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Dillon Open races under perfect conditions

BRYCE EVANS
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado

DILLON – Moments before his crew – made up of his wife Dawn and sons George and Matt – headed out onto the Dillon Reservoir for the Dillon Open Regatta, Bill Darling was trying to remember the last Open he sailed in with weather as pristine as Saturday’s.

“Never,” he said with a laugh.

In fact, during his 14 years of competing in the sailing race, Darling remembers far more “interesting” weather days than calm ones.

“That’s what the Dillon Open is all about,” George quipped while tying down a sail.

And the Darling crew’s sentiments seemed to be carried by most in the field on the opening day of the Dillon Yacht Club’s 36th annual sailing competition, Saturday.

Even club commodore Jeff O’Neil agreed, saying that the elevation of the Dillon Reservoir not only makes the Dillon Open the highest regatta in North America but also one of the trickiest.

“Generally, where most regattas are held, the winds are really consistent and come from one direction,” O’Neil said. “Here, not only do we have fluky winds, but we also have afternoon showers and big thunderstorms that build up. Those create heavy winds and gusty winds from different directions.”

This doesn’t keep sailors away from the shores of Dillon, though. Actually, it’s pretty much the opposite.

“We attract a lot of people from around the country because of the flukiness of the winds and the competitiveness of the sailing,” O’Neil added.

Even in a down economy, the regatta drew 87 crews to the competition, one better than last summer. The boats compete, over two days, in divisions made up by their fleets. Each fleet has roughly three or four races each day, O’Neil said, and a cumulative score is kept to determine a winner when all of the races finish tonight.

Saturday looked to be one of the better days, in terms of weather and wind, in recent years.

Vicky and Scott Jacobs, who own the boat Golden Bear, couldn’t have been happier.

“When it’s good, it’s as good as it can be,” Scott Jacobs said. “When the weather is kind of stinky, it can get pretty terrible. Looks like we have some good weather today, though.”

The Jacobs couple, along with their other two crew members, Steve Walsh and “Tuke,” have been members of the yacht club for a dozen or so years, and they’ve all seen their fair share of nasty weather.

“Two years ago, we were out her on the Sunday, and we were in our foul-weather gear,” Jacobs said. “The women were below and Steven and I were on the deck. There was hail and rain and lots of wind.”

The Darlings also have had some trouble on the reservoir.

“In one of the Dillon Opens, we had an ensign and we nearly sunk it,” Bill Darling said. “It got knocked down, when (my sons) were about six. The wind just knocked it down. It didn’t sink, but it filled up with water, and we had to get towed in by the sheriff.”

Regardless of some of the tougher times – or maybe because of it – the Dillon Open remains a popular attraction for sailors from around the country. O’Neil feels a lot of it has to do with the technical skill required to maneuver the courses.

“I relate it a lot to a Midwest skier to a Colorado skier,” he said of sailing the reservoir. “A Midwest skier can make a lot of turns in a short area. Here, we’re used to wide-open, graceful turns because we have the whole mountain.

“(The) Dillon (Open) is more like a Midwest skier in that you have to be right on your game and be able to make that split-second decision. It changes just that quick. A slight wind shift can send you right off course.”

This year’s regatta featured a few slight changes in comparison to previous years. For the first time, the DYC held a junior competition that featured a handful of its youth sailors. Also, Audi was added as a sponsor and offered spectators and competitors free looks at its new lines.

The racing continues today at noon at the Dillon Marina.


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