Sailboat traffic is picking up on Casco Bay, and for good reason. The regatta season is now under way in the Gulf of Maine.

On June 4, 11 boats shook off the winter’s cobwebs and raced in the SailMaine Shakedown Regatta off Portland. SailMaine’s student sailors got some “big boat” racing experience, and racing skippers connected with new sailors.

The event also raised funds for SailMaine’s community sailing program, which offers instruction and coaching for high school sailing teams, youths and adults.

The action was in Portland Harbor again this weekend, with the Centerboard Yacht Club Regatta on Saturday. Racing continues through the summer, with events most every weekend and on many weeknights in Casco Bay and elsewhere.

Many of the races mentioned here are qualifiers for the Gulf of Maine Ocean Racing Association (GMORA) circuit. For details, go to www.gmora.org and click on “Racing Schedule.”

One of the best things about yacht racing in Maine is the variety. Each event has its own personality, so all sailors — from the hard-core competitor to the laid back jib-and-main cruiser — can find an event they like.

This year looks even more promising, with some clubs stepping up the fun factor and others launching new events.

Portland Yacht Club (PYC), for example, is adopting a pirate theme for its Pilot Races June 19 and 20.

The event carries a long tradition of good competition for racers and cruisers, supported by fine race committee work. Adding the patches, parrots, grog and other pirate silliness should be icing on the cake.

PYC has a number of other events planned, including the Schooner Trophy Race on July 9, a Pursuit Race on Aug. 27, and three Green Fleet coached events on Thursday nights for people who have considered racing but don’t feel quite ready to take the plunge. More information may be found at www.portlandyachtclub.com.

The Harraseeket Yacht Club hosts its annual pursuit race on June 26. The reverse-handicap event takes competitors around some of the prettiest islands in Casco Bay, and a casual party with great food and microbrews follows.

After the Independence Day holiday, the action moves to Penobscot Bay. The Rockland Yacht Club hosts the the Rockland-Castine Regatta, Revival Edition, on July 9 and 10. This event, which has been on hiatus in recent years, features two days of destination racing. On Saturday, sailors race from Rockland to Castine, where they will spend the night. They return to Rockland on Sunday.

The following weekend, the Camden Yacht Club will host two days of traditional racing in the bay.

Rumor has it that both clubs are conspiring to offer a special trophy to the boat that has the best performance over both weekends.

The fleet then works its way back west, and on July 21 through 24, the action is in Boothbay Harbor. Thursday and Friday are devoted to J/Days, where the Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club is inviting owners of J/Boats from all over the Northeast for two days of family-friendly racing and shoreside events. The GMORA fleet arrives for two more days of racing Saturday and Sunday, and everyone is invited to a clambake Saturday evening.

The GMORA racers will spend one more weekend in the midcoast, when the Southport Yacht Club hosts its Seguin Island Trophy Races July 30 and 31.

This is the event where local knowledge pays off. Sailors who can find the often elusive wind and steer their boats to take advantage of (or avoid) currents can really excel on the courses near the mouth of the Sheepscot River.

After a much-deserved “bye” weekend on Aug. 6 and 7, the fleet gets ready for Portland Yacht Club’s Monhegan Regatta, described as the “largest, longest and oldest offshore racing event on the Maine coast.” It is indeed rich with tradition, and starts early Friday afternoon, Aug. 12, to make the most of the sea breeze before darkness descends.

The MS Regatta on Aug. 20 gives sailors a chance to have some fun and raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

On Aug. 26, some of the more competitive sailors head to Marblehead, Mass., for the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet New England Championships, while others will take off from Portland on an overnighter to Northeast Harbor, setting the stage for a late-season cruise.

PYC’s Lightship Race and Fall Series cap the season in Casco Bay, while the Maine Rocks Race out of Rockland offers sailors one more distance race challenge.

More information can be found at www.gmora.org or in the 2011 edition of Maine Yacht Racing, GMORA’s official yearbook. Pick one up at a yacht club, boatyard or chandlery near you.

Gail Rice is a freelance writer in Maine. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]