by Terry Duffy
The Youngstown Yacht Club has a lot to shout about these days.
YYC official Cathy Niccola reports the Youngstown Yacht Club is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. In fact, YYC officially marked 80 years on July 2. The club currently has approximately 320 members who consist of sailboat and powerboat owners as well as social members.
"The Youngstown Yacht Club first got under way on April 29, 1931, when 28 boating enthusiasts gathered at the Youngstown Fire Hall (on the present site of the HSBC Bank) and set in motion an organization to provide for boating on the lower Niagara River," says Niccola. "Although incorporated on June 13, 1931, the YYC officially came into being on July 2, 1931, when the club's first boat moored in front of it. The Blue Moon, a New York 30 sloop, dropped anchor off the club dock on July 2, 1931. The nine-man syndicate from Buffalo that brought her to Youngstown joined a small group of local sailing enthusiasts and formed the Youngstown Yacht Club."
She recalls YYC's early years: "In 1936 the club agreed to hold the L.Y.R.A. (Lake Yacht Racing Association) regatta in Youngstown. Racers from Lake Erie sailed into the Niagara River to attend the event. These racers were struck by the natural beauty and exceptional sailing conditions and decided to stay, bringing to the club experienced sailors who were to provide much of its leadership for the next 40 years. Youngstown quickly became a power in Lake Ontario racing and a sailing center for the Western New York area. While racing brings glory (and sometimes frustration), cruising brings wonderful memories.
"Some of the happiest memories come from cruises around the lake. The first organized club cruise was in 1943, when five yachts (including Blue Moon) sailed off to the Bay of Quinte. YYC continues the custom of organized club cruises to this day. Many sailboats and powerboats participate in organized cruises to clubs in the Toronto area."
She notes that one of the most successful club activities has been the YYC's Junior Sailing Program that started in 1955. "At that time, YYC had become a big boat club. Thirteen members, with 43 children among them, joined together to purchase a fleet of dinghies. By the early 1960s, these dinghies were made available for a club-sponsored program with instructors. By the 1970s, the program grew from volunteer instructors to a paid staff and to a top-notch operation.
"The Youngstown Yacht Club is proud of its heritage, and continues to support the traditions of the sport of sailing and boating," says Niccola.
YYC member Dick Roach notes that another YYC longtime favorite, one of its most successful events, is just days away - the annual YYC Level Regatta.
"On the weekend of July 23 and 24 the Youngstown Yacht Club will host the 37th annual Level Regatta. Begun 37 years ago by Don Finkle, of RCR Yachts, the Level Regatta has become one of the favorite regattas in the Great Lakes," says Roach.
He notes the Level, peaking at over 400 boats several years ago, has grown to become a mainstay of approximately 200 boats that visit each year from the U.S. and Canada, with many coming from the Toronto-Hamilton and southern Ontario areas as well as Buffalo and Western New York and the eastern U.S.
Boats will start arriving on Thursday, July 22, with actual racing taking place on Saturday and Sunday. Some classes will run shorter courses than others and may get in three races a day, but most groups will race three races on Saturday and two on Sunday. "Racing will take place in several predetermined courses set up for boats according to their size, class, and numbers," says Roach. He reports the race starts will take place promptly at intervals of three to five minutes. Each boat is assigned to a starting group. Signals are given so that each group knows exactly when its start is, and it is the responsibility of the skipper and crew to be at the line, but not over, as the starting gun is fired.
"Besides offering an opportunity for sailboat racers from different areas to race against each other it is a wonderful opportunity for the business interests in Youngstown," says Roach. "Close to 2,000 sailors and their supporters will descend on the village, and the population will double for the weekend.
"The math is pretty easy, but if each of those sailors spends $50 apiece for food, souvenirs, and beverages over a three-day period, it means $100,000 for the area economy," adds Roach.
That does not include the revenue paid to extra staff for assisting with the operation of serving that large a number of people. The Yacht Club hopes to cover costs, but revenues generated by entrance fees are mostly put back into providing good racing for the various fleets, he says.
Those interested in viewing the races from shore will find that Fort Niagara offers one of the best vantage points. For those wishing to watch from the water, just look for the groups of boats on the lake. The most exciting places to watch from are the start and the turn at the first mark.
The Youngstown Yacht Club welcomes new members; those interested in obtaining further information may contact the club secretary, Josie Fittante, at 745-7230, ext. 10.