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Ships Ahoy! New London Prepares for Schooner Festival

This new five-day event starts on September 11 in Mystic and moves to New London September 13 for three days that include a schooner race, a lighted parade of sail, educational programs, music, art, a historical pageant and so much more.

John Johnson, Mayor Daryl Finizio, and Frank McGloughlin make ready for New London's Schooner Festival
John Johnson, Mayor Daryl Finizio, and Frank McGloughlin make ready for New London's Schooner Festival
New London is fast becoming a city of sailing events, with OpSail, SailFest, and now there's a new one sailing onto the horizon—The Schooner Festival.

This five-day event starts Wednesday, September 11 at Mystic Seaport and moves to New London two days later. In New London, organizers have planned dozens of events for each of the three days, including a lighted parade of sail, a schooner race in New London waters on September 14, opportunities to board the boats, and much, much more.  

To herald its arrival, last week organizers festooned New London's Waterfront with 150 American flags. On Thursday, Gov. Dannel Malloy, citing the Schooner Festival, declared the second week of September as Connecticut Annual Maritime History and Heritage Week. John S. Johnson, who chairs the Schooner Festival, said the governor’s proclamation underscores the significance of the five-day celebration.

“After months of planning, we’re ready to give visitors a festival that will not only focus on our maritime heritage, but also include a great deal of entertainment, including music and activities for young people,” said Johnson. “Our big schooner race will be the highlight of the weekend in New London, but there is so much more including the Great New London Chowder Challenge.”

The festival has partnered with the Flock Theatre, which will present an outdoor history pageant with featuring colorful historical figures. The highlight will be the burning of Benedict Arnold in effigy

New London’s city historian Sally Ryan will lead a walking tour of historic Bank Street, starting at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, September 14, from the Soldiers & Sailors Monument at Parade Plaza. And each day there will be music, art, and activities for kids on New London's Waterfront.

The visiting schooners, Gov. Malloy said, “will be available as learning tools…to provide students with an understanding of the sea and the role schooners have played throughout our state’s history.”

In Mystic, on-board education lessons will be provided to students from area schools, including the Marine Science Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut; CT River Academy; UConn, Avery Point; East Lyme Schools; Fishers Island School; Ledyard Schools; Sound Waters of Stamford; Essex River Museum; Waterford Schools.

In addition to the shipboard lessons at the Seaport, a number of education exhibits will be available for public viewing at New London’s Waterfront Park.  

Participating schooners include:

  • Virginia, a 121-foot wooden replica of its original twentieth century pilot vessel which sailed in the Chesapeake Bay from 1917 to 1926. Homeport: Norfolk, VA.
  • Sophia Christina, a 62-foot wooden vessel modeled after an 1870's Boston pilot schooner. Homeport: Weekapaug, RI.
  • Mary E, a 75-foot authentic clipper built in 1906. Homeport: Essex, CT.
  • Mystic, a 170-foot three-masted square topsail schooner built and launched in 2007. Homeport: Mystic, CT.
  • Adventurer, built in 1925 in Mystic, CT, has sailed in Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race and prizes in Provincetown Great Schooner Regatta. Homeport: Norwalk, CT.
  • Brilliant, Mystic Seaport’s prize-winning 64-foot schooner described by Wooden Boat magazine as one of the 100 most beautiful classic boats in existence. Homeport: Mystic, CT.
  • Equinox; a racing rig Muscongus Bay Schooner, owned by Mathew Otto and built by Ralph Stanley in Southwest Harbor Maine, 1983-1984, 28-feet in length on deck with a spar length of about 40-feet, moored in North Basin above Mystic Seaport. Homeport: Mystic, CT.
  • Irena, a Tom Colvin Gazelle model 42' schooner, built of steel in Florida in 1984, launched in Seattle in 1986, moved to Waukegan, Illinois, for Great lake sailing. Homeport: Newport, RI.
  • Lelanta, a 1929 custom designed private yacht by Boston designer John G Alden and built of steel by G de Vries Lentsch at Amsterdam, Holland. Homeport: Sag Harbor, NY.
  • Malabar II, a two-masted gaff-rigged schooner designed in 1922 by John Alden in Boston Massachusetts. Homeport: Vineyard Haven, NY.
  • Mystic Whaler, a reproduction of a late 19th century coastal cargo schooner that was designed for the passenger trade by Chubb Crockett of Camden, Maine. Homeport: New London, CT.
  • Niamh, a 42-foot Tom Colvin Saugeen Witch schooner. Homeport: Thimble Island, CT.

The festival is free to attend. You'll find a full list of all the events at the Schooner Festival's web site CTSchoonerFest.com.

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