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An interview with Dean Lenz on the 2023 Colorado Governor's Cup Regatta

by David Schmidt 10 Oct 08:00 PDT October 14-15, 2023
Racecourse action on the waters of Colorado's Chatfield Rreservoir © Dean Lenz Collection

When the conversation turns to Colorado, odds are good that it involves the words “climbing” or “skiing”. But, spend a bit of time in Colorado and you’ll find that the beautiful state is punctuated with a number of lakes and reservoirs. And, where there’s water, wind, and people with a strong spirit of adventure, odds are good that competitive sailboat racing will follow.

Enter the Colorado Governor’s Cup Regatta. This event traces its history back about 30 years and enjoys a system of rotating venues, giving sailors the opportunity to race on a number of the state’s freshwater bodies.

Depending on the lake, this can introduce interesting new lexicon. For example, how often is the term “orographic uplifting” bandied around at your YC?

This year’s Colorado Governor’s Cup Regatta is being hosted by the Colorado Sail and Yacht Club (CSYC), and will be contested on the waters of the Chatfield Reservoir, at 5,430 feet above sea level, from October 14-15. The event is open to sailors of all ages and vessels of all types, from dinghies to keelboats.

I checked in with Dean Lenz, regatta chair of the 2023 Colorado Governor’s Cup Regatta, to learn more about this Front Range regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about the history and culture of the Colorado Governor’s Cup Regatta? What kinds of sailors is one likely to encounter at this event?

In the mid ‘90s, the original Colorado Governor’s Cup Trophy was given for the sport of sailboat racing to the Sailing Association of Intermountain Lakes by Bruce and Carole Bates of Bonny Lee Sails. The Trophy was designed by Carl Jensen of Earthworks. Later, a second Trophy was added to recognize centerboard and dinghy racers.

Any Colorado sailing club [that] is a member in good standing of the Sailing Association of Intermountain Lakes (SAIL) and US SAILING may apply to SAIL for authority to host the Governor’s Cup Regatta. The CGC is raced by Colorado Lake sailors of all ages including juniors. It is open to all boats whether they race fleet or handicap.

The Trophies are awarded at the annual Colorado Governor’s Cup Regatta to the overall keelboat and dinghy winners as set forth in this deed of gift. Total points for all races in the regatta for each boat divided by the number of boats competing in that boat’s fleet yields the cup score. Low score wins.

Historically, the regatta participants have come from the Rocky Mountain Front Range extending from Fort Collins to Pueblo, and Denver to Dillon. The Regatta was held annually with some exceptions through 2018. CSYC will be hosting the first CGC regatta since it was suspended due to the pandemic.

How many boats are you expecting on the starting line? Also, where are most of these boats/teams from? The Colorado Front Range? Or are there other geographic hotspots involved?

The CSYC is expecting between 30 and 40 boats, from all over the Front Range. We expect most of the boats will come from the Denver area and Lake Dillon, which ends their season the week before the CGC. There are pockets of racers from Northern and Southern Colorado who may also participate.

How would you describe competition levels at the Colorado Governor’s Cup Regatta?

We have a wide range of skills from beginner to high-level Corinthian sailors. The competition is solid.

We have competitors who travel to other parts of the country to compete in regional, and national competitions ranging from class racing to major events such as the Chicago to Mackinac Race.

Courses are challenging and our volunteer race committees are dedicated to putting on first-class races.

Being at the head waters, Colorado lakes are not large.

Colorado’s favorite racing classes are [the] J/22, J/80, Capri 22, Santana 20, Melges 24, Etchells, [and] J/24 [classes], along with growing centerboard fleets in the Flying Scot and Lightning classes as well as the smaller dinghies such as Melges 15, Snipes, Lasers, and Butterfly fleets.

We have many cruisers who also race in our handicap fleet, from a range of Catalinas to the biggest boat on Chatfield being a C&C 30.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on the Chatfield Reservoir in mid-October? Also, what are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

Being the last regatta of the Colorado sailing season comes with its plusses and minuses. Obviously, October in Colorado can be unpredictable, but our racing season lasts through the end of October, and over the past 10 years we’ve had to cancel very few events.

The nice thing about a two-day regatta is that one day could be snowing and the next its 70 degrees with sunshine. We’ll sail in both.

The fall winds are often on the lighter side, but reasonably steady allowing for several races to be accomplished throughout the day. Storms can roll through bringing rain or snow and gusty winds, but generally do not last long.

Worst case, racing would be cancelled due too low temperature and intense rain or snow. Of course, we would hold for lightning but that’s not a typical issue in the fall.

The best scenario would be sunshine, temperatures in the mid ‘70s with a 12 to 16 MPH breeze.

How would you describe the breeze on the Chatfield Reservoir, compared to other Colorado lakes? Also, how much of an influence do the nearby mountains have on your airflow across the water?

I would say all the Front Range lakes are about the same and are generally influenced by the same weather patterns. The mountain lakes have their own micro conditions that comes with altitude and terrain.

Most of the local lakes are affected by are affected by major fronts and regional weather. We generally get breezes out of the northwest, but we’ll see fairly strong winds out of the south associated with upslope conditions where warm and cool air mix and come up the Front Range.

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

I would just like to say that fall in Colorado is a great time of the year, and there is a lot of fantastic sailing that takes place in the season.

The risk of bad weather impacting both days is historically low, and the competition is going to be really good in all classes.

We believe that hosting the Colorado Governor’s Cup is a great way to closeout a great sailing season, and an excuse to get together with fellow sailors and share this years’ racing experiences, along with a little friendly competition!

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

We are planning on a couple events over the weekend. First, there will be a barbeque Friday evening after checking in at the campsite next to the marina, with burgers and meeting everyone.

Saturday evening will be our dinner and party at a local establishment at the entrance of the park. We will have live music entertainment and a casual dinner where all the participants can gather and enjoy a night of socializing.

Sunday will be [the] awards ceremony in the marina building to wrap up the regatta.

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

Since this is the revitalization of the Governor’s Cup regatta that has been dormant for several years, just getting it going has been the challenge. We are located within a state park, and we follow all the rules and guidelines of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife division.

We want to get some momentum with reestablishing the event, and if successful our goal is to grow it into something bigger that includes outreach and setting the example for responsible utilization of our natural resources.

One thing that is catching on with our members is investing in electric propulsion.

Several of us have purchased electric outboards and it appears to be gaining some momentum with others who have sailboats in the marina.

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

We are excited to be part of Colorado’s sailing community and getting back in the routine of hosting and traveling to regattas. It’s no small task to haul your boat up and down the mountain so we all want to make our events worth the while. The sailing population within the state is not large but enthusiastic and we hope that events like these will help sailing grow in Colorado and the region. Sailing is truly a lifelong sport!

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