Riding with the wind: Summit teen sailors ready for their second stab at Dillon Open Regatta

From left, Jacob Brewer, 16, of Breckenridge, Rudy Burki, 16, of Dillon, Mason Mitchell, 17, of Eagle, and Thomas Francis, 16, of Copper Mountain, sit on their 22-foot J/22 sailboat, nicknamed “Hardcore ‘Pubs," which they will race in the Dillon Open Regatta this weekend.
Hugh Carey /

2018 Dillon Open Regatta

First flag: 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Spectator boats: Available at 12:45 and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

More information:

Entering Saturday’s Dillon Open Regatta, Rudy Burki weighs 140 pounds.

At this time last year, when he and his Dillon Yacht Club Junior Sailing buddies first attempted to sail a new J/22 racing sailboat into Lake Dillon’s notorious winds, he was just 123 pounds.

At that 2017 Dillon Open Regatta, the hometown teen found his svelte 15-year-old figure grabbing onto a pole attached to the 22-foot-long boat’s mast. Burki clutched it attempting to bring the vessel’s spinnaker sail back down.

In this tumultuous maiden voyage at the Dillon Open Regatta last year, Burki and the Dillon Yacht Club’s Junior Sailing team broached the gifted boat twice resulting in the spinnaker going up over the boat’s mast. The vessel tipped its front down and to the side, partially into Lake Dillon’s windswept currents.

“The boat lays down,” Burki, now 16, recalled with a laugh, “and the spinnaker is still pulling it over and it’s just laying sideways.”

It may have taken more time than they hoped, but the team’s sailing skills, gravity and Burki’s body weight eventually did win out against the physics of Lake Dillon’s winds and currents. The team — which consisted of Burki, Eagle teen Mason Mitchell, Copper Mountain teen Thomas Francis and Dillon Junior Sailing coach James Welch — safely corralled the boat on course. And by the end of the race, they successfully sailed the vessel back into Dillon Marina at a time of 59 minutes and 42 seconds.

To the teen sailors, even if it was a second-to-last place finish, it was still a success.

“We were still figuring everything out,” said Mitchell, a 17-year-old Eagle resident and avid sailor. “Getting everything rigged properly — that kind of stuff.”

One year later, Burki, Mitchell and Francis are set to sail in the J/22 division at their second consecutive Dillon Open Regatta. The J/22 fleet will be one of at least eight racing events as part of this weekend’s 45th annual Dillon Open Regatta. It’s an event that is also serving as a celebration of Dillon Yacht Club’s 50th year.

The Dillon Yacht Club junior sailors will compete in the J/22 fleet division sailing a popular fixed-keel one-design racing boat normally raced with a crew of three or four people. Each J/22 vessel sails thanks to jibs, a mainsail and a large spinnaker.

As for the team of four who will comprise the Dillon junior team’s sailing squad this year, they’ve recruited another local teen to take the place of their coach.

Breckenridge 16-year-old Jacob Brewer is the newcomer to this boat. Brewer will be manning the boat’s fore deck, above the mast, tasked with putting up sails and helping with the vessel’s controls.

Francis will primarily be working the boat’s furthermost jib, the most forward sail on the boat, which resembles a small triangle.

And it’ll be up to Burki and Mitchell to interchange skippering duties. The duo will be tasked with steering the boat and making sure everything runs properly, while also trimming the main sail.

“I’ve always loved being in that constant battle and in harmony with nature,” Burki said of his love for sailing. “It has so much power over you, and if you understand how it works, you have so much power over it.”

Another change for the team this year is the boat’s name. In their typical style of not taking themselves too seriously, the team has affectionately named their J/22 boat “Hardcore ’Pubs” after their group text-message chat of the same moniker. The name, is short for “Hardcore Republicans.” The team said it’s s a reflection of the fun-loving and down-to-earth spirit of their tight-knit group, as it’s a way for the team to kid around about their philosophical differences politically.

Yes, one member of the boat may identify more as a Republican or Democrat than his teammate, but that doesn’t mean this cheerful collection of teenagers from across the political spectrum can’t come together to enjoy their shared passion for sailing.

“Sailing is really for everybody,” Burki said. “If you love nature, if you’re out in nature, if you really love physics, sailing is physics. There’s always something you can find you love in sailing.”

All four team members are products of the Dillon Yacht Club’s Junior Sailing program. These days, they also help to coach and counsel younger prospective sailors at the Dillon Yacht Club’s summer youth camps.

On Friday afternoon, while final set up for the regatta was being completed at the marina, the motley crew of four teen sailors was followed around by one of those campers who has quickly grown to enjoy sailing. Tailing the Hardcore ’Pubs, on his skateboard on the Dillon Marina docks was 9-year-old Nicholas Zagary of Denver. Fresh off of his first Dillon sailing camps this summer, he was ready to watch his mom Kristin Zagary sail on her own J/22 boat, “Shameless,” on Saturday. It’ll be against the four local teens he was following around.

Whoever wins the J/22 this weekend though Nicholas Zagary had a succinct response when asked if he wants to sail in a Dillon Open Regatta of his own one day.


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.