The annual Mayor’s Cup Regatta is the largest sailing race on Lake Champlain. But this year, high winds and rain lowered some sails and cancelled many shore events.
Plattsburgh’s 39th annual four-day Mayor’s Cup Festival began with a Boat Parade of Lights on a calm and pleasant Thursday evening, boosting spirits for the weekend’s main events. But Saturday was cloudy and rainy with winds between 30 and 40 miles per hour. Waves on Lake Champlain were reported up to 7 feet. That created challenging sailing conditions, according to Plattsburgh City Marina Dockhand Bruno Greselin. “It requires a certain level of skill to be able to navigate waves of that size. And for the professionals, the really avid sailors who went out there, they could definitely handle themselves. But a lot of the less experienced sailors probably made the right call in staying in port.”
The regatta features three sailboat divisions. Due to the rough conditions, most of the smaller boats withdrew from the competition. Of the 55 that had registered, organizers reported that only 18 of the larger sailboats competed.
Tim McCormick withdrew his 24-foot racing sailboat. He was at the marina watching those who were competing struggle with the winds. “It is a very difficult day. We’ve already seen one boat come in with a torn headsail. When it’s windy like this it’s doable in the bigger boats, but when you get to the smaller boats it gets very difficult.”
McCormick called it some of the most difficult sailing conditions he’s seen for the Mayor’s Cup. “I’ve seen a number of roundups, which is when the wind catches the sails and it’s really too much for the boat to handle so the skipper loses control. The boat turns into the wind. We’ve seen torn headsails. And I expect to see a few more torn sails before the day’s over. You know on a day like this it’s definitely easy to slip and fall, to get hit with something or hurt yourself, so everyone has to be extra careful while they’re on the boat.”
Sunrise Rotary President and co-chair of the Mayor’s Cup Festival and Regatta Joanne Dahlen says the unfortunate weather conditions led to a number of withdrawals from the regatta. “The conditions were really, really tough. High waves, strong wind and then huge gusts on top of a constant strong wind. So a lot of boats were you know very smart. It is their choice to elect not to race. I think those that raced it was very, very competitive. A very difficult race. But a lot of sailors live for these kinds of difficult moments and see how they fare. Sailors don’t care about rain. But it was just the waves and the really strong, strong wind that was the factors especially for some of the smaller boats.”
A few blocks away in the downtown center, there were a few people at the land events, but Trinity Park and City Hall Place were mostly empty as rain periodically fell.
Members of the Sunrise Rotary, which sponsors the Mayor’s Cup, and Mayor James Calnon met on the steps of City Hall to formally welcome Rotary District Governor Nabil Oudeh. Based in Ottawa, Canada he represents Northern New York, Quebec, Ontario and Nunavut. He called the regatta a unique Rotary fundraiser. “Look at how many people in the community are involved with. There’s the actual race itself. There’s events on the ground. And so many different organizations involved with and the, you know the city, the mayor and Rotary altogether. That’s what really makes it. Our partnership with our community what makes us really strong and effective. It’s very unique and special. It’s special for Rotary and really very special for Plattsburgh.”
While the weather led to disappointing turnout, Mayor Calnon still considered the event a success. “Fortunately we’ve got some tents up that are allowing some of the kids activities to go on. I’d prefer to have a whole bunch more kids running around everywhere but, uh, it’s still an event that’s going on. It’s just maybe not quite as big as it would be in better weather. But it’s still a successful event.”
Proceeds from the Mayor’s Cup Festival go to community-based projects.