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YYC excited for return of CanAm Challenge, LYRA Race Week
By Terry Duffy
As life in Buffalo-Niagara continues its gradual return to normalcy, up north the Youngstown Yacht Club is moving full speed ahead toward a fun summer, despite the continuing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Canadian border closure.
Club officials are excited about a number of things now in place for 2021 on lower Water Street. This includes YYC’s popular adult and junior sailing activities, an enhanced lower river shoreline at the club following the floods, the attractive offerings of new Youngstown Community Boating experience and a new YYC Boat Club.
Found at 491 Water St., Youngstown Community Boating, “provides access to the Lower Niagara River for adults and children through sailing lessons and sailboat, kayak and paddle rentals and support,” its Facebook page stated.
Part of this offering is YYC’s popular junior sailing program. Here, young sailors ages 7-17 are provided the fundamentals in sailing skills, including instruction in safe boating, seamanship, dinghy sailing, sailboat racing and boat maintenance. What’s more, the junior sailing program is open to the public, with no YYC membership required.
Check this one out at www.youngstowncommunityboating.com.
Also returning in 2021 is YYC’s Boat Club, reports Justin Hays, director of Youngstown Community Boating: “YYC has leased a number of boats from Youngstown Community Boating for use by its Boat Club members.”
He noted that, among the sail offerings available for YYC membership, are Ideal 18 keelboats, a 20-foot pontoon boat, Catalina 30 sailboat plus kayaks and paddleboards. This club is open to both regular and associate members of YYC. What’s more, reserving a boat for an enjoyable experience on the lower river or lake is as easy as visiting the YYC website at yyc.org.
And then there’s YYC’s social sailing experience. Returning this year following the COVID-19 hiatus, social sailing kicked off July 1 and is offered from 6-8 p.m. every Thursday (weather-permitting).
YYC said the social sailing experience provides those who may not own a sailboat the chance to get out and enjoy it all anyway. Included is a boat ride, plus cocktails and sunset sailing. Social sailing is offered at no charge for YYC members with a nominal price for their guests.
“It’s a wonderful way for associate members to get out on boats and enjoy the water,” said Tim Finkle, director of adult sailing at YYC. For details or to sign up, contact Finkle at [email protected] or call 860-917-5416.
Perhaps the biggest happening this year is YYC’s Dyneema CanAm Challenge, set for the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, July 24-25, on the lower river and lake.
The event, which carries on the legacy of the Level Regatta of years past, typically sees the involvement of dozens of sailing enthusiasts from Toronto and southern Ontario, Great Lakes cities including Buffalo and Rochester, and sailors from throughout the northeast and Canadian provinces.
While COVID-19 dominated life in 2020, YYC still managed to stage a modified CanAm Challenge last year. It is optimistic for an even better return in 2021, with this year’s event serving as precursor to LYRA Race Week, July 26-Aug. 1 at YYC.
“Hey there – some exciting news – we are combining the CamAm and the LYRA Course Racing to one great weekend, July 24 and 24. We have been locked down for 15 months (or more) – let’s get back out there and make this a HUGE event with tons of boats and fun,” a Facebook post noted.
Featuring various class sailboats, the CanAm Challenge typically sees such vessels as J/22s, J/70s, J/88s, Tripp 26s, Melges 24s, 8 Meters, Beneteau 36.7s, Laser 28s, PHRFs and Multi-Hulls. The CanAm Challenge features both One Design fleet competition and PHRF races over the weekend for placement with prizes awarded.
Despite the continuing border closures and the expected impact on participation, YYC nonetheless is upbeat for this year.
“Yes, Canada is still closed, Canadian participation is down. It’s still affecting us, but it’s gonna happen,” YYC official Amy Reynolds said.
In a message welcoming sailing competitors to this CamAm Challenge-LYRA Race Week, Chairman Kevin Doyle offered his perspective on this year’s border closure to the disruptions the YYC experienced some 80 years back when the club was also contending with border issues.
“On. Nov. 16, 2019, I signed on as the chairman of the 2021 LYRA at the Youngstown Yacht Club. … Globally, we have been on quite a ride since then. … The world seems quite a different place now … or is it?” Doyle said, He noted the world was also quite a bit different 80 years ago as World War II raged on.
He went on to include a passage of the events that transpired back then at the YYC: “ ‘There is no report of the regatta, except that the Canadian boats all tied up at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Only sailors holding passports could visit Youngstown. The commodore finally made arrangements for the Canadian crews to be allowed the final night at the YYC for prize presentation, but only on the guaranty that they would not put foot off the YYC property. The Canadians were returned to Niagara-on-the-Lake at midnight, only to find several yachts had transom trouble. The late James Hyland’s Six Metre has suffered the worst. These yachts were secured with stern lines ashore and bow anchors out in the river to hold them off. The Cayuga had come at full speed, making large bow waves.’ ”
“That was 80 years ago. Seem familiar?” Doyle asked. “LYRA is simply a sum of its parts. HUMANS. As humans, we strive to fulfill our passions. Sailboat racing; what a silly thing.
“Trying to drive attendance to a sailing event seems so inconsequential within the context of global events … yet that is what this message is intended to do.
“Over the years, through all the challenges, LYRA survives. 2021 WILL exist prominently in LYRA history, not just as a footnote. Many of you are committed to be a part of it. Thank you.
“The YYC’s LYRA committee, board of directors, members and sponsors have combined to fashion an event you don’t want to miss. … 2020 – fulfill your passion, there is still time, and; mind your passions.”
This year, Reynolds said YYC is working with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Sailing Club to accommodate the needs of Canadian sailors wishing to be a part of the CanAm-LYRA week happenings. She remains hopeful to see visitors from throughout the Great Lakes and northeast areas, and expects up to 50 boats participating in the waters.
On shore, Reynolds said the fun will be found at the YYC on Water Street, with nightly entertainment, food and drinks available. The public is invited, with on-site wristbands available for $5. The scheduled entertainment includes such local favs as the leadoff Breakaway on Friday, Chris Borgotti and the Half Trays on Saturday, and Zak Ward on Sunday. Continuing into LYRA Race week will be performances by YYC’s very own The Chamberlains on Tuesday, July 27, and Thursday, July 29.
“We encourage everyone to come on down and have some fun with us,” Reynolds said.
For more on this year’s Dyneema CamAm/LYRA Race Week happenings, visit the YYC on Facebook.