A week before the mast

Watch the races or just enjoy the water at Colorado's Grand Lake

Spinnakers snap as the pack of sleek sailboats rounds the final race buoy of Colorado's Grand Lake Regatta. Long and elegant, the 28-foot E-class boats in this heat are the greyhounds in the weeklong series of 20 scheduled races. Out on the water, Canton "Scally" O'Donnell, seven-time winner of the regatta's Lipton Cup, watches the boats jockey for position on the homestretch. "Now they're at the mercy of Grand Lake's fickle winds," he says as the candy-colored spinnakers billow. "Good luck will pick the winner."

This August marks the 91st running of the annual Grand Lake Regatta and the 80th running of the Lipton Cup Races. Hosted by the Grand Lake Yacht Club - which, at an elevation of 8,369 feet, is one of the world's highest yacht clubs - the event attracts landlubbers as well. Grand Lake, 90 miles northwest of Denver on U.S. 34, is near the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. With its swimming, camping, and boating, the lake is a popular summer destination; the village of Grand Lake has plenty of dining and lodging options.

This year you can watch the daily races from the shore, but the real action is on the water. Rent a paddle or power craft from Boater's Choice ($14-$71 per hour; 1246 Lake Ave.; 970/627-9273).

INFO: The Grand Lake Yacht Club's Annual Regatta and Lipton Cup Races (www.grandlakechamber.com or 970/627-3372) runs Jul 31-Aug 7.

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