By Terry Duffy
Get ready for the Challenge.
Despite flooding conditions that have plagued the lake and lower river - and really put a crimp on boating over past months - plans are moving full speed ahead for the 2017 edition of the Youngstown Yacht Club's Can Am Challenge regatta.
The event will continue in the spirit of the YYC Level Regatta, a long-time favorite of sailors from both sides of the border. The three-years-young Can Am Challenge opens Thursday, July 27, with the annual "Village Appreciation" Street Dance on Main Street, running from 6-10 p.m. Held each year, the leadoff Street Dance serves as a social event as well as a tribute to the Village of Youngstown as host to this YYC tradition.
The Street Dance will feature musical entertainment, on-site street vendors, sales of YYC clothing and regalia, food and drink specials from participating Youngstown establishments, and more. It typically serves as a time of socializing with U.S. and Canadian sailors, as well as a welcoming by area residents. The Street Dance is open to the public, and locals are invited to stop by that evening for the fun.
And all are welcome to enjoy the action and atmosphere of the Can Am Challenge throughout the weekend.
Friday serves primarily as a registration day for race participants. On-site at YYC that day will be clothing and regalia sales, a food truck, drink specials and musical entertainment throughout the evening.
Come Saturday, the Can Am Challenge gets underway big time.
"We've got 90 registrations; we're expecting up to 100. It's one of our largest events," said Don Finkle of RRC Yachts, who is helping coordinate the Can Am with YYC.
He noted racers for this one hail from ports in Rhode Island, New York, Canada, North Carolina and numerous other locales.
Finkle reported the Challenge will feature exciting races - the North American Championship with the 29-foot J-88 premier class of yachts, and the 23-foot J-90 class; and the Lake Ontario Championship, featuring Tripp 26 class yachts.
"It's our largest group yet with 15 boats registered," Finkle said of the J88 class.
He noted Can Am will also feature two days of open lake competition for the variety of other classes entered.
"There's a regatta for every boat," he said
For on-shore spectators, the action gets underway at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Lake Ontario waters and continues each day to 4 p.m. Good viewing will be found on the lake side meadow at Fort Niagara State Park and also at Porter on the Lake.
Saturday evening, the YYC Can Am celebration will be open to the public with $5 wrist bands on sale, food and beverage offerings under the awning, and The Tragically Hip cover band Strictly Hip on stage.
Sales of Can Am regalia will continue, and area residents are invited to drop by the YYC.
Come Sunday, the action continues on the lake starting at 10 a.m., with YYC offering food and drinks, plus Can Am clothing and regalia sales. An awards ceremony plus entertainment will be offered in the afternoon.
For more on this year's Can Am Challenge, visit the YYC page on Facebook.