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Franken-Gatta: Is It Skiing? Is It Sailing?

If you want to sashay down the slopes and race around the buoys, this is your regatta.

March 14, 2012
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Any good regatta organizer knows that it’s best to make the most of what your sailing venue has to offer, whether it’s big wind, beautiful scenery, excellent food, night—I mean dance—clubs, or any and all of the above. And some venues—think Key West or San Francisco Bay—maybe have a little more to work with than others. Regardless, it always pays to think outside the box.

Take the Laser fleet of Park City, Utah. They have an enthusiastic, fun-loving fleet. They have a surprisingly excellent sailing area, the Jordanelle Reservoir, which is tucked into the mountain landscape, but by a quirk of the Gods (or maybe it was the engineers who built the thing) has pretty reliable, and sometimes honking, winds. How do I know? Well, I went racing there, in the 2011 No Coast Regatta.

Photo: Kevin Hooker

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That was enough (okay, the steak dinner and copious craft beers helped) to sell me on the idea of Park City as a Laser sailing destination. But the Park City Laser-heads aren’t prepared to rest on pure sailing fun. Perhaps they have too much time on their hands. Perhaps they are geniuses. Maybe both. Either way, last year they launched a regatta that takes full advantage of Park City’s mountain location: the SkiGatta.

It’s a brilliant, though almost inevitable, idea. Take two days. Sail on the first. Ski on the second. Combine the scores to determine who kicks ass best on both water AND snow. The first SkiGatta, held last April, was blessed with a massive snow dump and light enough winds to keep the Lasers upright (sailing day photos are here). Jay Miles, the winner over eight other ski-sailors, had a nearly perfect background for success. He was a college sailor, but spent his early school years being taken out of class to travel to northeast ski resorts by a father who sold advertising for Skiing magazine.

“Jay is falling down on his ABCs,” a miffed teacher wrote on his Kindergarten report card. “Yeah, but he could ski your ass off,” Miles’ father wrote back.

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“We sailed college-style races right off the ramp, because we were the only ones crazy enough to be on the water. Then we came in and had a killer party Saturday night,” Miles says of the 2011 SkiGatta, with NASTAR-style slalom runs to follow on Sunday (ski day photos are here). “We had an absolute blast.”

This year the SkiGatta is being sponsored by two apparel companies—Atlantis and Cloudveil, which means great swag—and will go down March 31-April 1. The skiing, which features four timed runs (racers are allowed one throwout) may fall on April Fool’s Day, but there is a method beyond the foolishness. In addition to firing up the Laser sailors for the eventual start of the true sailing season, the SkiGatta is oddball enough that Salt Lake City media (and SailingWorld.com!) takes note. Last year, a couple of Salt Lake City sailors joined the Park City Laser Fleet after hearing all the SkiGatta hoopla. The SkiGatta hasn’t quite become a must-event for skier/sailors all over the country, but the Park City Laser fleet makes it as easy as possible for visiting sailors—perhaps out for the Spring skiing—to compete. The $150 entrance fee (NOR is here) includes a chartered Laser, dinner, and a Park City ski pass.

Combining skiing and Laser racing is not completely new. Tahoe has been hosting the “Ski/Sail National Championships” with sailing on Lake Tahoe and skiing at Squaw Valley. So perhaps there is a Park City versus Tahoe smackdown for true SkiGatta dominance in the future. In the meantime, if you love both skiing and sailing you no longer have to choose between one or the other. You can do both. On the same weekend. Yes, it’s a beautiful world out there.

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