An interview with Fleet 28 Captain Tim Dunton
By Andrew Kerr
UK Expatriate Tim Dunton has been leading the charge (along with former class. president and Colorado resident Phillip Infelise) of reenergizing Fleet # 28 in Colorado. As fleet Captain Tim has been an exemplary traveler – attending numerous events all over the country with his S20 Chubasco. Tim is also very active with talking to and e mailing fleet members and getting local regatta participation to increase. One of fleet 28’s goals is to return to the 1998/ 1999 era when the fleet was at its strongest numbers and participation wise. With people like Tim in the fleet with his terrific enthusiasm this is a very achievable goal.
AK: Tell us about the history of fleet 28:
TD: I am relatively new to fleet 28 having only got involved 3 or 4 years ago, so I’ll have to defer the history to other fleet members such as Vern Bybee or Guy Lindsay, the charter member of team Chubasco and one of the founder members of fleet 28.
AK: How many S20’s do you estimate are in the state of Colorado?
TD: I estimate that we have over 20 boats in Colorado and more if you include the New Mexico and Wyoming. The trick is getting more of them active. Participation numbers have declined a little over the last few years for a variety of reasons including post nationals depression, other classes have come on the scene, and also economic reasons. This year we are very excited to see 4 or 5 new members to the fleet, and I hope we can utilize some of their enthusiasm to help improve participation. We also have a very diverse membership ranging from the more “hard core” racers to families that enjoy a less competitive form of participation. The great news is that our local club, the Denver Sailing Association, based at Cherry Creek accommodates everyone. The Wednesday night keel boat series is full on racing where we usually see a good size fleet of Santanas mixing it up, sharing the course with J22’s , U20’s, J24 and the like. We are usually the biggest fleet. Because of our size the DSA also lets us race on Thursday evenings with the dinghies. Thursday has evolved into “family night” where we sail main and blade only (smaller hole in the air for the dinghies). The racing is less hard core than Wednesdays but just as competitive and a lot of fun. Several of our new members who are new to racing are planning to sail on Thursdays. When I am in town I try to jump on other boats on thursdays to help them get the boat set up and help out with racing. As far as weekend regattas go we usually follow the SAIL tour and have had 18 boats on the line at some events. The drought has cause issues at some venues but we have a core that tries to get to most events.
AK: You travel to class events everywhere – how do we get people traveling again and out on the water?
TD: I think the key is to make it fun and family friendly. Several of our venues including such locations as Aspen and Wyoming provide great camping facilities and therefore tend to be supported well by our families who come out for the weekends. This makes for some memorable non sailing times as well as the racing such as the Aspen Open frisbee golf tournament and a Canyon Trip at Wyoming. I am fortunate that I am able to participate in regattas outside our region as well. I believe that traveling this way gives you a tremendous opportunity for improvement. Our results may not be there …yet but the lessons we learn competing against literally the best in the world at fleet events elsewhere are invaluable. We always try to bring our lessons learned back to the fleet and help them improve too. For example this last weekend we had a rig and tune day for the fleet that was attended by several new members and we were able to pass on info we had learned on the road.
For a keelboat, the S20 is a really easy boat to travel. Its light weight make towing easy. We tow behind a motorhome and barely know its there. I think some people can be little intimidated by the launching and retrieval of the boat but they shouldn’t worry because its really quite easy and the way the fleet is there are always plenty of people to help. We use a hoist at our home lake and ramp launch everywhere else
AK: I understand fleet 28 and fleet 37 in Oklahoma are working together on an exciting new SW circuit – tell us about it:
TD: We had met Britt a Nationals a few years ago and admired his Road Warrior spirit. We have tried to emulate that as much as possible with team Chubasco. Last year we were able to head down to Tulsa and sail with Britt at the SW Regionals and had a great time. Britt reciprocated this year by coming over to Lake pleasant in AZ for the birthday regatta in January. Unfortunately work commitments prevented team Chubasco from making the trip but we are planning on heading to Tulsa in May this year and we hope to have a couple of CO boats with us this time. Windycrest is a great venue with camping and RV parking for all. The RC work was second to none and club hospitality was incredible. In a really exiting development Britt along with the Oklahoma and Texas fleets are also planning on using the Dillon open as a feeder Race for Nationals this year so I guess we are on the way to a SW circuit. Britt and team Fayest are great competitors and we look forward to hosting them this year. If all goes to plan it should be quite a sight as a large convoy of S20’s roll out of Dillon on their way to Cascade locks.
AK: I really enjoyed sailing with you and Guy Lindsay at the Dillon Open last year which is a great regatta with a “Key West” feel to it.
Frank Keesling and the Dillon YC do a terrific job. Tell us about the Dillon Open and the other Colorado regattas and what it is like sailing on the different lakes:
TD: Dillon is usually our biggest regatta of the year. With anywhere up to 130 keelboats competing it is a real fun event. Frank and whole team at DYC do fantastic job. The setting is stunning. High in the Colorado Rockies Lake Dillon sits at close to 10,000 feet. I believe Dillon YC is the highest YC in the world. This is often the regatta that will have the largest S20 turnout and we usually take over the visitors dock and create S20 central. As you found out last year Dillon is an “interesting” place to sail. The only guarantee is that you will see just about all conditions imaginable. It is a great leveler, and because of the variable conditions big air or light air specialists cannot dominate. It really teaches you how to change gears on the boat (and how to change headsails too!)
Having grown up in the UK and sailed there on lakes, the Solent and the North Sea and having subsequently sailed all over the world, nothing prepared me for mountain lake sailing. It is awesome! and you get hooked on it. It is very different to the type of sailing I grew up on. The venues are spectacular, the clubs are not the typical urban yacht club but more rustic and geared to camping and cookouts. Every lake has its own character and wind patterns so although local knowledge is useful the crews that are the most versatile will inevitably be most successful. During a weekend regatta we will often see a variety of conditions which means that those crews who can change gears quickly and effectively have an advantage. We don’t deal with swell and sea conditions as the coastal fleets do but we do have to deal with serious wind velocity and direction changes, and sometimes they are quite significant. We also notice that the air is thinner and a 15knt puff at 10,000 feet is not the same as 15knt at sea level. However I don’t care where you are when that 30-40knt squall comes through the fun begins. I don’t know wether it is thinner air or flatter water conditions but we set the boats up a little differently to the tuning guides, particularly in the area of rig tension which is often set little loose.
AK: What do you think the National association can be doing to help fleets like yours grow?
TD: I think having guys like yourself and the other class leaders take the time to come visit makes a big difference. In many OD classes the class elite are just that and never have time for the rest of us. I have never been involved in a fleet that was so open and friendly. We are fortunate to have some of the top sailors in the country if not the world actively participating in our fleet who are also willing to help out the rest of us improve.
I would like to relate an anecdote from this years Schock Memorial Regatta that really illustrates how great this class is.
We were sailing with a new class member on his recently acquired boat Koool. He is driving and has really only raced a few times before. By the fifth race we are a long way out of contention for the regatta but having a great time and found ourselves in the somewhat unusual position of being 1st around the weather mark. A blown spin set by his “ace crew” saw a couple of boats get by us and Mini Me with yourself on board get really close. At this point your whole regatta was probably contingent on getting by us and quickly. Despite this pressure in a major regatta, as soon as you were within hail you found the time to pass on some coaching tips on spin trim pole height etc. to make US faster!!!! I have been involved in sailboat racing for some 40 years and have sailed in my fair share of class regattas big and small but that one example of the Corinthian spirit from one of the top people in our class and sport really illustrates how great this class is.
AK: Many thanks Tim, I am looking forward to the Dillon Open this year and seeing members of fleet 28.