Annual Sultana Downrigging Festival sets sail in Chestertown

By Jake DiPaola

Elm Staff Writer

In 1997, hundreds of marina staff and students built the Sultana. Most of them had little to no knowledge of building boats. They taught themselves throughout the process and, hundreds of custom-cut pegs and ribs later, the construction was finished. Over 10,000 people came to see the Sultana set sail for the first time.

Over the weekend of Nov. 1 – 3, the Sultana Education Foundation hosted the 19th annual Downrigging Festival at the Chestertown Marina. Several ships, including the Pride of Baltimore II, Kalmar Nyckel, and Virginia, docked at the marina to take down their sails and prepare for the winter. 

There were ship tours, artist talks, book talks, and a bluegrass music tent throughout the weekend with fireworks on Saturday. 

Many event-goers were able to tour the ships and learn about their history. 

“We come every year to see the ships,” said a couple from Chestertown. 

Some parents were able to bring their kids to explore the ships and touch real cannons. 

“They enjoy the opportunity to see these giant sails and cannons,” said one parent. 

The Sultana was originally an English merchant ship, and the Kalmar Nyckel is based off of a similar ship’s design, but is otherwise custom-built.

Next to the Chestertown Marina was a long display of at least 15 Cocktail Racing Boats on trailers or stands. They were about seven to nine feet in length and had a short seat in the middle, behind the steering wheel. The wheel was connected to the motor via a pulley system and rope. Most were built using a kit created by the Cocktail Class Wooden Boat Racing Association, according to Captain Peter Urbani.

Urbani, like many of the other captains there, is dedicated to the sport of sailing and even attends national racing events to compete in. He first was introduced to boat racing through his father.

 “We brought the boats up for him to race and ended up racing. It was one of those situations where we got the boats up there and dad was like ‘My knees! You’ll have to race for me.’ I’ve been in love with racing ever since,” Urbani said.

The event was filled with residents from Chestertown and the surrounding area, there to enjoy the fresh air, boats, and conversation of captains. 

“Every year I come down here and talk with the sailors. They’re wonderful.” said one man at the event. 

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