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Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series - Chicago Saturday recap

by Sarah Renz 10 Jun 21:19 PDT June 9-11, 2023
2023 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series - Chicago © Walter Cooper / Sailing World

Four minutes. For Daniel Koules' team on the Beneteau First 40 Badge, that was the difference between finishing and not finishing after navigating a patience-testing 30-mile distance race on the second day of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Chicago. Earlier this morning 35 teams set off from a starting line near the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse with one hard deadline: finish by 1600. Only 13 boats managed to do so and Badge was almost another casualty to the time limit.

"We knew when we made the turn at Montrose [the final mark of the course near Montrose Harbor] we had to get to the finish, and somehow we were able to make up some time," Koules says. "It was a good point of sail for us and we were comfortable with what we were doing, and the crew made every effort to get us across the line."

What exactly transpired over 30 miles, five hours, 10 sail changes and nine-mark roundings was a blur for helmsman Koules, but his navigator, Jim Gignac, who guided the team around the course, says the key to both finishing within the time limit and winning the ORC1 division was one easily identifiable point in the race.

"The forecast called for the thermal to build in the afternoon, but it came early and that was where things changed. There was a battle between the thermal and the southeasterly and we had to find our way through. It was a matter of understanding where the thermal was and where it wasn't and not going to where it was times we could see the light spots creeping across the course."

At one point, Gignac says, they were making their way north under the jib on port tack, and only 100 yards east of them was a boat flying a spinnaker. "We elected to just live with jib, fight through it, and wait for the windshift," Gignic says. "When it finally came, we popped the spinnaker and got away from the rest of the fleet."

Jeff and Jane Hoswell's Nelson Marek 46 Skye was the only other boat in the 10-boat ORC1 division to finishing within the time limit, but in the ORC2 division, which sailed a shorter course, all but one completed the course on time, but even then, they were cutting it close.

"There was a huge park-up at the southern end of the course," says Luke Wolbrink, who's C&C35-3 Zella topped its fleet of seven. "We were stuck there for about 30 minutes trying to make any headway—1 knot at times," Wolbrink says. "We were fortunate enough to get just enough separation from our fleet and get our kite up first."

As the slowest boat in its fleet, a heavy-displacement classic of the 1980s, Zella not only won its fleet but won boat-for-boat, which Wolbrink says, is "miraculous."

"Our boat is terrible in those conditions," he says, "but we sail in this area a lot and we knew what the wind would likely do."

The two PHRF Distance Race fleets were not so fortunate: none of the PHRF 1 or 2 entrants finished in time, but the smallest boats of PHRF 3 did all manage to finish behind Bill Bartz's Hunter 355 Ranger.

While the Distance Racers were battling farther out on the lake, the regatta's one-design classes were enjoying shifty, but more consistent wind conditions closer to shore once the sea breeze established itself later in the afternoon. Race committees on all circles were able to complete three additional races to bring the series for most fleets to six races.

Here, Gary Powell and Scott and Yvonne Rhulander's Mojo continue to shine in the Beneteau First 40 fleet with a second and a pair of firsts to pad their lead to an impressive 8 points. Jeffrey Davis' J/111 Shamrock went on a winning streak as well and now sits 5 points atop its three-boat fleet.

In the J/109 division, Team Northstar won two of three races to move into the overall lead by a single point over George Miz's Smee Again.

Shawn O'Neill's Eagle, with a four-legged friend onboard to sniff out the wind shifts, padded its lead in the ORC division to 3 points with a run of seconds in the three races, and in the PHRF 1 fleet, Tod Patten's J/112e posted three wins to put them solidly at the top of the standings with one more race day remaining.

Richard Witzel's Rowdy, with tactician Carlos Robles calling the shots, remains the top J/70 with top-5 consistency in what is a fleet stacked with pro talent. Rowdy enters the final day of racing with a 14-point lead over Fernando Perez Ontiveros's Black Mamba, from Mexico. Bob Willis'

Rip Rullah is the top Corinthian, currently sitting seventh overall in the 24-boat fleet. William Howard and his junior sailing teammates on the Grom Squad are the top junior team, in 14th overall.

The standings tightened in the 18-boat Tartan 10 fleet with Timothy Rathbun's team on Winnebago winning back-to-back races after posting a sixth in the morning's first race.

Brian Kaczor's Erica, however, is sitting on a 3-point overall lead after putting up a pair of top-five finishes, setting up what will surely be a final-day battle for T10 bragging rights.

The battle for the Beneteau 36.7 title is now a 4-point affair between helmsman Jim Clouser and his team of Joie de Vie—yesterday's leader—and Jarrett Altmin's Soulshine, the defending champion. Clouser did himself no favors with a terrible start in the day's first race in which he said he was "absolutely buried."

But they came back from the depths of the 12-boat fleet to salvage a sixth. After another bad start in the next race, they once again clawed back to finish third. Frustrated with his performance, Clouser verbally committed to his teammates that they would win the final race of the day.

"I said it, and I know I'm not supposed to because we'd jinx ourselves," Clouser says, "But we were able to get off the start, get right, get a jump and then do all we could to stay in front of Soulshine. They're the team to beat and that's not easy."

With Sunday's wind forecast for a strong northerly, high seas and heavy rain, there's a strong probability Saturday's results may stand, which would be fine for Clouser and Roman Plutanko who's running away the regatta in the ILCA fleet, but for the top two teams in the J/88 and J/105s fleets, tied respectively, there's hope for at least one race to shake out the standings without having to resort to a tie-break finale to close out the regatta.

Over 400 sailors met back at the Chicago Yacht Club docks for the Regatta Social and Dragon Force 65 Regatta. The winds were light off the seawall where the crowd cheered the remote control racers with top notch commentary by Connor Corgord. Fleet Chair, Dan Burns coasted ahead of the competition of the one race series to win the title for the Regatta.

Preliminary Top Scores After Day 2 - HHSWRS Chicago (Saturday)

Short Course/One Design Division

1st - Roman Plutenko

1st - Christa Georgeson

Beneteau 40.7
1st - Mojo - Gary Powell & Scott and Yvonne Ruhlander

1st - Shamrock - Jeffrey Davis

1st - Northstar - Team Northstar

1st - Eagle - Shawn & Jerry O'Neill

PHRF Spinnaker
1st - Blondie - Tod Patton

1st - Rowdy - Richard Witzel

Tartan 10
1st - Erica - Brian Kaczor

Beneteau 36.7
1st - Joie de Vie - James Clouser

1st - Misty - Exile - Andy Graff

1st - Nyctosaur - Mark Fruin

Dragon Force 65
1st - BlueHHO - Dan Burns

Distance Race

1st - Badge - Daniel Koules

1st - Zella - Luke and Laura Wolbrink

1st - Ranger - Bill Bartz

Full results available here.

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