by Terry Duffy
Seems that high temperatures and high intensity go hand in hand in Youngstown this summer.
The little community on the lower Niagara at Lake Ontario has seen temperatures in the 90s several times already this summer and a few days approaching 100 degrees this week. And it's played host to some intense action, including recent youth soccer tournaments - two of them with players numbering 10,000 participating - plus a well attended and very active French and Indian War Encampment last weekend at Fort Niagara State Park.
And like the persistent temps, the intensity keeps a coming.
Next up is an annual competitive favorite on local waterways - the Youngstown Yacht Club's Level Regatta. Sponsored by RCR Yachts, North Sails North America, Ullman Sails, UBS Financial Services and Mount Gay Rum, the Level, as it's come to be known, typically brings throngs of competitors and just plain fun people to the village. Included are sailors and crews, plus families and friends - from southern Ontario, the Buffalo-upstate New York areas, Quebec and eastern U.S. and beyond - who come to Youngstown for two days of racing, but four days of good times. "The Level Regatta has become one of the favorite regattas in the Great Lakes," says YYC member Dick Roach.
Marking its 38th year in 2012, it all gets under way on Thursday, July 26, with the annual Level Regatta kick-off party on Youngstown's Main Street, just uphill from the YYC on Water Street. From 6 to 10 p.m., the roughly two-block strip will play host to incoming Level participants, with music, food, drink and more. Regatta gear will be on sale, area bars and restaurants will be hosting Level parties and tents will be going up in parks and on private residences as the community throws out the welcome mat. "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."
He notes that all YYC members have been working hard to make this another great event. As of this writing, 129 boats have registered. And while the Level is indeed a favorite for many racers from across the lake, for one longtimer, Ed McCormack of Toronto, the Level has become a "focal point of end-of-July celebrations."
For McCormack, Roach adds, it's just one Level Regatta of many. He has competed in all but two Level Regattas ever held and is again registered for the 2012 event. The first boat McCormack competed with was a Northern 24. That boat was followed by several others, and this year's Level will see him on his Jeanneau Sun Fast 37, "Solvenn."
Racing a boat requires a good crew, says Roach, and over the years McCormack has had approximately 40 people join him in Youngstown at different times to help him race. Some loyal crewmembers came as many as 10 years in a row.
Asked about things that stand out about the Level, McCormack immediately mentioned that the organization of the event has been superb and the Youngstown Yacht Club has been diligent in hosting the event.
"He says he will never forget the unmistakable voice of granny, the lady announcer, who woke everyone up early each morning with a loud 'wakee wake,' " Roach adds.
Another memorable event he points out was when, negotiating the walk to shore over all the boats rafted next to each other, the Toronto sailor inadvertently fell through the hatch of a boat and landed in the forward bunk with the couple who were sleeping there. "The three of them became acquainted rather rapidly, but there were no hard feelings," Roach adds.
Roach says that over the years the number of participating boats at the Levels grew to a high that was unsustainable and almost unmanageable. Participation has lessened over the last several years, but long-timers like McCormack believe that because of "the cleverness of allocating fleets, the competition remains good."
Sailing from National Yacht Club in Toronto, where McCormack is a past commodore, into the Niagara River, this sailor cannot help but reflect on how different things are today as we celebrate the War of 1812, and that today the United States "welcomes Canadian sailors to the very place (we fought over) years ago," says Roach.
"Ed will be one of hundreds of Canadian and American sailboat racers participating in this year's event."
Regatta news and notes:
•Opening ceremonies get under way 8:25 a.m., Saturday, July 28, at the YYC, with first gun for racing at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
•YYC and Race Committee organizers intend to run as many races as practical on each day of racing up to a maximum of eight races for the event.
•Spectator boats will be available; sign-ups at the information tent located on the YYC grounds.
•Crew competitions will follow racing on Saturday and awards will follow racing both days at the YYC.
•Entertainment on the YYC grounds includes Jeremy Hoyle and Strictly Hip, on Friday at 8 p.m., and Pamela Johnson from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday, followed by Livewire at 8 p.m.
•A wristband must be purchased for each person attending the Regatta, including guests. Discount wristbands ($15 U.S.) are available only through pre-registration until midnight on July 26. Additional wristbands will only be available at the wristband tent at the general admission price of $25 U.S.
For further information, go to www.yyc.org.