Wisconsin Sailors Dominate Challenging Buccaneer 18 North American Championship Regatta

“Blind Squirrel” takes first place; extreme wind interrupts racing on day three.

Lake Dillon, Colo.—The four days of racing at the forty-fourth Buccaneer 18 North American Championship Regatta (BNAC), held on spectacular Lake Dillon in Colorado’s high country, were hard-fought and exciting. The competition included four former BNAC champions along with local favorites holding several national titles. Twenty-three boats competed in the Championship “A fleet,” with seven boats in the “B fleet” and all boats starting together.John Weiss and Jay Foght, from Kenosha, Wisc., took first place for the A fleet on “Blind Squirrel.” Full results

On the last day of racing two races were held with three boats in contention for the championship. As was the case for most of the races, wind came in strongly with unpredictable gusts on the course. The top three, Weiss and Foght on “Blind Squirrel,” along with Ed Montano and Shannon Devine on “Atrevida”—both from Kenosha—and Dillon Yacht Club’s Frank Keesling and Robin Jackson aboard “Stella,” had their work cut out for them. Montano scored second in the first race but ninth in the last. In the end, Weiss and Foght won the last race to win the regatta with 20 points and three race wins, Montano took second with 21 points and three wins, and Keesling came in third with 23 points. Jim Daus and Nate Burger were fourth on “Quack Quack Quack,” and Jimmy and Kristi Yurko took fifth on “Dragonarse.”

Thursday’s racing was interrupted by a sustained high wind event late in the day. During the third race, just after 5pm, there was a sudden increase in wind speed under clear skies as the fleet was on the downwind leg of the course. Many sailors found it impossible to control their boats, and a third of the fleet capsized in the cold mountain lake. Several others were able to douse their spinnakers and continue to the leeward mark, only to find it impossible to continue upwind in nearly 40 mph wind that lasted around 45 minutes. Racing was abandoned and a rescue operation commenced.

Emory Heisler of Arizona reported later that the RaceQs replay showed his boat traveling at over 17 mph. He and his crew were able to keep the boat under control and make it safely back to the marina. Others were taken to shore by the Summit County Sheriff boat or Dillon Marina staff who organized a hasty rescue of the sailors. Due to this quick reaction, no injuries were sustained, and all boats were brought back to the marina safely before dark with only minor damage.

A safety briefing had been held on the day prior to racing and crews and their boats were prepared to douse sails quickly and be properly dressed for swimming if needed. The next day the sailors were back on the lake to conclude the regatta with a few bruises and renewed enthusiasm. Denver television and regional newspapers reported the incident as a “microburst” — characterizing small boat racing in the context of an “extreme sport.”

“We focused on communication and making sure no one was separated from their boats,” said Principal Race Officer Paul Kresge. “It’s very fortunate that the only issues were cold skippers and crew…Prior to abandoning racing and aiding the sailors we had a velocity reading of 38 mph.”

“The high altitude venue posed challenges over and above past regattas, but all considered I think it was one of our finest hours,” said long-time Buccaneer 18 sailor Dave Rawstrom of New Jersey. “Sailors responded quickly with self-rescue and were immediately ready to assist others where needed.”

Other prizes were awarded to:

*B fleet winners Michael Parker and Joelle Grande of Phoenix, sailing “Rainie’s Day.”

*Cameron Holland and Max Williams, junior sailors representing Community Sailing of Colorado, who were 14th overall and showed incredible skills for their age. Cameron and Max were also awarded a Sportsmanship award for abandoning racing to aid another team that had capsized.

* Kyra Tallon of Washington, D.C., was the highest scoring female skipper.

*Masters’ champions were father and son team Scott and Neal Laundry of Homer, N.Y.

Thirty boats attended – coming from across the U.S. – attracted by the challenging conditions and the world class vacation destination of Dillon, Summit County, Colorado. The sailors definitely got what they were looking for from this regatta – exciting sailing at a very high level and fantastic reunion with friends off the water. Evening events were hosted at the Dillon Yacht Club. Sponsors of the event included – Nickels Boat Works, celebrating 10 years building the Buccaneer 18; Sailmakers Quantum 1Design, North Sails One Design & Schurr Sails; and Zhik sailing gear. Many other local and national sponsors also helped support the event.

The 2015 Buccaneer 18 Championship will be hosted by the Southern Maryland Sailing Association in Solomons, Md., October 1-3.


The Buccaneer 18 dinghy was designed in 1970 by Rod MacAlpine-Downie and Dick Gibbs and is currently manufactured by Nickels Boat Works of Flint, Mich. The easy-to-trailer and rig 18-foot sailboat features a roller furling jib, spinnaker dousing tunnel and fast planing hull. Fleets from Alaska to Maryland host scheduled club racing and regional regattas throughout the year. A video about the Buccaneer 18 class produced during the event featuring aerial shots from a remote drone can be viewed here http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/2014/08/14/video-sharing-love-buccaneer-18/

As BCA Commodore Jimmy Yurko remarked, “This boat and its sailors are like family.”