The largest sailing race on Lake Champlain and its associated land festival are returning this summer after the pandemic forced a smaller sailing race and no land events last year.
Since 1978 the Mayor’s Cup Regatta and Festival has been a staple of the Plattsburgh summer season. Last year COVID-19 protocols resulted in the downtown festival being canceled and fewer boats racing.
Thursday afternoon, Plattsburgh officials and race sponsor Sunrise Rotary announced that the 44th sailing competition will set sail on July 10th. Sunrise Rotary President Sue LeBlanc-Durocher said the accompanying land festival will return at a new location.
“It’s moving to the City Beach," LeBlanc-Durocher said. "Our city beach is so amazing. It is the longest sandy beach on fresh water in the United States. So just a little trivia going on for you and we should celebrate that. Of course the regatta is a lake event.”
Race Director Kjell Dahlen noted that a small event was held last year with fewer than 30 boats compared to nearly 100 racing. This year he expects the race will be slightly larger.
“This year we’re trying to build it up again some but we’re still careful with the COVID," Dahlen said. "As far as the regatta is concerned it’s three divisions. One is the racing group. That’s where you see the colorful spinnakers. And then there’s the cruising group with the small sails and then the catamaran group. And we’re certainly hoping that we get more participation than last year but there’s still some hesitancy out there. So we’re hoping people can feel that they can go out and feel that it’s safe and friendly and competitive.”
There will be no entry fee this year and Dahlen hopes that increases participation over last year. But he says the continued closure of the U.S.-Canada border is affecting participation and boating in general on Lake Champlain.
“Most of the participants do not come from Clinton County," Dahlen said. "Most of them are from Vermont, some from the Albany area and in the past also many Montrealers. I don’t have great hope for the Montrealers this year. It doesn’t look like they would be able to participate. It’s really been terrible on the lake with the closure of the border. It’s almost eerie out on the lake last year with so few boats out there. And you go by the marinas and you see 80 percent of the boats there are on land and not in the water.”
Downtown businesses had benefitted from the influx of people during past Mayor’s Cup festivals. Mayor Chris Rosenquest called the event a keystone of the community. He said moving it will expose the city beach to more people.
“We want people to get out to the beach," Rosenquest said. "We want people to take advantage of that park if you will. But on the flip side of that the city is looking to have some events downtown. We are actively organizing our Fourth of July parade. We’ll have fireworks on the Fourth of July. So although we are shifting this event out of the downtown we are still looking at having a number of events downtown.”
The Mayor’s Cup Festival and Regatta is hosted by the Sunrise Rotary, which sells t-shirts with a different annual design to fund community projects. The apparel was unveiled Thursday along with the list of events for the festival — including a 5K race and beach volleyball and cornhole tournaments.