Beattie Quintal remains the one to beat in the Maine State Clam Shucking Contest.
As a child, Beattie Quintal and her fourteen siblings worked in the family clam dealership in Waldoboro. “I shucked clams and picked crabmeat,” she says. “That’s a pretty tedious job. You learn to do it fast.”
She did indeed. There is no one in the state of Maine who has won as many clam shucking contests as Beattie Quintal. In more than thirty years of competitive clam shucking, Quintal, 57, has lost only once — to her sister, Muriel Winchenbach, at the Waldoboro Day festival. She won the competition at the Boothbay Harbor Fishermen’s Festival twenty-three years in a row, a streak that ended in 1999 when the festival stopped holding the contest. She is an eleven-time Maine State Clam Shucking Champion, relinquishing the title last year to Jim Dorrington, of Freeport, when work obligations kept her from competing. She hopes to reclaim her title on July 20 at the Yarmouth Clam Festival (clamfestival.com).
Slipping a three-inch blade between the halves of a clam shell, cutting the adductor muscles, and twisting the shells apart over and over again is, apparently, a bit like riding a bicycle: you never forget. Quintal, who with her husband, Louis, owns a motorcycle and ATV dealership in Nobleboro, hasn’t shucked clams for a living in thirty-six years, and she never shucks them at home (when it comes to preparing seafood for her family, she prefers haddock and salmon). Yet her technique remains as sharp as a shucking knife: She holds the state record of forty-five clams in two minutes, which she set at the Clam Festival in 2010. She matched it in 2011, as did her sister, Sandra Soule; Beattie went on to defeat Sandra in a tie-breaking shuck-off. In third place that year? Muriel, who dispatched thirty-four clams. “We do it in memory of our dad, Ralph Winchenbach,” Beattie says.
No word from Dorrington on whether he’ll defend his title this year, but his 2012 results — twenty-two clams in two minutes — suggest he’s got his work cut out for him should both he and Quintal show up. — V.M.W.
Photo: courtesy yarmouth clam festival