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Colorado regattas at 9,020 feet.

It's the most popular sailing lake in Colorado--and the most challenging. Dillon Reservoir, about 70 miles west of Denver, sits in a bowl edged by 14,000-foot peaks, so winds gust, swirl, and shift.

Though this sounds like a sailor's nightmare, each weekend from June through mid-October, competitors pit themselves against the tricky winds and each other in club races and open regattas. The races provide quite a show for spectators, with plenty of race viewing spots on the 5,600-acre lake's 26-mile shoreline. The lake is an easy day's outing from Denver, or worth a stopover for vacationers traveling along nearby Interstate Highway 70.

Most action starts near the Dillon Yacht Basin Marina at Gold Run near Tenderfoot Street. Club races with midsize (23-to 25-foot) keelboats occur each Saturday and Sunday starting at noon. On July 6, 7, and 8 some 140 catamarans are expected to compete in the Rocky Mountain Regatta, the country's largest divisional championship race. And on August 11 and 12, sailors will gather for the Dillon Open, Colorado's oldest continuous sailing race series. About 200 keel boats will vie for honors. For both events, races run from about 11 to 3:30.

The lake is surrounded by national forest land, so public access abounds. The best race-watching spot is the dam overlook just west of the town of Dillon on Dillon Dam Road (there's parking nearby). Other good spots include the beach at Heaton Bay Campground, or Sapphire Point Overlook, off Swan Mountain Road on the south shore. Heading south, then east around the lake, you can camp ($4 to $6 per night, no reservations) or picnic at Heaton Bay, Giberson Bay, Peak Number One, Pine Cove, or Prospector.

Sailboat rentals (14- to 26-footers cost $13 per hour to $95 for a half-day) or lessons ($25 per hour) are available at the Dillon Yacht Basin Marina near Tenderfoot Street. Hours are 8 to dusk daily.

At 9,020 feet, Dillon Reservoir is high and breezy, so dress warmly. To get to the lake, take the Dillon exit south from Interstate 70.
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Date:Jun 1, 1984
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