On Saturday, June 22nd the Calvert Marine Museum hosted a reunion of Southern Maryland’s former powerboat racers. Over 270 people including the racers, their families, and fans attended the catered event and were treated to a special preview of the new exhibit “Thrills and Spills: The Golden Era of Powerboat Racing in Southern Maryland.” Many of those in attendance had been interviewed in the course of the museum’s research for the exhibit and had shared photographs and memorabilia to display.

Several generations of former powerboat racers from the region’s boat clubs were in attendance. These included the Solomons Island Outboard Club that raced in the 1950s, the Solomons Island Yacht Club that held regattas through 1965, the Southern Maryland Boat Club that raced from the late 1950s through the 1970s, and the Speedmasters Racing Team from Washington, DC whose members raced in the 1970s and 1980s.

Most of the attendees were associated with the Southern Maryland Boat Club and the Speedmasters Racing Team. The Speedmasters competed in most of the local races and the two clubs often traveled together to compete in American Power Boat Association-sanctioned races outside the area. After so many events together, members from both clubs expressed the view that they all felt like family.

The evening started with time for old friends to become reacquainted and to pose for a group photo to commemorate the event. Calvert Marine Museum Curator of Maritime History Richard Dodds made the opening remarks and welcomed the attendees followed by an invocation by former racer Dave Nicholson recalling the racers who had passed away. Everyone was then given an opportunity to view the new exhibit which so many of them had helped to create through their own memories and contribution of many memorabilia.

Later in the evening, Master of Ceremonies Beale Tilton gave a presentation naming some of the early Solomons racers that were in attendance. He made special note of Don Christy of Baltimore who gained national recognition for his racing prowess in the 1950s and 1960s. He then recounted some stories about the Southern Maryland Boat Club and named a number of racers who were also present.

Former racer Rayner Blair presented fourteen awards to recipients who had been chosen by the reunion committee members including Blair, Bill Edwards, Mary Fones, Dora Kirby, and Beale Tilton. After the awards ceremony, the microphone was passed around so the racers could share their memorable stories.

The exhibit “Thrills and Spills: The Golden Era of Powerboat Racing in Southern Maryland” will be open through 2014. The accompanying book of the same title and powerboat racing merchandise is available for sale in the Museum Store.

Image courtesy Calvert Marine Museum

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