The Last Youngstown Level Regatta
Published on July 31st, 2013
By Don Finkle, event founder/chairperson
How do you do justice to describing an event –Youngstown Level Regatta – that has been a Lake Ontario fixture for most of the last 40 summers, almost from the 20 boat beginning in 1974?
Well you really can’t, not in the time and space allowed here anyway. All the hard work of so many dedicated volunteers over that period was repaid with the way the final regatta went down last weekend (July 27-28). It was a wonderful time afloat and ashore and the competitors were most generous in their thanks. It was a fitting way to cap the event, we could honestly say we went out on a high.
That leaves us with two FAQ’s…..why did we retire the event, and what do we plan to do next?
Let’s start with the reasons we pulled the plug on what was still obviously a popular event that was the envy of many other regatta organizers. First the key volunteers were flat out tired. Our membership at the Youngstown Yacht Club (in Youngstown, NY) is not large and most of us have held significant jobs at Level for many years. You were unaware, but what has kept us going in recent years has been “We need to make it to 40”, as we did our best to hold onto some of our most important committee heads.
Unlike many other events, which are often “one and done”, working the Level was both a privilege and a lifetime sentence! Now we can sit back, look on with pride at what we were able to accomplish for several generations of sailors, and take a breather.
There were numerous other reasons why this was The Last Level, however.
The governments of our two countries have seen fit to make border crossing unnecessarily difficult for boaters. The Welland Canal has become more of an obstacle as transit times can be lengthy and the fees are triple what they once were, reasons for declining attendance from our Lake Erie friends. Where there once were fewer weekend course racing regattas such as ours, there are now too many.
The reason the Level was created in the first place was to provide racing on a non-handicap basis. That changed with the increase in one designs (a good thing IMO), and the decline in the overall number of boats racing. The latter meant that we could no longer group enough boats close enough together in speed to race level, meaning we became a one design and handicap racing regatta, same as everybody else.
Due to changing dynamics in the family and work worlds people find it harder to race (and transit) on weekends. Racing has become more a weeknight activity, so all weekend events suffer attendance losses. Another reason is that we have traditionally run a number of regattas each year here at YYC in addition to the Level. But the Level became so all-consuming that we just did not have the energy to do the others. There are more reasons but that is enough to cause us to want to make a change.
We in Youngstown do not want to get out of the business of running regattas but the Level has a very well developed brand and we could not make any real changes without starting over again. We decided to end the Level while it was still popular and go off in a different direction to re-energize the troops who do the work.
There will be a new regatta here at YYC on the traditional weekend at the end of July in 2014. It will not be The Level but it will be the best we can do under the new format. We are still working on details so there will be no public announcement as of yet. But for those invited boats it will be worth the trip to Youngstown.