History of the Tug of War

History of the Tug of War


About the Tug

The always revolting Maritime Republic of Eastport makes an annual call to its adversaries across the water, the residents and businesses of Annapolis, to take arms and meet at Susan B. Campbell Park -- City Dock -- on the first Saturday in November (more or less) for the Annual Slaughter Across the Water. The MRE, of course, awaitings its opponents from the vantage point at the Spa Creek end of Second Street in Eastport. How did this wacky event start?

It all started nine years ago when the MRE founding father Sam Shropshire and a few others decided that if the MRE had seceeded from Annapolis there ought to be a "friendly" rivalry to mark the occassion and to do good in the community at the same time. How they came up with the idea of teams pulling across the harbor against adversaries they can't see might have had something to do with the the fact that that they were in a local watering hole at the time. But we digress. Fun with a purpose was born -- at least in this incarnation. To make a very long story very short, luckily, the founding fathers included a physicist who figured out how many people had to be on either side to be able to pull a rope 1700 feet long out of the water and in their direction and therefore how strong the rope needed to be. Also luckily, the founding fathers included a really good salesman who convinced Yale Cordage to build the rope at cost. And even more luckily, the founding fathers convinced everyone that this was a great idea. Eastport rallied around the battle and a great tradition was born.

-So, once a year, local and national attention focuses on the Annapolis Harbor, or, as we like to call it, the Gulf of Eastport, for a competition unlike any in the world – the Slaughter Across the Water, the longest tug of war over a body of water in the world. The Tug is staged between the Maritime Republic of Eastport (MRE) and Downtown Annapolis, featuring a 1700’ rope, over 450 tuggers, and more than a thousand spectators.

-Composed of a maximum of 33 tuggers, each team strives to bring home the trophy and the title, each tugger doing his or her own part to bring the fame and fortune to the appropriate side.

Eastport has been the dominant force most years, but there have been shut-outs on both sides. The winners earn a year's worth of bragging rights and the ensuing riches. Okay, there may not be any riches, but the bragging rights tend to be pretty strong and have led, in the past, to the renaming of Annapolis Harbor, the bridge and, in fact, the entire town of Annapolis (the Gulf of Eastport, the Bridge of our Glorious Victory, and Westport, respectively). So there.

Why Do We Do This?

Fun With A Purpose

The Tug draws on the rivalry between Eastport and the city of Annapolis itself, civic pride on both sides allowing this zany event to improve more than community morale. The event has raised close to $200,000 for charities over the past nine years.

-Each year, the Maritime Republic of Eastport and volunteers from Annapolis and beyond work long and hard to put together this event. In addition to a riotous battle, great food and fantastic camaraderie, the Tug offers the chance to give back to the community that surrounds and supports us.

Proceeds from the Tug go to a selection of local charities, some of which rely on this donation as part of their significant operating budget. It is a family and community event of such considerable scale that it literally can't be missed! The Coast Guard and Harbormaster have allowed us to close the Annapolis Harbor for two hours while the teams on either side of the water tug away during the scheduled "heats."

The Over-the-Water Rope

- Yale Cordage of Biddeford, Maine, built the official MRE Tug-of-War rope especially for this event. With a replacement value (in 1998 dollars) of $23,488.50, it is one of MRE's most valuable capital assets.

Its specifications, as outlined by Yale Cordage:

Product Maxibraid ® Plus double braid custom manufactured double tapered line 1 l/8" diameter to ¾" diameter to l l/8" diameter, by 1,700 feet long (part #91048ICASSA001)
Core Member ¾" diameter 12-strand 24 degree braid of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene Spectra 900 ® fiber impregnated with Yale Maxijacket yellow urethane coating. Mean breaking strength 49,000 lbs. Weight in air: 11.8 lbs. per 100 feet [11.8 x 17 = 200.6 lbs.]. Weight in seawater: buoyant, -2.6 lbs. per 100 feet.
Sleeve Member 1 1/8" diameter 24-strand 38 degree overbraid of high tenacity multifilament Fiberbrite 2000 ® polyester fiber in black and yellow, with 250 feet of each end of the 1,700-foot core overbraided for hand gripping.

Maxibraid Plus ® is registered to Yale Cordage, Inc.
Spectra 900® and Fiberbrite 2000® are registered to Allied Fibers

the rope
Click image to enlarge

The rope is extended literally across the harbor from Second Street in Eastport to Susan C. Campbell Park at City Dock in Annapolis. The tuggers are not pulled into the water. Instead, the center of the rope is marked with a float and a small helium-filled blimp. Two equidistant points in the water are then marked with floats. For each "heat" or "tug," the winning side is determined when the center of the rope crosses one of the floats. Judges will be aboard the Schooner Liberté close to the rope, closely monitoring the events as radio personalities broadcast live to the world! Close radio contact between Tug officials on both sides of the harbor ensure that tugging starts at the same time and that the teams observe the rules...well, as much as possible.


Schooner Liberte - where the judges will be Click image to enlarge

While insurance regulations and common sense prevent anyone from being dragged into the water during a tug, there is nothing preventing the captain from the losing side of each heat to "volunteer" to jump into the water as atonement for having lost—in fact, it's required (Well, okay, it will depend on how cold it is.). They are given points for style and technique in the water entry process.

Click on the Rules Oval for more about The Tug of War Rules

The Tug transforms Downtown Annapolis and Eastport, with a festival-like atmosphere that includes food vendors, music, face-painting, clowns, cheering crowds, and all sorts of local color.

-Teams consisting of all men, all women, and coed have traditionally been the anchor teams for the tugs, earning the Maritime Republic of Eastport bragging rights for the first four years of the Tug over its cousins across Spa Creek, renamed The Gulf of Eastport for the occasion.

Businesses sponsor some of the teams and get prime recognition from the crowds that gather and the media, while local charities benefit from the money raised.

The Maritime Republic of Eastport sponsors the event as part of its commitment to make our entire community a better place to live; the commitment from private groups is an outstanding example of how to supplement local, state and federal government activities.

Tug 2006