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McConaghy 2022 - MC63p & MC75 LEADERBOARD

An interview with John Clarkson on the 2022 Carter Lake Sailing Club Open

by David Schmidt 1 Jun 08:00 PDT June 4-5, 2022
Santana 20 racing action at the Carter Lake Sailing Club Open © Nina Rogers

Back in the early 2000s, I spent a handful of years living on Colorado’s Western Slope, and while the skiing, climbing, and 14er-ing are all fantastic, the state has an uncurable saltwater problem that eventually sent me scurrying back to the coasts (first right, then left). What I didn’t realize at the time was that the Centennial State also has a rich culture of racing on lakes that are at least a vertical mile above sea level.

A great example of this is the 2022 Carter Lake Sailing Club Open, which is being is hosted by the Carter Lake Sailing Club on the waters of Carter Lake, in Larimer County, Colorado, from June 4-5.

A look at the registration list reveals a variety of small keelboats, including Santana 20s, Catalina 25s, J/22s and Capri 26s. A look at Google Maps reveals that Carter Lake is roughly 55 statutory miles north-northwest of Denver (near Loveland), a visit to Wikipedia portends that the manmade lake reservoir covers roughly 1,100 acres, and a Google search advises that this particular body of freshwater is situated at 5,760 feet above the brine.

I checked in with John Clarkson, chairman of the 63rd annual Carter Lake Sailing Club Open, via email, to learn more about this high-elevation regatta.

How many boats are you expecting on the starting line?

We are expecting around 25 boats [to enter] the regatta this year in four different fleets.

Are there any limits to the size of boats that can enter? What about the number of hulls?

The regatta is open to all self-righting keel boats. There are no limits to the size or [the] amount of hulls in the race.

How would you describe competition levels at the Carter Lake Open Regatta?

We currently have enough boats registered for four separate classes.

The first class, PHRF Class A, consists of boats with a PHRF lower than 200. These participants tend to be folks with a little more bend towards the racing aspect of the sport with faster boats and more experienced crews.

The second class, PHRF Class B, consists of boats with a PHRF rating of 201 or higher. Generally, these Class B participants tend to have more cruiser style boats, but still very interested in going fast.

The third class we have is the "C" Fleet and these folks are total cruisers just looking to go out on the lake, [support] the regatta and [have] a great time sailing around with other cruisers drinking LaCroix and eating fruit salad!

The fourth class we have are the Santana 20s and I think these sailors have a well-defined reputation within the Sailing Association of Intermountain Lakes—they travel, they have fun, and they make those boats fly across the water!

We may also have last minute class of J/22s, and I really hope that comes about since those boats are really fun to be around when the wind picks up!

Are most boats local or does this regatta create regional gravity? If you do attract out-of-state sailors, have you ever heard of competitors suffering from altitude-related illnesses at the regatta?

This is our 63rd Annual Open Regatta. We have seen as many as sixty boats on the water during some of the more attended years.

I would say our attendance has been a ratio of 50/50 club boats vs traveling sailors.

Thankfully, I have never heard of anyone suffering from altitude sickness at our elevation at Carter Lake.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on Carter Lake in early June? Also, what are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

We put our docks in the water mid-March, and from that time until June we have plenty of stiff wind conditions.

June is when the winds start to settle down so it is typical to have mixed conditions during the regatta with some very solid winds and some temporary calmer periods to get a chance to grab a bite to eat during a race.

How would you describe the breeze on Carter Lake, compared to other CO lakes (Dillon, etc.)? Also, how much of an influence do the nearby mountains have on your airflow across the water?

In general, Carter Lake is a wonderful sailing experience. Spring is a little crazy, summer is generally mellow and fall is awesome!

We may have a lower exposure to extreme wind events than Dillion, but Carter has certainly seen conditions where boats need to seek shelter. Our location on the Front Range of the [Colorado Rocky] Mountains does offer localized weather patterns, and apps like weatherunderground and windfinder do have local stations which are very helpful.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting and local sailors, what would be it?

Secure lodging and logistics. We have a limited amount of visitor slips and camping sites reserved on a first come-first serve basis. There are some parking spots for overnight trailer sailors and plenty of hotels close to the lake if on-water spots are not available.

What kind of onshore/evening entertainment do you and the other organizers have planned?

This is where the Carter Lake Open Regatta really shines! We have a clubhouse in the forest next to the lake. We have a full kitchen, a large deck that accommodates full blown get-together and plenty of parking.

Our regatta offers breakfasts both days and a catered dinner and live music on Saturday evening, complete with a silent auction and awards presentation to make any sailor blush.

Can you tell us about any recent steps that the regatta has taken to reduce its environmental footprint or otherwise “green-up”?

We have recycling stations during the regatta for disposal of compostables, glass, and aluminum, and cool clear Colorado high-country fresh water provided from our local water district tap to reduce the need for plastic water bottle sources.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?

Our club is an all-volunteer outfit, and all of our members do their best to accommodate our visiting sailors. Please reach out to us on our website at Carter Lake Sailing Club—it's all about sailing and fun:

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