2011 Skigatta

What do you get when you cross a snowman and a vampire? Frostbite! What do you get when you cross a skier and a sailor? Park City’s first ever Ski/Sail Regatta! That’s right; a group of hearty local residents dusted the snow off their boats and waxed their skis this past weekend to combine two of their passions and partake in Park City Sailing Association’s inaugural SkiGatta event.The below freezing temperatures and flurries of snow we experienced last weekend did not deter this burly bunch. Saturday April 9th 2011 saw the sailing aspect of the event held on the partly frozen Jordanelle Reservoir, with the skiing section held on Sunday April 10th at Park City Mountain Resort’s NASTAR course. Nine competitors took part in the event, consisting of six regular members of the Park City Sailing Association and three newcomers to the group, one who had never sailed on the Jordanelle Reservoir, and one who braved the weather for their first-ever Laser sailboat experience. Brave indeed!“These are a group of determined guys!” commented newcomer Bill Gillingham, a pilot of SkyWest airlines and resident of Cottonwood Heights, Salt Lake City, “I’m used to doing my sailing on the warmer waters of Tennessee, where I am originally from, so the snowmelt of Jordanelle is quite a change.” As we surveyed the dark frigid waters of the lake, surrounded by snow-covered mountains, and watched the vehicles pass along the side of the reservoir, one spectator commented, “The people driving past on Highway 40 must wonder what on earth is going on!”

After a skipper’s meeting to discuss the sailing races (there would be five races in a windward-leeward format, with the start and finish in the middle) and some warming coffee, the team donned their gear and began unrolling their sails and rigging their boats as the snow fell upon them. They looked quite a sight: bundled up in dry-suits, their heads topped with wool hats and ski goggles, and hands covered in rubber dishwashing gloves secured with elastic bands. The sailors, who were all on Lasers (dinghy boats which are 13ft. 10in. long and weigh 130 lbs), were out on the water from 12:30 to 2:30 pm. They experienced westerly winds of 6-8 knots, with stronger gusts of about10 knots, and an air temperature of 31 degrees Fahrenheit. The water was between 30 and 40 degrees according to Utah State Parks.

One member, Buster Pike commented, “The water was not too bad. The dry suit certainly helped, although I did feel a bit encumbered by my gear”. The get-up, however strange looking, was necessary to keep the sailors warm and dry. Many were seen swinging their arms in between races to ward off frozen fingers. One sailor in particular, new member Caleb King, who lives in Washington DC for part of the year and Park City the rest, was certainly glad of his dry suit after fully capsizing and plunging into the icy waters in the first race. He still came to shore with a smile on his face, commenting on his bright red outfit: “It worked!”

After a party on Saturday evening at the Blind Dog restaurant in Park City, the team was ready to swap their boats for skis and hit the slopes the next day. The weather was much improved on Sunday for the skiing, with blue skies and sunshine. Ironic with snow for sailing and blue skies for skiing, but this group appears to have a good time whatever the weather. The participants met at Park City Mountain Resort’s NASTAR course at 10:00 am. The pre-race meeting explained they would be allowed four races each, two on each course to allow for disparity between sides.

The group had one telemark skier and the rest on alpine skis, with one participant dressed in a gorilla suit (no one wore a GS race-suit as they didn’t want to take things too seriously)! Spectators noticed the racers trying hard though, skating at the start for speed, hands out in front knocking into the gates, tucking low for aerodynamics, and the occasional grunt of effort. A few crashes ensued, but the results of the skiing aspect were close. Buster Pike noticed, “Everyone was pretty fast in the skiing”, with another member Bill Gillingham agreeing, “The skiing was tight, there were only a couple of seconds difference overall”.

With the sailing and skiing races both over, the participants headed to Legends Bar & Grill in Legacy Lodge, PCMR, to relax and wait for scores to be tallied. Contestants were ranked on their positions in each race and were allowed to throw out their worst score in both disciplines. The top three overall winners of the SkiGatta were: Jay Miles in first place, Karsten Gillwald in second place, and Geoff Hurwitch in third place, who all received hand-carved wooden goblet trophies.

When asked what made the group interested in doing this event, Park City Sailing Association President Geoff Hurwitch’s response was, “We were inspired by the Ski/Sail National Championships in Lake Tahoe, California”. The event originated there in 1995 and they have been holding an annual Ski/Sail event ever since. Hurwitch mentioned, “We have a similar venue, in that we have skiing available so close to sailing. There are very few places that can do that.” He also mentioned he had plans to contact the club in Lake Tahoe and invite them to the Park City event. “We could go to their event and they could come to ours, but it might be hard as the events were held on consecutive weekends this year.” The Lake Tahoe event is scheduled for April 16th - 17th 2011.

The Park City Sailing Association plans to make this an annual event and looks forward to more entrants joining in the SkiGatta next year.