YOUNGSTOWN – The Youngstown Yacht Club’s new Can Am Challenge Regatta will kick off with a free street dance at 5 p.m. Thursday on Main Street in preparation for a weekend of racing.

The new race replaces the Youngstown Level Regatta, which ended a successful 40-year stretch last summer.

The new regatta will bring back many popular features from the old regatta, but the main difference will be the structure of the race because, “We will have one-design racing,” said Tim Finkle, who is co-chairman of the event with Jason Suitor, who is the club’s commodore.

“This means boats of the same design will be racing each other,” said Finkle. “We’re calling it the Can Am because we have so many Canadian racers. We want to have a friendly rivalry between Canada and the U.S. We’ll have a point system, and we’ll name an overall champion, and it will be like a mini-Olympics.”

Finkle said that the organizers were hoping for 100 entries this first year of the new race and that as of last week, they already had 98.

“We know we’ll be past 100,” he said. “It helps that we had the popular regatta for 40 years here. People can sign up online or even the day before or morning of the race.”

Finkle is the son of Don Finkle, who founded the Level Regatta four decades ago.

The new regatta will echo the Level Regatta in many ways, from the free Thursday street party on Main Street, featuring the Jerry Andres Band, to the Friday and Saturday night parties at the yacht club, open to the public for a fee. County Orphanage will play Friday, and Neville Francis will entertain Saturday.

“The street dance is a village appreciation evening, to thank the village for allowing us to bring all of these sailors in for the weekend,” Finkle said. “The restaurants will be selling food, and we’ll be selling regatta merchandise, like clothes.

“On Friday, we set up, and people come in and dock and register,” he added. “We’ll have a band that night, and the public can buy wristbands for the weekend.”

Racing takes place Saturday and Sunday.

Classes included in this year’s race include everything from the Audi Melges 20 to the eight meters, with J 22s through J 105s, as well as numerous other entries.

Finkle said there will be around 18 to 20 fleets, total, with awards for first, second and third place in each class and an overall winner named Sunday.

Either the United States or Canada will win and take the trophy each year, he said.