Stadium Sailing Comes to Navy Pier
The stage is set for the Chicago Grade 2 Invitational alongside Navy Pier's Taste of Tall Ships Festival
Chicago Grade 2 Invitational
Chicago, IL- Stadium sailing is coming to Chicago's Navy Pier Aug 12-14 with the Chicago Match Race Center's Grade 2 Invitational. CMRC's Grade 2 event has been upgraded considerably from last year as the stage is set for teams to compete right in front of one of Chicago's largest tourist attractions. CMRC is proud to also be partnering with Navy Pier's Taste of Tall Ships Festival, which attracted more than 100,000 visitors last year.
The event itself features 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist Anna Tunnicliffe (USA), World Match Race Tour Champion Bill Hardesty (USA) and Intercollegiate Champion Taylor Canfield (ISV) amongst the field of 10 international teams. This top-ranked talent will provide exciting match racing action for the crowds at Navy Pier, something that last year's Chicago Match Cup winner Mike Buckley (USA) appreciates in the new venue. "Sailors spend so many hours racing around the ocean far from the public eye. Stadium-style sailing finally allows the general public to relate to we yacht racers do," explained Buckley.
Stadium sailing is at the forefront of bringing the sport to the general public through high visibility racing. This style has been successfully featured this year at the Oracle RC44 San Diego Cup and in Boston with the Extreme Sailing Series, and will be brought to San Francisco in the 34th America's Cup in 2013. "CMRC really understands the growing changes in our sport and has worked hard to create a venue that will help bring match racing to another level in the US," Buckley went on. Sailing Director and competitor Taylor Canfield and Program Director Tod Reynolds agree that CMRC is "moving ahead with the trends."
This is some of the highest caliber racing Lake Michigan has seen in a single event, with Tunnicliffe's Team Maclaren in the spotlight. Team Maclaren is preparing for their 2012 Olympic quest for gold in the Women's Match Race event and see sailing in an open event as a learning experience to add to their list. "I'm sure Navy Pier will provide great, but tricky, conditions," Tunnicliffe remarked. "It is definitely a part of our game that we want to keep improving on and this will be a great opportunity for that."
Will Tiller (NZL) will be the highest-ranked skipper in the event, coming in at 22nd in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings. His Team Full Metal Jacket's goal is to breach the top 15 in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings. They're on the right track with the combined members of the team having won a total of 12 major youth match race regattas, along with 8 national titles.
Predicting a winner amongst the teams is difficult, as spectators and sailors alike learned last year. "Buckley was the underdog, being the lowest-ranked skipper to enter last year's event," said Reynolds. "Yet he came ahead in the Finals to win the whole thing, so we're not going to be placing any bets this year." At 119th in the world, Buckley this year is ranked slightly better: second lowest in the field.
Jordan Reece (AUS) and his young team, True Blue Racing, had a podium finish at last month's Eurex Match Cup. One would think a previous 3rd place would help boost their confidence, but Reece recognizes this is a tough field. "There are no weak teams at this event. So we will be looking to see what they do differently and hopefully learn a lot."
Also racing this weekend will be current Canada's Cup Defender Don Wilson (USA) who is the highest-ranked Chicago-based skipper and is preparing to defend the Cup again at the end of this month. Shawn Ryan (USA) is the lowest-ranked seed at the event, but is the reigning US national match race champion and says not to count him out as he is quickly climbing in the rankings. Nicolai Sehested (DEN) and Laurie Jury (NZL), along with Canfield and Tiller, will be competing here and in the remaining events of the US GRAND SLAM Match Race Series, the next being Bayview Yacht Club's Detroit Cup being held next week.
Racing will begin each day at 9 AM with a live-streamed morning show at www.chicagocup.org followed by world-class match racing on the web for the world to watch. There will be free stadium seating for the general public with live commentary provided by Scott Dickson and Annie Gardner going out to both the local spectators and the world.
Stadium Sailing Kicks Off at Navy Pier
2011 Grade 2 Friday Highlights
Chicago Grade 2 Invitational Day 1
Chicago, IL- "We're pretty stoked that the Windy City is actually windy," smiled New Zealander, Will Tiller. Tiller sits at the top of the rankings on the first day of the Chicago Grade 2 Invitational at Navy Pier. Variable conditions this morning gave way to a southerly breeze of 15 knots with gusts up to 20. The windward mark was set a mere 50 feet from the pier providing a new element to the races and unique sight for the spectators on Navy Pier, the number one tourist destination in the Midwest. The beyond-perfect winds and gathering crowd were enough for the race committee to make a last minute decision to do 10 flights instead of the originally proposed 9.
Hundreds bore witness to Tiller's only loss of the day and the collision with Bill Hardesty (USA) that led up to it in Flight 9. The young Kiwi said he was caught by surprise when Hardesty made the late decision to dial down after Tiller maneuvered to duck him. "I wouldn't call it late at all. We were responding to an error made by our opponent," Hardesty corrected. Tiller reacted and made his move to prevent damage to the boats. The cringe was heard in stereo beginning with the race committee and moving to the crowd as the boats collided. One spectator in the stands asked, "Are they supposed to hit like that?" to which Hardesty later replied, "It's not common, but it's known to happen."
One match in Flight 10 caused Principal Race Officer BilI Canfield to remark, "It was one of the best match races I've ever seen." Onlookers described the moment as heartbreaking as Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) forced Jordan Reece (AUS) to round up in the second downwind leg. Prior to that, Tunnicliffe was holding a penalty at the windward mark and trying to burn it in a luffing match. Anna was accelerating and decelerating her boat every other second. This windward mark maneuver had fans on their toes aching in anticipation. On the downwind, Reece's boat rounded-up with the spinnaker twisting around the forestay while Anna was able to address her penalty and accelerate for the win. Reece is feeling the pressure knowing that he is in a must-win situation for continuing to the second round-robin.
Even with the with the complex three-way tie that Reece, Mike Buckley (USA) and Don Wilson (USA) face tomorrow, the pressure seems to be taking a backseat to the novelty that is stadium sailing. "How cool is this? How often do you have this many non-sailors coming out to watch sailing?" asked Buckley. In conversation, several of the teams would get distracted gazing off at the boat and people traffic that were there to watch them do what they do best.
Today was just the beginning. On an average summer weekend, Navy Pier has 90,000 visitors, but this weekend the pier also hosts the Taste of Tall Ships which in 2010 drew upward of 600,000 visitors. "The coordination of this regatta with the tall ships was vital to the projected success of this event," explained Chicago Match Race Center Program Director Tod Reynolds. "Even halfway through the day, we were overwhelmed with the positive response from the public."
Racing begins tomorrow at 9AM with a stationary front forecasted to move in and create tricky conditions for racers. Southwest winds later leading to northwest winds of 10knots have racers and officials alike crossing their fingers. Overseeing Authority Mary Anne Ward predicted, "I know the racing will be exciting and close... possibly wet."
August 13, 2011
Storms thwarted racing at the Chicago Grade 2 Invitational at Navy Pier after three efforts to go out. A storm cell blew in from the northwest and race officials made the call to abandon in the middle of Flight 4 of the Second Round Robin. Officials rafted boats in the middle of the race course and rushed the sailors into the 70 foot Chicago Match Race Center houseboat docked on the end of the pier before the winds picked up to 40mph.
Before the storms rolled in, there was plenty of competition to be had. The morning began with "Black Flag Buckley" getting clobbered by Taylor Canfield (USVI) in the start. Mike Buckley (USA) had a difficult time keeping clear whether it was in a windward-leeward situation with his opponent or the obstacle of the starting pin. Buckley's main trimmer Nathan Hollerbach explained the situation as everything was happening so quickly that they didn't have enough time or speed to react. "It just went boom-boom-boom," he animated. "Ultimately, Taylor did a great job of controlling us in the start."
Yesterday's top mark confusion stumbled into today's match between Olympic Gold Medalist Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) and Chicago's top match racer, Don Wilson (USA). The two teams rounded separate windward marks in the first leg before Tunnicliffe second-guessed herself and followed Don's lead by rounding the incorrect mark in the second leg. "The laylines worked out in such a way that we were able to round both marks quite well," Tunnicliffe recalled. While the correct mark was Tunnicliffe's first leg choice, neither team gained or lost any ground in the race so there was no need for redress. The women's team prevailed and was able to finish the day in 6th place in front of Wilson in 7th.
Nicolai Sehested (DEN) heated up and ended the day in fourth place. "Yesterday we got used to the boats so that today we could focus on match racing," Sehested explained. His team chimed in saying that their starts were there greatest improvement from yesterday. "We had some situations that called for us to be aggressive." The Danish team was not going to be held accountable for the aggression that involved two collisions that occurred in two separate races - one against Will Tiller (NZL) and another with Bill Hardesty (USA). With Tiller, Sehested was barely hanging on in the race and managed to luff the Kiwi hard at the mark and again downwind when contact was made. After the second luff, Sehested was able to power off to the finish line.
Looking at tomorrow, the need for aggression is certain. Officials plan on finishing the round robin and evaluating the time before deciding how to proceed. The forecasted breeze-on conditions has CMRC optimistic about how many races they'll be able to fire off. "Mentally we have to be prepared to sail every race like it's the last," summed up first place Canfield.
The Second Round Robin and live online coverage will continue tomorrow at 9AM CDT (weather pending).
1) Taylor Canfield 9-3
2) Laurie Jury 9-3
3) Will Tiller 10-3
4) Nicolai Sehested 9-4
5) Bill Hardesty 8-4
6) Anna Tunnicliffe 5-8
7) Don Wilson 3-9
8) Mike Buckley 4-9
9) Jordan Reece 2-7
10) Shawn Ryan 0-9
August 14, 2011
Chicago, IL - Dogs off chains, squirrels out of trees. However you want to say it, the breeze was on for Bill Hardesty (USA) to win the Chicago Grade 2 Invitational at Navy Pier. The third and final day of racing was filled with upsets, breakdowns and collisions. Winds picked up to 30-40 knots in the middle of last night and tapered off just enough for racing today. Though, it was determined early on that spinnakers would not be flown after a broach with spreaders in the water by Chicago Match Race Center Sailing Director Taylor Canfield (USVI).
The day began with the completion of the second Round Robin that had potential for a three-way tie for third between Nicolai Sehested (DEN), Hardesty and Canfield with one team not advancing into the Semis. Even without spinnakers, there was still enough action to cause several collisions including one between Sehested and Laurie Jury (NZL) that ended in significant damage. The incident occurred in a port-starboard situation when Jury on starboard tried to bear away enough to avoid the collision with Sehested's port boat. Unfortunately, Jury wasn't able to move the boat enough and ended up T-boning the Danes. "We thought we still had to keep our mind in the pre-start and win this race, but then we saw the damage and knew the boat was taking on water," Sehested recalled. An extended delay to the racing was had during a hearing to determine if points needed to be deducted from both teams. Sehested's team was eliminated after being fined one point.
After the break, Round Robin leader Jury chose Canfield to face in the Semi-Finals. While Jury was excelling in the breeze, Canfield had yet to win a single race. The New Zealand team blew Canfield out the back of the race course. "We were about 60 pounds underweight so we couldn't point quite as high to pull off a win in the breeze," the CMRC sailing director defended.
In the Will Tiller (NZL) and Hardesty series, Tiller drew first blood. Both teams sailed well past the laylines on the second downwind leg allowing Tiller to address a previously earned penalty. However, this win was not enough to advance the Round Robin 1 leader into the Finals as Hardesty battled back winning the second and third races.
With Tiller and Canfield dropping into the Petit Finals, it became a sudden death match for third place. Canfield was controlling the pre-start until he became too wrapped up in his own boat and did not give way to Tiller for leeward overlap. Canfield tried to negate his penalty by posing a luffing match just off the line, but was unable to hold it as Tiller sped off to finish.
A better Finals match-up could not have been scripted between Hardesty and Jury in a best-of-three series. While Hardesty dominated Match One from the start, Jury held his opponent off long enough to win Match Two. The split wins lead to Match Three which was a dog-fight the whole way through with Jury receiving a penalty for not keeping clear in the start. The New Zealand team looked like they were going to be able to gain ground on their opponent up until Hardesty threw in a dicey tack that crossed the top of the rigs. In what seemed like a certain call for a penalty on Hardesty, the umpires gave penalties to both teams leaving Jury with his prior flag. "The way umpire calls go: you win some you lose some. I guess we lost that one," second place skipper Jury observed.
Chicago Grade 2 Invitational Champion Hardesty attributed persistence to his team's success this weekend. "We got together for the first time on Thursday for a few hours to practice. Friday was looking pretty rough. My team worked it out and was able to pull it all off today."
1) Bill Hardesty (USA)
2) Laurie Jury (NZL)
3) Will Tiller (NZL)
4) Taylor Canfield (USVI)