2012 Dillon Open

Spanning the State to bring you the constant variety of winds… the thrill of victory…. and the agony of defeat…the human drama of sailboat competition… this is the Wide World of U20 racing.

But, the competition would have to wait. As in Aspen 3 weeks ago, Mother Nature was in charge and would not be rushed. She did finally cooperate and provided adequate winds for some very competitive racing. Lake Dillon served up its usual challenge of favoring one side of the course or the other. If you picked the correct side, you were rewarded with a place at the front of the pack. And, as you might expect, picking the wrong side provided a commensurate punishment. Nothing is ever certain in sailboat racing.

Underdog started the day by tacking away from the fleet in the first race for an expected lift on the right side of the course. The lift miraculously appeared and this initial gain provided the boost needed to put Underdog in position for a win in race #1 with Marty May and Mark Allen hot on our tail.

In race #2, the rounding of the windward mark was very crowded. The leaders jibed to port tack, but Brad Lawson remained on starboard with his spinnaker flying and sailed over to course left (looking upwind). This proved to be the right move as he passed the three leading boats and scored a win for Redbeard. Most of the remaining boats in the fleet crossed the finish in a very tight formation with Mark Allen second, Marty May 3rd.

Race #3 would be Jim Ulatowski’s turn to score a win as he passed Underdog heading into the windward mark rounding due to a mistake by Underdog’s skipper. However, Underdog had the spinnaker stashed on the starboard side instead of the usual port side, requiring us to jibe then set spinnaker after the windward rounding. Juiced! would no doubt have passed us there if we had not allowed him to do so earlier. You just can’t make mistakes in this fleet, because someone else will be right there to capitalize on it. Frankly, we were just plain lucky that no one else passed us during the jibe set.

As the fleet approached the downwind finish for race #3 a stiff breeze was moving down the lake. Juiced! and Underdog managed to finish just prior to its arrival. Marty on Red Line had dowsed his spinnaker just before the finish to avoid broaching from the oncoming wind. However, Brad on Redbeard did not dowse and was flying down the lake at high speed. As he attempted to pass Red Line to windward, Red Line luffed him and my understanding of the event is that Redbeard did not keep clear thus causing a foul. To the best of my knowledge that was the only protest in the Dillon Open from the U20 fleet. It was settled in arbitration.

In race #4, Underdog made a good start with clear air. On the windward leg we found a few favorable shifts and tacked on them, thus managing to round the windward mark first with most of the fleet very close behind and battling for position for the rounding. Underdog then caught a nice downwind breeze that extended the lead just enough to allow us to put a loose cover on the fleet and cruise down to the finish unmolested. Red Line was not far behind in second and Juiced! was just behind him in 3rd.

Thus ended the first day of the Dillon Open with Underdog holding a hair thin, one-point lead over Red Line with Jim and Mark tied for 3rd, only 4 points behind the lead.

Sunday morning had us bobbing around the lake avoiding water cannons and water-balloon sling shots from the J-22’ and Santana 20’s. It took quite a while before we had enough wind to start racing, and when we did, the winds were light, shifty, fluky and whatever other pejorative adjectives one can imagine. But, just like at Aspen, Sunday should be renamed to Juiced!-day. Jim and crew took control right from the start and posted another bullet in race #5 with Redbeard 2nd and Red Line 3rd. In the final race, Marty May was leading around the windward mark, but just like on Saturday, he made the mistake of jibing over to port tack to sail course center while Jim remained on starboard and headed for course left (looking upwind). This move paid off as it had in most races all weekend and Jim scored another win for Juiced!. Underdog pulled a similar move in the final race, going from 5th to 3rd by riding a breeze down course left while Mark and Brad were in the center.

Marty had to settle for second and later commented the he had “grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory”. How true, Jim and Marty finished the regatta tied in points, but Marty had not won a single race, so the tie breaker went to Juiced!. It is a testament to Marty’s consistently good sailing that he managed a tie for the lead without a win any one race.

And so, the final race would determine the trophy positions.

The conditions this year were reminiscent of the U20 North American championship regatta held at Dillon a few years ago. Lake Dillon gave us enough wind for competitive racing but never showed any temper tantrums or made any attempts to create carnage. Several racers commented that this was a very enjoyable regatta with some of the tightest racing the fleet has ever seen.

Congrats to Jim Ulatowski for a great win at Dillon. He and his crew certainly enjoyed the thrill of victory. I for one, and I’m sure others as well, felt a certain amount of agony from coming so close to victory but enduring defeat.

Next up is the Colorado Governors cup on September 22-23 at Cherry Creek.