Ladies First

It’s a perfect weekend in Summit County, and there are only minutes to go before the start of a race in Dillon Yacht Club’s summer regatta series. Sixteen sailboats prepare for the starter’s gun.

August 2003

Unlike most land-based races, where participants start from an orderly formation, sailboats can’t start or stop with the push of a pedal, so the crews pace back and forth behind the line, simultaneously timing their approach, planning their strategy for the first leg of the race, and trying to avoid a collision with their competitors. The sound of wind, water, flapping sails, and shouts from the other boats blends into a symphony of action and tension.

With 30 seconds to go, the 3,500-pound boats are inches apart as the crews jockey for the best position. A good start, even by a few feet, can mean several places at the finish.

All of the boats are J-24s, 24-foot-long boats that share a common design and must race under strict rules that limit modifications. The idea is to create a level playing field where skill, and not the technology or size of your wallet, determines the fastest boat.