2014 Chicago Grand Slam - Chicago Match Race Center will host the first of four events on the US Grade two Grand Slam Series this weekend. This series attracts some of the best international talent to compete for valuable points in the Grand Slam Series and invitations to two stops on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour (AWMRT) - Chicago Match Cup in 2015 and Bermuda Argo Group Gold Cup in 2014 - in addition to the very prestigious Grade one Congressional Cup in 2015.
USA Match Racing Grand Slam Series
The racing format will feature a Round Robin on Friday, followed by Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals, and Finals over the weekend. All races will be held in Lake Michigan north of the entrance of Chicago's Belmont Harbor.
Leading the pack in the Grand Slam will be world number two-ranked Taylor Canfield, a former CMRC Sailing Director, who is from the US Virgin Islands but spends much of his time competing on the AWMRT, which he won last year to become the reigning World Match Racing champion. Besides having won numerous other events of all grades at CMRC, he is also the defending 2013 champion for this event. Canfield will be sailing with his USOne team of Brian Janney, Mike Rehe, and Hayden Goodrick.
Pierre-Antoine Morvan from France is ranked number seven in the world, and is also an occasional competitor on the AWMRT, having finished tenth overall in the Tour last year. His Vannes Agglo Sailing Team has been to CMRC for one event every year since 2011, including last year's only US event on the AWMRT, the Chicago Match Cup, where he finished fifth overall. Morvan is sailing with Cedric Chateau, Steven Liorzou, and Mathieu Renault.
Chris Steele from New Zealand, who is ranked 16th in the world, has had many impressive performances at CMRC including a second at this event last year, and a win at the Grade two Chicago Match Cup Qualifier in June. Steele's 36 Below Racing team consists of local Walker Banks, CMRC's Shane Diviney, and Josh Salthouse.
World 13th-ranked Sam Gilmour from Australia has had a successful campaign on the youth Match racing circuit including his second win at the Governor's Cup in Newport Beach, CA, a second place finish in the ISAF Youth Match Racing World Championship in Helsinki, and a second place in the World University Match Racing Championship in Italy. His Neptune Racing team of Chris Smith, Jack Breislin and Adam Negri will make their second CMRC appearance, having finished fourth in the 2013 Chicago Match Cup Grade two Qualifier.
Chicago's Don Wilson is the Founder of CMRC and has had several impressive performances at CMRC including a third place at the Grade two Chicago Match Cup Qualifier and a win at the Spring Invitational in May. Wilson recently reached his all-time highest World ranking of 18th. Just last week, Wilson won the T-10 North American Championship with five Wilson family members onboard. Wilson's Team Convexity- including Jordan Reece, Katie Pettibone, Stephanie Roble, and Matt Woodworth- will be among the favorites this weekend.
Ranked 30th in the World, Chris Poole from Maine will be competing in his sixth CMRC event since 2011. Poole has won two events in his homeport of Oakcliff Sailing Center in Oyster Bay, NY this summer. Poole finished eighth in the Grade two Chicago Match Cup Qualifier last June and is hoping to improve his performance this weekend. Poole will sail with Chris Kennedy, Charlie Lalumiere, and Tyler Wolk.
Maximillian Soh from Singapore is ranked 26th in the world, and having achieved a rare double victory in the CMRC's two Grade three Doubleheader events last month, he can be counted as a threat to anyone in this talented field. His Team Red Dot has the same crew members as he did when he swept the July Double-headers: Justin Wong, Andrew Chang, and Russell Kan.
Another Asian team entered is Wataru Sakamoto, who at 39th in the world is the highest-ranked match racing skipper from Japan and his nation's reigning national match race champion. Last year Sakamoto won the Asian regional qualifier of the Nation's Cup, and finished fourth in the Nation's Cup Final. Sakamoto previously won CMRC's Autumn Grade three Double-header at Chicago Match Race Center. Sakamoto is sailing with Nobuyuki Imai, Yasumhiro Okamoto, and Daich Wada.
Dustin Durant from Long Beach, CA won the California Dreamin' Series over this past winter. This year will be Durant's third year competing on the entire Grand Slam Series. Last year Dusty finished sixth on the overall series with some of the same crew he has this year: Ben Wheatley, Shane Young and Scott Flanigan.
David Storrs from Connecticut has been steadily climbing the match race world rankings, and at 47th in the world is now the fourth-highest ranked match race skipper in the US. His latest CMRC event was last month's Doubleheader where he finished fourth, and in June he won an event closer to home at Oakcliff's Grade four Clinegatta. Storrs will be racing with a team of CMRC veterans: Maggie Shea, Garth Ellingham and Andres Soriano.
Steve Lowery is a local CMRC member and despite not racing as often as many of the younger teams, he's managed to attain a ranking of 38th in the world. He qualified for the Chicago Grand Slam last month when he placed second to Soh in the CMRC July Doubleheader. Lowery's credible fourth in the June Chicago Match Cup Qualifier shows he's ready for international Grade two competition. Lowery will sail this weekend with Maurin Lovera, Jon Noller and Rory Lewis.
Another CMRC member, Nathan Hollerbach is also sailing this weekend with locals Peter Holz, Meg Six, and CMRC's Program Director Tod Reynolds. Hollerbach's world ranking of 89th reflects very few but good recent performances. He has made the Semi-Finals in all five events he raced in the last two seasons, and won a Grade four in his native Detroit. He draws on experience as a past US national champion.
Racing starts daily at 0900 CST from Friday- Sunday. For more information from the Chicago Grand Slam, visit website.