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The 2019 Helly Hansen National Offshore One Design (NOOD) Regatta series returns to Chicago Yacht Club with more than 130 teams competing in 13 separate fleets, beginning an action-packed summer of sailboat racing on Lake Michigan.

Beneteau 36.7 and 40.7 racing in the NOOD Regatta
The Beneteau 36.7 and 40.7 will continue the tradition of close one-design racing in Chicago.Paul Todd/Outside Images

Robert Hughes (Ada, MI) is looking to line up against his friendly rival, Doug DeVos (Macatawa, MI) in the TP52 class, racing on 52-foot grand-prix machines manned by professional crews. “Doug’s new boat, Windquest, happens to be a sister ship to our boat, Heartbreaker,” Hughes says. “Both boats were built in 2015 by the same builder using the same mold.”

Hughes competed in his first Chicago NOOD with DeVos in the late 1980s onboard Hughes' J/35. "Doug will be hard to beat, but it will be fun racing," says Hughes. "The TP52 fleet is starting to grow on the Great Lakes. I am a one-design guy at heart, so we're really happy to have three TP52s in our fleet. It should be a good battle."

Each event on the NOOD Regatta circuit offers individual class winners the chance to win a berth in the NOOD Caribbean Championship in the British Virgin Islands in late October. Amy Cermak (Racine, WI) is looking to repeat her win in the 20-boat Tartan 10 fleet, which earned her the Caribbean Championship berth last year. "When you get an opportunity like that," says Cermak, "you cannot turn it down. The Caribbean was absolutely beautiful. Each night we were in a different port on a different island. It's one of those things you remember forever."

Cermak is proud to have raced in 30 of 31 Chicago NOOD Regattas and says all competitive sailors should experience a NOOD regatta. “There are so many clubs up and down Lake Michigan and all around the Midwest with strong local racing, but the NOOD really teaches you how to sail. It’s a great opportunity to race against the best sailors in the country. All the sponsors and the yacht clubs do a great job of hosting. It’s a top-shelf event.”

In the J/70 fleet, John Heaton (Wilmette, IL) is looking to use the Chicago NOOD Regatta to shake off the winter rust and get back to racing. The J/70 is one of the hottest classes in the world, and serves as the perfect platform for new and experienced sailors to race in large, competitive fleets. Heaton’s normal crew isn’t available for this event, so he’s enlisted professional sail makers and world champion sailors Tim Healy and Zeke Horowitz to continue to work on his boatspeed.

“We always use the NOOD as a way to keep learning the boat,” says Heaton. “There’s so many good sailors in the fleet that you have to keep pushing yourself. Tim [Healy] has already taught us a lot about these boats, and we’re excited to get him back on the water to keep plugging away.”

Heaton was one of the first Chicago-area owners to purchase a J/70, which debuted in 2012 and has witnessed the rapid growth of the class worldwide. “We’re still building the local fleet in Chicago,” says Heaton. “It’s great getting the out-of-town boats coming in for a three-day event right here in our backyard. It's a very well-traveled fleet, so we’re excited to get some national-level talent out on Lake Michigan.”

For Len Siegal (Chicago, IL), the NOOD will serve as the start of what promises to be a busy season of racing in the J/111 fleet. “Since the NOOD comes so early in the season, it makes everyone get ready for a major one-design event right off the bat,” says Siegal. “It’s good for building enthusiasm early on, and for us, it will be a warmup for the other big events this year.”

Many teams from the Chicago-area J/111 fleet will also be competing in Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac in July, as well as the Verve Cup and the J/111 World Championship in August. “It’s going to be a big year for us,” says Siegal. “I didn’t sail that much last year, so I’m looking forward to getting back into it this year. We have some new crew onboard, so it’s great having a regatta like the NOOD to get everyone up to speed.”