Making a lot out of a little in Colorado

Published on January 18th, 2023

In Sailing World, David Powlison profiles a sailing club in Colorado that makes a lot out of a little.


It’s just before 1 p.m. on a weekend afternoon in mid-August, and Snipe sailors are rigging their boats. There are eight of them, including one that my daughter, Meredith, and I have borrowed; it’s our first time racing together in years.

The fleet ranges from 40-year-old boats to a pristine new model, and the plan is to get in three races before the afternoon thunderstorms roll in.

We’re racing out of the Union Sailing Club on Union Reservoir, in Longmont, Colorado—not exactly what comes to mind when you think of sailing. But adhering to the “if you build it, they will come” model, a determined group of locals, along with a number of transplants from more known sailing venues, have been making it work since 2004.

Sail GP

The Snipes, Union’s largest fleet, race on the occasional Saturday afternoon. On Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings, anyone who wants to race shows up with whatever boat they have and are part of one to three mass-start races. Typically, those include not only Snipes but also assorted dinghies, from Lasers and Melges 14s to MC Scows and Mutineers—often 10 to 20 boats.

Their playground is one of the few natural lakes in Colorado—a 736-acre body of almost round, unobstructed water at most 30 feet deep owned by the city of Longmont. Only wakeless boating is allowed, which basically means no powerboats—a real bonus on light-air days. Except for the imposing Rocky Mountains to the west, this could be the sailing ­equivalent of Anytown, USA.

As yacht and sailing clubs go, Union is what you end up with when you strip away the ­amenities—clubhouses, bars, dining rooms, tennis courts and so forth—until it’s just the essentials: water, racing boats, a single dock, a small $300 pontoon race-committee boat, a storage and launching area, a large dirt parking area, no permanent structures, a Port-o-Let in one corner, and a large tent with picnic tables underneath.

On the water, they’ve anchored nine white cylindrical marks, set up like numbers on a giant clock. The RC parks in the center and selects the marks. Simple. It’s a stark reminder to Meredith and I how little we need to practice our sport. – Full report

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