ISAF Grade Two Chicago Match Cup Qualifier - Chris Steele takes early

Chris Steele - ISAF Grade Two Chicago Match Cup
Isao Toyama
In the ISAF Grade Two Chicago Match Cup Qualifier, on the strength of seven wins and only one loss, Chris Steele and his team from New Zealand have taken the early lead. Racing started today under perfect blue skies and seven - nine knots of wind, and will run daily through Sunday. Ten teams from five nations are featured in the competition and the winner to receive an automatic invitation to the Chicago Match Cup in September, the only US stop on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.

Steele has yet to meet the current runner-up in the standings, Staffan Lindberg and his team from Finland, in the last match of the Round Robin, because if the Finns wins this match they will replace the Kiwis on top of the leaderboard.

Lindberg had a strong run for most of the day, remaining undefeated until his seventh match when up against David Chapman from Australia. On the first downwind run, Chapman had the lead and was trying to fend off Lindberg in a gybing duel. When the Finns finally managed to roll over the Aussies to take the lead, Chapman put in a luff that caught Lindberg slightly off-guard, earning him a penalty from the umpires of the match for not keeping clear, with his yellow flag accompanied by a red flag because the move was deemed to have given him control of the match.

With the red flag up, Lindberg was required to perform his penalty turn right away. But rather than dropping his spinnaker and tacking to do this turn, the Finns gybed and took the stern of Chapman to give back the lead but to stay close in touch. This maneuver would normally not be allowed in match racing, except race managers here decided to use special World Tour rules at this event, where rules and penalties are relaxed in order to keep the competition as close as possible.

Chapman went on to keep his lead, handing Lindberg his first loss of the day, and the following match did not go well for the Finns either, losing on the finish line in a very close match with CMRC founder Don Wilson, the top-ranked match race sailor from the US.

After tomorrow's concluding match of the first Round Robin a second is planned before the Quarter Finals, Semi-Finals and Finals are to be held on Sunday.

The day's match race sailing then reverted to a fun fleet race in the eight TOM 28's used at CMRC, where match race skippers were each given several crew members composed of high school students who were training nearby at Chicago Yacht Club for this year's edition of the Neill Advanced Sailing Clinic. This invitational event has attracted over 40 of the best high school sailors to be trained for three intense days by coaches from some of the top collegiate programs in the US.

After their fleet race, the teams were seeded into pairs for match racing using the same boats, race managers, umpires and race course as the Qualifier event.

'This was an excellent opportunity for us to give these future sailing stars a chance to not only meet but also race with the current stars in match race sailing,' said John Craig, Director of the ISAF Sailing World Cup. 'We are very happy to see CMRC as a partner for this important event to develop future sailing talent.'

For more information from the CMRC's ISAF Grade Two Chicago Match Cup Qualifier, please visit the website.