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Chautauqua Calling: 2017 Thistle National Championship Preview

posted Nov 3, 2016, 11:52 AM by Michael Lovett   [ updated Mar 9, 2017, 5:26 AM ]
Chautauqua Lake has always been kind of a big deal.

During the Pre-Columbian era, the lake marked the southern end of a well worn portage for members of the Erie, Seneca, and other Native American tribes travelling between the watersheds of Lake Erie, which flows eastward to the Atlantic Ocean, and the Allegheny River, which flows southward to the Gulf of Mexico.

During the French and Indian War, the lake represented a strategic keystone in the battle for control of the North American continent.

And in 2017, Chautauqua Lake will serve as battleground for one of the continent’s most vibrant and competitive sailing classes: the Thistle National Championship comes to Mayville, N.Y., July 22 to 28.

A Community Effort

Similar to prior Nationals held in Edenton, N.C., and Flathead Lake, Mont., the Chautauqua event will be a community-supported, community-run regatta.  Chautauqua Yacht Club in conjunction with the Thistle Class Association is the organizing authority, with support from Chautauqua Lake YC, the Mayville-Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce, Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, Town of Chautauqua, and Chautauqua Institution.


Chautauqua Lake is located on the edge of the Allegheny Mountains in western New York, 10 miles south of (and 800 feet above) Lake Erie, 60 miles southwest of Buffalo, N.Y., and 40 miles east of Erie, Pa.

The lake is 17 miles long, 2-miles wide in the northern basin, where racing will take place. Winds typically blow along the lake’s long axis, which runs from southeast to northwest. During summer, in the absence of a dominant weather system, a southerly thermal (5 to 8 knots) typically develops in the morning, replaced by a northerly (8 to 20 knots) in the afternoon. Daytime highs rarely exceed 80 degrees, and nighttime temperatures dip into the mid 50s. Mosquitoes are rare, and the lake is perfect for swimming.

Mayville Lakeside Park will serve as the regatta base and boat park. Volunteers will launch boats using two ramps and a portable crane, and we’ll tie up along a dock built specifically for the event.


On-site camping will be available at Mayville Lakeside Park. The park has a bathhouse with toilets and outdoor showers, and organizers will provide portable toilets and showers. For full-feature campgrounds, check out Camp Chautauqua and Camp Prendergast (approx. 5 miles away) or Chautauqua Lake KOA (14 miles away).

For hotels, Chautauqua Suites (1/2 mile away) is offering a special rate on suites starting at $141.99/night.; Webb’s Resort has motel-style rooms starting at $140/night. Find more information about hotels, B&Bs, and vacation rentals at TourChautauqua.com.  


There’s so much to do in Chautauqua when you’re not sailing. Catch a world-class symphony or opera at Chautauqua Institution, a resort community that has served as the region’s cultural center since 1874. Daily gate fees range from $16 to $82, depending on when you arrive and how long you plan to stay. (Free admission on Sunday.) Whether you take in a lecture (just what a racing sailor needs, right?) or attend a theatrical production, the Institution’s artistic and cultural offerings are sure to inspire. During Nationals, the programming theme is, “The Supreme Court: At a Tipping Point?,” featuring lecturer Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center. Visit ciweb.org/2017 for schedules and calendar updates. 

From Mayville Lakeside Park, climb aboard the Chautauqua Belle for a steamship tour across Lake Chautauqua. Reserve tickets at www.269belle.com.

To create a self-guided tour of the Chautauqua area, download the Orbitist app, which includes maps and ideas for exploring historic sites, villages along Lake Erie, and more. 

Day Camps

You can even send the kids to camp for the week. Inside the Institution, the Boys’ and Girls’ Club runs the oldest day camp in the country, open to the public. In Jamestown, Infinity Visual and Performing Arts’ Time Machine Day Camp lets kids explore music and arts through the ages. Also in Jamestown, the Audubon Nature Community Center offers day camps to accommodate a variety of ages and interests. 

Outdoor Activities

Chautauqua is an excellent home base for outdoor adventure. Cyclists and hikers can explore the extensive Chautauqua Rails to Trails path, which passes right through Mayville Lakeside Park. Or hike the Chautauqua Gorge, featuring scenic waterfalls, refreshing swimming holes—even a designated skinny-dipping area.The Fred J. Cusimano West Side Overland Trail offers hikers and mountain bikers over 24 miles of trails. 

Like golf? Nearby Peek’n Peak Resort has a world-class course (hosting the PGA Tour over Fourth of July weekend). The resort also offers an Aerial Adventure Course, ziplines, archery, mountain biking. mini golf, Segway tours, a spa, and an indoor/outdoor pool complex. 

Can't get enough boating? Rent a kayak, canoe, or SUP at Evergreen Outfitters. Or, rent a pontoon or powerboat from Chautauqua Marina. The full-service marina is offering Thistlers a $25 discount on boat rentals (offer details).


Need a drink? Beer snobs won’t want to miss Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood. You can also stumble along the Chautauqua-Lake Erie wine trail or sip a cocktail on the lawn at historic Hotel Lenhart in Bemus Point. 


On a rainy afternoon, head to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy in Jamestown, or drool over the classic wooden boats on display at the Lawson Center in Bemus Point.

Schedule of Events

·      Saturday, July 22: Measurement; registration; Women’s and Youth Championships, Chautauqua Belle dinner cruise (1 of 2)

·      Sunday, July 23: Opening ceremony; practice race; reception; BBQ dinner sponsored by a volunteer fire department

·      Monday, July 24: Fleet racing; Chautauqua Belle dinner cruise (2 of 2)

·      Tuesday: Fleet racing; private dinner at Southern Tier Brewing Co.

·      Wednesday, July 25: Championship and President’s Division Racing; post-race reception at Hubbell Boat Club; dinner on your own

·      Thursday, July 26: Championship and President’s Division Racing; BBQ dinner sponsored by a volunteer fire department; Music in the Park (Mayville Lakeside Park) or Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra (Chautauqua Institution)

·      Friday, July 27: Championship and President’s Division Racing; awards banquet at Chautauqua Suites


There is no quota, but early registration is a must. Registration opens March 1; early-registration discount ends June 15; registration deadline is July 7.  Competitors must meet the usual TCA rules for qualifying for Nationals, which may be completed after registering.

We hope to see you in Chautauqua! Questions? Contact regatta co-chairman Tom Hubbell.