For 24 years, sailors have been keeping their summer racing calendars by the Youngstown Level Regatta.
The 24th edition was no different as 387 boats, 2,000 racers and 500 volunteers transformed the Youngstown Yacht Club from an idyllic sailing hideaway to a sea of humanity. Well-run races, legendary parties and the chance to reclaim sailing friendships keep them coming. Even before this year's regatta was over, competitors and organizers were already looking to next year.
"Hey . . . see you next year," a skipper yelled Sunday as he drove his boat toward the lake for a return sail to Toronto. He could have been talking to any of the scores of sailors docking their boats and milling around.
"With sailing, it's not just competition, it's like meeting old friends," said Peter U, of Cleveland.He came back to Youngstown with his J-22, "Voodoo Magic," and finished eighth out of 22 boats.
Hometown racers claimed the top five spots. They were led by Chris Doyle, who proved to his Youngstown colleagues that three was a charm. Doyle's win gave him the Tri-City Championship as the winner of J-22 regattas in Cleveland, Toronto and Youngstown. Paul Cannon on "Loose Cannon" finished second followed by Doyle's younger brother, Peter on the helm of "Frosty." Owner Patrick Whelan was among the crew.
The wins proved to out-of-town racers just how formidable the Youngstown racers are in the J-22 fleet.
"The competition here is stiff," said U. "You think you're doing good in your club and then you come here and find out how good you really are."
Skillful racing means playing the winds and the Level offered enough variety to test even the veterans. Saturday's very light winds caused delays. As the wind filled in closer to shore, courses in those areas were able to get in up to three races but courses in the lake were limited to one. Sunday began with light, flukey winds and overcast skies. The wind shifted 35 degrees before settling in at 9 to 11 knots with sunny skies. Conditions were perfect for the best part of the Level-boats racing scratch. The first one in each of 44 divisions over the line wins.
Going into Sunday's racing, Eric Moog of Toronto was tied for first on "Dynamo," a custom-built Dobroth-42 in the PHRF-2 fleet. His second- and first-place finishes clinched a special win. The level was the first regatta for "Dynamo" after Moog reclaimed it from a Montreal owner who bought the boat seven years ago after Moog's father died.
"I've been telling myself that it's terrible to win your first regatta. All you can do is go down," said Moog.
Greg Eiffert, of the Rochester Yacht Club, won in the competitive J-24 fleet, the largest with 42 boats. Jody Swanson of the Buffalo Canoe Club finished fifth in "Swan Dive." Skip Doyle of Youngstown joined sons Chris and Peter with a win in the 10-boat C & C 29-1 fleet in "Rockin Chair."