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RACERS FINISH WITH 'LAST CHANCE'

After Labor Day, the only time some boaters visit their local marina or yacht club is to remove things from their boats as they prepare for a long winter ahead.

Even racing slows down at this time of year. Wednesday night racing is over at most clubs and weekend racing has just about run its course. Except, of course, the ever popular Last Chance Regatta. As in years past, 50 to 60 boats are expected to race in what sailors regard as the last blast of summer. The Sept. 18 event, sponsored by the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club, is traditionally the last big regatta of the boating season.

"It's a nice way to wrap up the summer; it's a nice farewell," said Tom Flynn, chairman of the event. The Last Chance has been a Buffalo sailing tradition for nearly 20 years.

"It's usually a beautiful time of year to be sailing," said Jim Franzek, commodore of BHSC. "The winds are usually a little stronger and the leaves are starting to change on the trees along the water's edge -- it's a very enjoyable time to be on the water."

The regatta is open to anyone, noted Flynn, who added that the course will be shortened this year in order to have more races.

Because the regatta falls so late in the year, weather conditions add to its appeal. "Sometimes it's blowing, sometimes the air is so light that you're just sitting around drinking pop and staring at one another," Flynn said.

The regatta is popular for another reason -- it's only a one-day affair.

"We do that for two reasons," said Flynn. "At this time of year, it's a lot harder to find crew to race in a two-day event. And I don't think we would draw many people to race on a Sunday during football season."

Following the regatta, there will be a reception/dinner and awards at the West Side Rowing Club.

For starting times and other information, call Flynn at 662-3949.

America's Cup on horizon

Along with ESPN 2, at least two web sites will provide extensive coverage for the America's Cup and preliminary races, which start next month in Auckland, New Zealand. America's Cup followers can access the Terabyte website, which is offering virtual reality ringside seats for all of the challenger races to subscribers who buy its Virtual Spectator CD-Rom. Web users can make advance no-obligation reservations by registering online at www.virtualspectator.com.

Quokka Sports, the company that pioneered digital interactive coverage of sailing, also will have a website available to follow both the challenger races (called the Louis Vuitton Cup) and team New Zealand, which won the cup in 1995 in San Diego. The Quokka site is www.americascup.org.

Worth the road trip

Boaters -- both sail and power -- who are looking for their next boat may want to check out the North American Sail & Power In-Water Boat Show, Sept. 15-19 at Cedar Point Marina in Sandusky, Ohio.

The show fleet will have more than 700 new and used power and sailboats from virtually every manufacturer. Show goers can preview the newest cruisers, ski and fishing boats, sail boats, motor yachts, personal watercraft and high performance boats. On shore, more than 150 accessory displays will feature the latest in marine electronics, navigational equipment, sailing accessories and nautical clothing. Admission is $6.50 for adults, $2 for children 12 and under, and $4.50 for adults 55 and over on weekdays.

Deregulation hits Canada

U.S. boaters no longer need an FCC license simply to operate their VHF radios in Canadian waters, reports Boat/U.S. For years, American boaters who operated their radio in Canadian waters risked being fined if they did not have a license.

Boat/U.S. reminds boaters that Nov. 1 is the deadline to apply for the Boat/U.S. Foundation for Boating Safety for grants of up to $5,000 for local boating safety projects. To receive information on the grant, call (703) 461-2878, ext. 3016.

Fall safe boating classes

It's never too soon to start thinking about next year's season, especially when it involves safety on the water. Several safe boating courses begin in the coming weeks. They include:

Kenmore West High School, classes start Sept. 15. For more information, call 874-8411. . . . Potter Road Occupational Center in West Seneca, classes begin Sept. 22., call 681-5436. . . . Cheektowaga Central High, classes start Oct. 18, call 681-5436. . . . Williamsville North High School, starting Sept. 27., call 626-8080. . . . The Swiftwater Power Squadron will run a Boat Smart-Boating- Jet Ski certification class starting at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Elk's Lodge No. 860 at Main and Sweeney Streets, North Tonawanda. To register, call 692-2159 or 688-9139.
Paul Stephens, a lifelong sailor and freelance writer is the boating columnist for The Buffalo News. This is the last boating column of the season.

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