VIDEO: Thrills and spills

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With a flying start, racers in 8-foot long, handmade boats gallop and skid around the racecourse at full speed. Originally a 1939 design called a “Skua,” the plywood boats speed around the markers in two-lap heat races in two outboard engine classes—6- or 8-hp—with top speeds between 18 and 26 miles per hour, respectively.

This video has by Thomas McMurtrie Jr. shows these boats in action:

Cocktail Class racing evolved from the cottage racing clubs, popular in the ’50s, where small towns would host outboard races for family built boats and outboards. Cottage racing died down in the ’60s—when boats and engines became faster, more expensive and dangerous—but was revived in 2008 by a group of folks who remembered the thrill of racing in these homemade boats. Fittingly, the idea to revive the class was hatched over evening cocktails.

They launched the Cocktail Class Wooden Boat Racing Association and choose the Skua as a boat that was both easy and inexpensive to build. The original design was drawn in 1939 by Charles MacGregor, who wanted to demonstrate what could be achieved by using a new material called “plywood.” Today Chesapeake Light Craft offers a stitch-and-glue Cocktail Class Racer kit you can build yourself at home.

Nationals will be held on Saturday, Aug. 19 at the Rock Hall Yacht Club in Maryland and the races are open to public viewing.