The tradition of boat racing on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is deep. At the time Lou Barrett, Jr. and Alfred I. DuPont talked on DuPont’s yacht Alicia after young Barrett caught the industrialist’s eye while “racing around” the Alicia in his father’s boat, the sport was just in its infancy. It is likely neither imagined the impact their little event would have.
After the Cambridge Yacht Club organized that first race in 1911, boat racing began to expand with more than 20 events around the Chesapeake Bay. At its peak in the early ’50s following WWII, a regular convoy of racers would leave Cambridge, traveling to one of the nearby towns to race. Many of these sportsmen would achieve national acclaim not only as drivers but as engine builders and boat builders. Nine individuals would go on to become a part of the sports Hall of Fame.
Nothing remains the same; when it does, it becomes stagnant. So over time, technology and interest changed, and with them the sport and the race changed. The type of boats, hull design, engine configuration, safety and race management would change. A weekend of outboards on Saturday and inboards on Sunday gave way to predominately inboards for Cambridge.
Sponsorship moved from CYC to the Cambridge Jaycees to the formation of the Cambridge Powerboat Racing Association. Originally a river course in front of the Yacht Club, in 1972 the course was moved to its current spot in Hambrooks Bay. Great Marsh Park was created to provide more room and a more secure site.
Many of the sport’s new procedures and practices were created at the Classic. Region IV’s rescue team has drawn national acclaim as the best in the country. Their origin was here with local divers and medics giving of their time and knowledge to improve safety for the racers.
What began as a “back yard” race with “shade tree” mechanics racing for “loving cups” and pewter trays has evolved into a costly operation with some engines costing tens of thousands of dollars. And with the increased cost to remain competitive boat count began to decline.
Wanting to draw a respectable field and to become more than just another race, CPBRA began to lay plans to attract national events away from the larger populated areas by raising the bar on how events would be measured—from race management, to safety and rescue, to hospitality and certainly the competitors. Beginning with a Divisional Championship in 1999 to the first ever Triple Crown Championship in the U.S., Cambridge, Maryland has become known throughout the annals of powerboat racing as a quality event, home of many of the sport’s legends—past and present—and hospitality at its best.
Tradition is important, offering a base from which to build for the future. Much has changed since Mr. Lou Barrett’s Evelyn M—a 30-foot (4-foot-wide) hull powered with a 150 hp, 6 cylinder engine traveling 30 mph—won that first race in 1911. 2016 included three hull designs, engines from 4 cylinder to super charged 1500 hp big block and speeds in excess of 140 mph. But what has not changed is the support of the local community for those that continue to build and race boats that will be the one to beat.
The founding officers of CPBRA in 1963—Ed Nabb, Sam Cannon, “Skeeter” Johnson, Sidney Johnson.
Members of CPBRA have given much to the creation of Great Marsh as a public park and area we can be proud of. Here the first of the docks is constructed with a city, state, club partnership.