How to run a proper Beer Can Race

Published on February 27th, 2019

Most issues related to participation are connected to investment. The more someone must give in time and money will reduce the number of people willing to give. Racing is the drug that feeds the addict, but if the format is focused on casual competition, the event becomes infinitely more inclusive.

With an eye toward the upcoming season, D. B. Tanner shares this report from the Colorado Rocky Mountains:


As Commodore of Dillon Yacht Club for the last four years and as a member for many years before, I’d advocated running a weeknight Beer Can race at Dillon Reservoir, in the mountains 75 miles west of Denver. However, none of the members would ever bite because of the distance they had to drive (2/3 of our members are from the Denver area, the remaining 1/3 live in the mountains).

But I would not let the idea die, and when the assistant manager (now manager) of Dillon Marina volunteered their slip holder mailing list (can’t think why I never asked them), it was the kaboom moment I sought.  Soon enough a series was born with participants, no entries (just show up), and no charge. What started with 9 boats the first Thursday has peaked at 24 boats.

What are our rules? There aren’t many – stay on the boat, no protests, carry a radio, and be nice to each other as we’re here for fun. The single start was a blue flag at 5 minutes with 1 minute calls on the radio and the blue flag drops when the horn sounds.

There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing 24 boats of all sizes on starboard at the horn with 14,000-foot peaks in the background (we had a VERY long start line). The format is purposely simple and the racers and cruisers loved it! The Sheriff’s boat acts as an emergency chase boat that we’ve never needed.

So who played along? How about a Schock 40 (PHRF -6) to an Islander Bahama with J/boats, Catalinas and everything else on the lake in between. The winner of the series (12 weeks, 23 races) was a Catalina 22 and the SO (significant other) of the J/22 owner who had never been on the helm was 2nd, the Marina manager on his Capri 30 was 3rd.

The Yacht Club which facilitated the series with a two person RC got five new members (all cruisers) and the Marina and Sheriff got some great PR. Prizes? A medallion for each participant over the summer and bragging rights.

Everybody won!

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