Local Sailing Information
Click here for the latest marine weather conditions on Lake Dillon

Lake Dillon is well-known as much for its beautiful scenery
as much as it is for its challenging conditions.

Sailing On Lake Dillon

Past DYC Commodore, and accomplished national sailor, Frank Keesling
provides the following commentary on Lake Dillon sailing conditions:

Lake Dillon offers some of the most challenging sailing conditions in the world. Nestled at 9017ft. the lake is surrounded by 14,000 ft peaks and usually keeps snow up there year round. This creates some very unique wind patterns that blow across the lake in many different directions at velocities that can range from 4 to 40 knots.

The following information may be helpful in preparing your boat as well as your team to tackle Mother Nature at the Nation's Highest Yacht Club. Wind, water and crew. For those of you that have not sailed on Dillon before, come check it out.

If you want to try and call a direction of the prevailing winds, they usually build from the Northwest and come up the valley from through Silverthorne. The day should start off with no breeze until about 11:00am as the land needs a chance to heat up. When this happens, the cooler air that is atop the peaks will start to move towards the warmer land and water below. I'm sure you have heard of the knock down, drag out "Microburst"! Yes, it happens and you had better be prepared for when it hits. This can happen with no clouds or most commonly when a black cloud is approaching. Keep your eyes on Buffalo Head, the big round mountain to the west. They usually come from that direction. There are a few indicators that I have noticed over the years that I want to share for your preparation. During the early summer, keep an eye on the pine trees that surround the lake as when a strong microburst is moving down the hillside it will be removing the pollen from the treetops. Also, keep an eye out for dust that is suspended from the construction in the county and the new dirt is exposed. Keep an eye on the water, other boats and the last indicator, which is too late, your boat is already on its side.

The water on Dillon is considered flat. I usually set up my boat for maximum pointing, as we do not need the power to get through waves. If you ever have waves that affect your performance, it's from one of the very few passing powerboats. Be prepared for very cold water, as the surface temperature really does not get above 50 degrees. Just below the surface the water temperature will drop dramatically. The Summit County Dive Rescue Team gives you about 15 minutes in the water before hyperthermia will set in. If you are racing and you see someone in the water, pick him or her up! You will get more then just a first place in the eyes of your competitors. Your crew is the most precious item you have on your boat. Safety comes first and winning comes second especially on Dillon.

When asked what clothing to bring, crews should have a range from tee shirts to full fowl weather gear and be prepared to wear it all. On the water everybody needs to keep an eye on their surrounding and what is going on. Try to keep your head out of the boat because they will be faced with light shifty winds, medium steady winds, microburst and auto tacks. This can be just as dangerous if the crew is caught off guard. As the new breeze or puff moves across the lake it has to push through the slower moving air in front of it. As the new wind initially hits your boat, it's moving in all different directions and as it passes, you should be prepared for major lifts and or major headers. Always have a hand on the main sheet and the trimmer prepared to ease or blow it off if it's an auto tack.

The summary to all this? It is true, Lake Dillon is a very challenging lake to sail on. Awareness and anticipation are the key ingredients to a successful and safe racing day. It's not uncommon to see two spinnakers sailing right at each other but what makes a good crew is the one that is prepared for the wind that will eventually lose out and be on your nose. So the question is..."how DO YOU trim a spinnaker when it's plastered on your rig"? Good crews talk sailing when sailing, and parting and the party. See you all here in August.

Frank M. Keesling, Past Commodore

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