In the mid 1900s powerboat racing was all the rage in Southern Maryland. Races often attracted thousands of spectators, all eager to experience the thrill of racing from the shores of the Bay or the Patuxent River. Start of 1970 Dick Downs Memorial Race at Captain Sam’s in Bushwood. Image courtesy David Nelson and Calvert Marine Museum The sport really took off during the 1930s and ’40s, when the Solomons Island Yacht Club and its offshoot, the Solomons Outboard Club, sponsored American Power Boat Association (APBA)-sanctioned racing on the Patuxent River. On the other side of the river, in St. Mary’s County (the two shores were much less connected in those days, before the Solomons Bridge crossed the lower Patuxent), wildcat racing was becoming increasingly popular. Wildcat racing was not sanctioned and sometimes pushed the envelope. It wasn’t unusual for a racing engine to be put on the back of a family pleasure craft. Over time, the races became more organized, and in the late 1950s the Southern Maryland Boat Club (SMBC) formed. From its humble beginnings (using peach baskets and inner tubes for buoys), the club grew in prominence, and by the 1960s and 70s was sponsoring many APBA-sanctioned Outboard Pleasure Craft (OPC) regional races. “In the early days, many of the guys in the club worked at Pax River (the U.S. Naval Air Station, which opened in 1943). They used their engineering skills to experiment and develop technologies, many of which are incorporated into today’s boats,” says Jim Berry, SMBC vice president. “Often fathers were working on the boats, and their sons were the drivers. Numerous championships were won and many records set because of the innovations discovered in Southern Maryland,” he says. As with all things, the passage of time brought change. Fiberglass replaced wooden hulls. V-hulls and tunnel hulls replaced round bottoms. Prices for equipment and fuel became increasingly expensive, and the population of drivers was aging. By 1979, interest had dwindled so much that the once-prominent SMBC became inactive. The club stayed dormant for nearly 35 years, until Calvert Marine Museum (CMM) staff began working on an exhibit about the history of powerboat racing in Southern Maryland. A reunion of former racers coincided with the 2013 opening of the exhibit. Interest was rekindled, and in 2015 the SMBC was officially relaunched. Its third annual regatta showcasing vintage race boats is set for July 19 and 20. See page 61 for details. To read more about the history of racing in the region, “Thrills and Spills: The Golden Era of Powerboat Racing in Southern Maryland,” by Robert J. Hurry and Richard J. Dodds, is available for purchase at the CMM website.