Summer is about big boats and sailing secrets for Brown |

Summer is about big boats and sailing secrets for Brown

DILLON – Jay Brown feels he could spend a lifetime learning how to be a better sailor, but for the time being, he’ll just try to win the Dillon Marina Regatta Race series every summer.

Brown, 42, is one of the four members of the crew of the Hendrix – a J-80 sailboat that’s among the largest in Dillon Reservoir.

Having lived in Summit County for more than seven years, Brown just began his serious sailing stint three summers ago.

“When I was in my 20s, I did some sailing, but it wasn’t racing like we’re doing now,” he said. “I was lacking a lot of the knowledge that you need when you get into racing. Everything matters. Nothing is on the down side. It takes a while to learn this stuff.”

Before his sailing hobby, Brown was a ski representative for Head and Tyrolia. He still skis and races, but he is going to begin incorporating sailing into his winter sports, too.

“I was a ski rep for about 10 years, and I still race for the masters group,” he said. “I train instructors at level 4 – from Vail to Keystone to Loveland. Now that I’m getting older, I think racing sailboats is a lot more fun. (In the winter) my focus usually turns to skiing. This year, I think we’ll do Key West in January and even do some Texas races.”

Brown’s crew also consists of Kurt Vanderwall, who owns the Hendrix and named it after his 25-pound cat, Sue Swisher and Kevin Holliday.

The team took second in the Dillon Regatta series two years ago, won it last year, and, with sponsorship from Christy Sports, is leading the 11 crews of J-80 competitors after five races this summer. Winning races for the team has meant scrambling with the often turbulent and ever-changing winds on Lake Dillon and heaving around turns at the risk of undergoing a “death roll.” In sailing terms, this is when the boat broaches onto its side in the water.

The team’s aspiration this year is to compete in the world J-80 championship in Texas in October.

“It’s very competitive,” Brown said. “Every single thing anyone does in the boat can slow it down or speed it up. The boats that win have a consistent crew. When you start to rotate crews, you don’t get to know what (dynamics) work in a race. You don’t get really good if you’re doing one job, then doing another. On our boat, we’re focusing on our own things this summer. Kevin is doing foredeck, Kurt steers, Sue is doing the main sail. This way, we can start anticipating what the other is going to do. The whole time, you’re looking up at your sail, trying to make sure it’s the shape you want it.”

As far as the crossover from ski racing, Brown said there is more camaraderie and open exchange of strategy involved in racing sailboats.

“The racing aspect in general is pretty competitive,” he said. “Before a ski race, you’re putting on different waxes. In sailing, you’re putting on different sails. What you get with sailing is the camaraderie. Asking questions and giving tips with other competitors is how we learn. In ski racing, you’re never going to tell anyone about your bevel secrets.”

The Sports People series will focus on active Summit Countians every Tuesday in the Summit Daily.

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