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Annual Mayor’s Cup Festival Scaled Back Due To Pandemic

Odinn (left) is among the sailboats racing in the 2018 Mayor's Cup Regatta
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Odinn (left) is among the sailboats racing in the 2018 Mayor's Cup Regatta

The largest summer festival in New York’s North Country has been scaled back and many of its events canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Mayor’s Cup Regatta and Festival is held annually in July in downtown Plattsburgh and on adjacent Lake Champlain.  The sponsoring Sunrise Rotary Club announced Monday that all land-based activities are off this year.  The regatta remains pending for July 11.  

Because of social distancing rules, Regatta Chair Kjell Dahlen says they cannot do traditional land events and the awards ceremony. But there is a slight possibility there might be a scaled-down sailing race.  “We’ve had a meeting with representations from all the sailing clubs in Vermont and also in New York and during the winter we set up a schedule for the entire season and that schedule is still on paper. But it isn’t likely that we will be able to execute it unless the rules for social distancing will change. Where they have up to eight to 10 people on the boat social distancing is not going to be possible. And also on the small boats one cannot be far enough apart.”

Sailmaker Ed Trombley has helmed the Odinn to victory during past Mayor’s Cup races, including last year.  “For most of the boats there are oh somewhere between two and eight or nine people on the boat. They’re trimming a rope constantly or they’re driving the boat. Most boats have another couple of people that are basically ballast that are keeping the boat from heeling. So you’re sitting or standing right next to someone. And from time to time it’s pretty physical, pulling and winching things, and pulling sails up and down. And you’re right immediately next to somebody, you’re touching somebody or awful close to it. Unless it’s a boat that you can race by yourself or double-handed, would be two people. But that’s not too common on the lake.”

The regatta attracts sailors from Quebec and across the Northeast to compete in racing, cruising and multi-hull divisions.  Trombley notes that it is a significant part of the region-wide Lake Champlain Championship Series coordinated by a number of sailing clubs in New York and Vermont.  He says scaling back these regattas is an example of how the pandemic will impact sailing and boating in general.  “Let’s say there’s a vaccine or in some way the problem’s been solved then at that point I’d say sailing will go on totally normally. I can tell you that the Canadian-U.S. border is closed, has been for almost two months. All of the Canadian boats on the lake they’re not even able to come to their boats right now. So most of the ones I’ve talked to have effectively cancelled their entire season. They’re not putting their boats in the water. There’s a decision coming up at the end of this month whether or not they will reopen the border. I certainly hope it does. But it’s in flux and it’s not good.”

The Mayor’s Cup Regatta is a major fundraiser for its sponsor, the Sunrise Rotary. Dahlen says the club will experience a loss of revenue.  “We need to be safe with land activities and also with sailing even if being able to put something together at the last minute it would be very difficult to get sponsors. And also with the financial situation now it wouldn’t feel comfortable going out to ask anybody for sponsorship money.”

If the Mayor’s Cup regatta does occur sailors will be required to register online and will not be allowed to congregate on shore on the day of the race. 

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