Photos by Ann Blanchard
Based in Falmouth, Fleet 27 (originally Fleet 5) was started by a group of Portland Yacht Club members, including Merle Hallett and well-known artist Tom Crotty in the early 1970s. It went dormant soon afterward and was reinvigorated in 2000 by a group of sailors looking to an alternative for J/24s. Designed by E.W. “Skip” Etchells in the 1960s in response to calls for a new Olympic keelboat, the Etchells 22 won almost all the trial races but still was passed over as an Olympic class in favor of the Soling. Nevertheless, the sleek 22-foot sloops have become popular fleet racing boats. Long, narrow (6' 11"), and stable, Etchells are fast and very fun to sail, especially in heavy winds. Today more than 25 boats in Fleet 27 race regularly on Casco Bay from mid-May until early September. The fleet hosted a world championship qualifying regatta in 2013 and hosts an annual Lobster Bowl Regatta in September.