J-24s to cut across Dillon Reservoir

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

When a fleet of one-design keelboats, known as J-24s, take to Dillon Reservoir this weekend, they’ll be vying for a chance to compete in the world championships to be held in Rochester, New York.

The J-24 class is meant to cater to diverse recreational sailors who want to cruise, race, day sail and handicap sail. It’s among the most popular sailboat designs sold.

The beauty and challenge of the J-24 race is putting different types of sailors together on the same boat design, tackling the same course. It’s up to skill (and luck, Frisco Bay Marina manager Phil Hofer said) to win the race.

Sailors have arrived from across the country for the race, and currently 34 boats are registered to compete. About 55 percent of those are locals from the Front Range or the Dillon Yacht Club.

The winner receives the national title as well as the chance to compete in the world championships alongside fellow top 10 placers in the national race. Australians, Europeans, Brits and more will gather for the world competition.

In Dillon, nine races are held today through Saturday. The yacht club won the chance to host the event in a bid process, and it is the first time the J-24 nationals have been on the lake. Last year, the event was in Dallas.

To accommodate the national race, Dillon Yacht Club officials had to prove the lake could accommodate the race. It’s an upwind and downwind course with legs up to 1.5 miles. Dillon Bay to Sentinel Island is 1.75 miles, and from the middle blue to the dam pushes about a mile, Dillon Yacht Club commodore Paul Kresge said.

It’s also a challenge, he added.

“The challenges of sailing on Dillon is variably winds and variable shifty winds. It’s unpredictable with unpredictable micro-climates,” he said, adding that the best perch to watch the races, which often begin at noon, is the overlook on Dillon Dam Road.

The J-24 event comes on the heels of a fun race that kicks off summer sailing on Dillon Reservoir.

Last weekend’s Timberline Cruiser and Fleet Regatta is two-tiered, meant for racers to compete out of Dillon Marina and relaxed sailors to compete for fun out of Frisco Bay Marina.

Proceeds from the event, which tallied about $3,000, go to the Dillon Yacht Club’s junior sailing program and the new Junior Olympic Festival held at the end of July (the yacht club won the bid for that event, too).

On the cruiser end, first place went to Patrick Dorsch in a Catalina 22, Chris Williams won second place in the Ensign “Black Cat,” and third place went to Pete Newton in the Ensign “Dog.” Newton owns Pete’s Good Eats hot dog stand on Main Street in Frisco.

The cruiser competition also had fun awards, such as best costume, which went to the Black Cat crew in Hawaiian attire. Greg Nelson won the last place award on board the “Varekai.”

“It’s still a race and there are people out there to race,” but it’s less severe, Frisco Bay Marina office manager Jenn Shimp said. The race and afterparty raised more money than years past, and more boats entered the regatta than years past, at 27 versus 22.

Results were unavailable from the Dillon Yacht Club for the four divisions of fleet racing, though Kresge commented it was a good race even with variable winds.

“The wind was very shifty and variable which challenged the race committee a bit in setting square courses,” he said.

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