Five tall sailing ships will compete in Portland Harbor next weekend and beyond in what its organizers hope will become an annual event.

The four-day Portland SchoonerFest and Regatta is being launched by Tall Ships Portland, a nonprofit that provides one-week sail training and academic credit to high school students across Maine and hosts tall ship events in Portland.

The event will play out largely on Saturday and Sunday in Portland Harbor, where spectators can watch for free from Fort Allen Park on the Eastern Promenade or pay to be on board the graceful vessels during five separate races, two evening cruises and a parade. Tickets range from $42 to $60 a person.

All gaff-rigged sailboats are welcome to join the Casco Bay Gaffers Race from Portland to Bailey’s Island on Monday, June 26. Tickets to ride aboard the tall ships in that race are also available.

Several of the tall ships will then sail on Tuesday, June 27, for Windjammer Days, a boating festival that runs from June 25 to July 1 in Boothbay Harbor.

The Portland SchoonerFest will include five boats: the Adventure, a 120-foot boat built in 1926 and one of the last of the famous Grand Banks fishing schooners of Gloucester, Massachusetts; the Harvey Gamage, a 131-foot training boat built in 1973 and owned by Phineas Sprague of Portland Yacht Services; the Alert, a 71-foot schooner built in 1992 from Bailey’s Island; and Portland Schooner Co.’s Bagheera, a 72-foot schooner built in 1924, and Wendameen built in 1912, both on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some of the owners and captains of the five tall ships say they are face formidable competition.

Sprague described the Harvey Gamage as a teaching platform for young people that is not known for its speed.

“Unless we have a very good handicap, it is unlikely” the ship will win, said Sprague.

Sean Canniff, captain of the Wendameen, said he faces a stiff challenge.

“All of the other boats in the race have extremely skilled captains, so we have our work cut out for us,” Canniff said Sunday at Portland Harbor.

Like other tall ships in the festival, the Harvey Gamage will be raising money for student training. Proceeds from the schooner will pay the way for up to 20 Baxter Academy for Technology and Science students on a sustainable fisheries trip aboard the Harvey Gamage in July. High school students also train on the ship during its 89-day voyage down the Eastern Seaboard to its winter quarters in Cuba for a University of Southern Maine tourism program.

Jeff and Irina Leczkowski, fresh off the Wendameen after a cruise around Portland Harbor on Sunday, said they would definitely snag a place on the ship in next weekend’s race if they didn’t have to go home to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, instead.

“It sounds we were a week early. It would be a blast,” Jeff Leczkowski said.

A full schedule of events and ticket information for a spot on one of the ships are available at the Tall Ships Portland website.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: bquimby

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