CMRC Grand Slam Series - Kicks off this weekend in Chicago

2013 CMRC Grand Slam Series
Isao Toyama
Twelve teams from six nations will be battling each other in the Chicago Match Race Center's CMRC Grand Slam, starting tomorrow and ending on Sunday at Chicago's Belmont Harbor.

This event has attracted an impressive array of international match racing talent and is the first stop on the four-event US Grand Slam Series of ISAF Grade II match race regattas being held over the next four weeks.

Participating teams will not only get valuable Grade II points on the ISAF World Match Race Rankings list, but also get bonus points because 83% of the teams are ranked in the top 100 in the world. Teams going on in other Grand Slam events being held over the next few weeks will also earn points towards their overall Grand Slam series scores, where the winner receives an invitation to the Long Beach YC's venerable Grade I event in March, 2014, the 50th edition of the Congressional Cup in addition to an invitation to the 2014 Chicago Match Cup, the only US stop on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.

Following his spectacular come-from-behind victory at last weekend's Chicago Match Cup, US Virgin Islander Taylor Canfield and his US one team leads the pack in the Grand Slam field at being ranked second in the world. Canfield is also a past winner of the US Grand Slam, so must be considered a strong favorite in this event.

Next in the rankings at 12th in the world is Nicolai Sehested and his TRE-FOR Match Racing team from Copenhagen, Denmark, who has been every year at this event since its start in 2010, and last year finished as runner-up in the Finals. Sehested is coming back to Chicago off a Silver medal finish at last week's Grade I ISAF Nation's Cup Finals in Denmark.

At 24th in the world is David Gilmour from Perth, Australia, who mixes Olympic-level 49er sailing with match racing. He not only competed in last year's CMRC Grand Slam to finish fifth, but is also coming to Chicago fresh off a victory for Australia at the Nation's Cup.

Dustin Durant from southern California returns to CMRC after a fifth place finish at last year's Eurex Match Cup and currently sits at 28th in the world rankings. Durant represents the Long Beach Yacht Club, and is looking for redemption after a tough finish representing the US at the Nations Cup.

Chris Steele from Auckland, New Zealand, has had two solid finishes at Grade III events in North America this year. Currently sitting at 36th in the world Chris placed second in the prestigious Governors Cup youth match racing event hosted by Balboa Yacht Club last month.

Chris Poole and his Riptide Racing team from Falmouth, Maine has been steadily climbing the rankings since starting only two years ago and is now the fourth-highest ranked skipper in the US and 40th in the world. He placed eighth in the Chicago Match Cup Grade II qualifier in June, but won two Grade III events at the Oakcliff Sailing Center this past spring.

Making his debut to CMRC with this event is Ashlen Rooklyn from Sydney, Australia who is the reigning Australian Match Racing champion, and is ranked 46th in the world. And at 48th is Magnus Sandberg, a Swede living in Toronto, who is coming back to CMRC after a runner-up performance in last month's Grade III Double-header B regatta and a third place at the York Cup in Toronto.

David Storrs of Southport, Connecticut qualified his way into the event after strong finishes in both of the CMRC July Grade III Doubleheaders, and is currently ranked 60th in the World. Storrs is a passionate devotee to match race sailing: in this year alone he has raced in no less than 12 Grade three to five match race events, and this will be his first-ever at a Grade II level..

Rounding out the field are three members of the CMRC team who were integral in the running of last week's Chicago Match Cup. Stephanie Roble is ranked seventh in the Women's World Rankings, and last month was the winner of the Stena Match Cup, a stop on the Women's World Match Racing Tour.

Peter Holz from the US and Tim Coltman from New Zealand have been interns at the Chicago Match Race Center and have spent a significant amount of time training in the TOM 28's this summer. Thus while they are seeded the lowest-ranked in the fleet at 104th and 112th in the world respectively, look for them to take some wins off the top teams this weekend.

After daily Skipper's Briefings at 8:00 AM, racing is intended to start at 9:00 and continue throughout the day while conditions permit. With a sketchy forecast calling for light and variable conditions from the east, the intended format for the weekend is a single Round Robin, followed by Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals and Finals, with all races being held within easy spectator view from the shore north of the entrance to Belmont Harbor.

Another feature to tomorrow's schedule is CMRC's hosting of the CME Group Challenge regatta, where guests from the CME Group get the opportunity to do some fun fleet and match race sailing with some of the pro skippers from the main event. Pro-Am racing is due to start at 5:30 PM.

For more information on the US Grand Slam series, visit USA Match Racing website