This Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15, the Kiwanis Club of Standish will host their third annual boat races at Kiwanis Beach on Watchic Lake in Standish. The races, which are expected to attract about 45 entries and 300 spectators, will begin between 11:30 and noon both days and will end by 5 a.m.
According to organizer Shawn Cavanaugh, these hydroplane boats, achieving speeds of 50 to 90 miles per hour, are about 10 feet long, and seat only the racer. There is a junior division, with racers as young as nine reaching speeds of 35 miles per hour.
Because with the instability of the boats, all racers are outfitted with life jackets, crash helmets, and Kevlar cut-proof suits. The boats are equipped with several safety features; a rescue boat is always in the water, and an ambulance always on site.
Although the Kiwanis Club insists it’s an exciting family event, potentially raising $1,500 for their community projects, a number of individual homeowners around the lake disagree. They cite several concerns over issues that they feel compromise the quality and integrity of the lake.
“There is no public launch on the lake,” said Judi Tripp, of HiVu Drive. “And it is for carry-in boats only.” Tripp and other dissenters also point out the excessive noise levels and that the races tie up the lake so property owners are unable to use it.
In addition, they feel that the organizers did not keep their promise last year to the property owners that they would stay within a certain course.
But perhaps their biggest concern is the possibility of these boats introducing the invasive plant, milfoil, to Watchic’s unsullied waters.
“We inspect the boats for technical and safety issues,” said Cavanaugh. “And we also do check for any milfoil or other invasive plants. In fact, last year the Kiwanis Club invited two representatives from Watchic Lake to inspect the boats before they were launched. One person came (to assist the inspection) and that person belonged to Kiwanis. The offer is out there again this year.”
Since the races are permitted by the state and Kiwanis complies with state safety regulations, the residents have limited options for putting an end to this event. But Tripp declares they will continue to fight it any way they can.
“We understand that the lakes in the state of Maine belong to the people in the State of Maine,” said Tripp. “But it doesn’t seem many license plates that show up (for these races) are from Maine at all.”
While that’s a concern for Tripp, Cavanaugh is pleased by the attendance of those from out-of-state. He says the races bring people from as far south as Virginia and from as far west as Ohio.
But Tripp does not share his enthusiasm: “I feel this isn’t really a community event,” she said, “and that seems to be what Kiwanis is supposed to be about.”
Kiwanis helps support many causes in the community, such as a college scholarship program, Little League, Camp Sunshine and Camp Susan Curtis, Boy Scouts, and the Kiwanis Heifer Program.
“The fundraising part (of the races) is a Kiwanis event,” said Cavanaugh, “and we’re raising funds to do good in the community.”