Dillon Open to test the best this weekend | SummitDaily.com

Dillon Open to test the best this weekend

Geoff Mintz
summit daily news
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Sailing can be a mental and physical challenge at sea level, but at altitude, it’s a complete beating of mind and body.

The 38th annual Dillon Open returns to the Dillon Reservoir this weekend with 11 competitive fleets and more than 100 boats, making it Colorado’s largest sailing regatta. Competition begins on Saturday and all proceeds benefit the Dillon Yacht Club’s junior sailing program.

Part-time Keystone resident Scott Snyder keeps his Etchells (sailboat) on the reservoir. He says sailing in Summit County is a unique experience and the Dillon Open, which is the largest inland regatta west of the Mississippi, is a special event.

“It really is the biggest event of its kind for the sailing community in Colorado,” Snyder said. “A lot of us travel and we compete in other areas, but for most people in this region, it’s the big event on the calendar. It’s the one chance to compete against a lot of people that you don’t get to see very often. It’s fun to see how many people will travel here as a destination.”

This would have been Snyder’s 13th year participating in the Dillon Open, but due to a very serious injury in last weekend’s Courage Classic, he might have to sit this one out and let his team do their best. He said the conditions are very challenging, not only for visiting sailors, but folks who sail the reservoir everyday.

“Anytime you sail two miles above sea level, you’re likely to get weather conditions that are completely foreign to somebody who sails on a lake at sea level or on one of the coasts,” he said. “I think the people that sail on Lake Dillon are known around the country as being extremely good sailors in terms of being able to sail in almost any kind of condition. They’re used to sailing in very fluky conditions. The wind is constantly shifting around, and you just don’t get that on the coasts.”

Lisa Wildeman, spokeswoman for the Open, said there’s a unique weather pattern caused by the warm air hitting the high-alpine snow and pushing wind down the mountains. Basically what sailors get on the reservoir is swirling, 360-degree winds, which makes things very challenging.

“People come from all over. It’s a very international regatta and it’s known as the highest regatta in the world,” she said. “The competition is very good. The Colorado sailors are actually extremely good.”

The Dillon Yacht Club, founded in 1968, is the nation’s highest yacht club. (Apparently, there’s one in Peru that’s higher, but for a while they thought it was the highest in the world.) Colorado has no shortage of top contenders, and the yacht club is proud to claim several of its members as past winners of the regatta.

Spectator boats are available and there will be entertainment for the public. The yacht club open house will take place tonight at 6, followed by dinner and music.

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