By TOM LOUNSBERRY
About 300 people watched under gray skies Saturday afternoon as they cheered on contestants in the first USS New Jersey Regatta on the Camden Waterfront.
Ships ranging in length from 16 to 40 feet came from Delaware Valley yacht clubs to sail in the race. Winners were awarded the Camden County Board of Freeholders Cup.
The competition started about 1 p.m. at the bow of the Battleship New Jersey Memorial and Museum as ships proceeded several miles downstream, then raced back to the battleship.
Larger ships turned just before reaching the Walt Whitman Bridge, and smaller vessels turned at the navigational buoy near the stern of the ocean liner SS United States. The SS United States, a historic ship that holds the Atlantic Ocean speed record, is docked in South Philadelphia awaiting a buyer.
"It was a delightful occasion and one of many future such occasions," said John R. Maier, commodore of the recently re-established Camden City Yacht Club. Organizers hope to make the regatta an annual event.
In the red division, for the smallest ships, the victor was J.D. Smith, captain of the Massachusetts.
In the blue, or middle division, skipper Jack Searnack of the Mari Tri won.
In the white division, Fred Means of the Ragtop came in first.
A reception aboard the battleship followed the competition.
The regatta was held to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the county marina at Ulysses S. Wiggins Waterfront Park and to celebrate the re-establishment of the yacht club. The club was founded in the early 1900s, but its charter lay dormant for many years until marina members decided earlier this year to re-establish it.
The club's goals are to showcase the city's developing waterfront and to enhance recreational boating and other activities along the river, Maier said.
Reach Tom Lounsberry at (856) 486-2470 or firstname.lastname@example.org