The Chicago Match Race Center will welcome stadium sailing to Navy Pier when the Grade 2 Invitational gets underway on August 12.
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 ten 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 fifteen 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 eight 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 third 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 9:00 AM with a live-streamed morning show here, 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.
Starting Thursday, daily press conferences will be held at about 6:00PM on the CMRC houseboat docked at the east end of Navy Pier.
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