combination of pride and practical need resulted in an intense competion between the fishermen of Nova Scotia and Massachusetts who plied the same waters for groundfish. The series ran from 1920 when William H. Dennis, the publisher of the Halifax, N.S. Herald, offered a trophy to the winner of a race between the best of Nova Scotia's fleet and Massachusetts as well.

        The racing regulations stipulated that in order to qualify, vessels must be "real" fishermen, that is, true working vessels which had completed a full season of fishing. After a series of elimination races in each country, Gloucester's Esperanto sailed for Halifax to compete against Delawana of Lunenburg. Esperanto won the race and brought the Dennis trophy to Gloucester. In 1938 the International Fishermen's Race was held off Gloucester for the last time, from October 9th-25th. In the fifth and deciding race, BLUENOSE beat GERTRUDE L. THEBAUD by only two minutes fifty seconds, leaving the Dennis trophy securely in the posession of the Canadians.

        The series of 1938 signalled the end of an era. The THEBAUD was in fact the last fully- rigged fishing schooner built in Essex, Massachusetts a town largely regarded as the birthplace of more two-masted fishing schooners than anywhere in the world. BLUENOSE and GERTRUDE L. THEBAUD both sank in the 1940's working as freighters in the Caribbean.

Prepared by Courtney Ellis Peckham for the Gloucester Schooner Festival Committee, 1996.

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