Sailing and horse racing may have a few things in common, but most are a stretch. For Chicago sailors, including Farr40 Norboy skipper Leif Sigmond, however, the comparison is a no-brainer. “The Chicago NOOD to our sailing season is what the Kentucky Derby is to the Triple Crown,” says Sigmond. “The boats that do well here will likely have a strong season overall. It’s a great indication of who will be strong and post good results later on.”
Misspelled names and record-setting droughts aside, with just shy of 200 boats registered between 14 classes and the North Sails Rally, and multiple 2014 class winners returning for another shot at the big prize, this year’s Chicago NOOD is shaping up just fine.
For Sigmond, who is also the current Chicago Yacht Club Vice Commodore, the Farr 40 class’ showing has peaked his interest. “One of the best things about this local fleet is that there isn’t really any dominant boat,” says Sigmond. “It’s true in many of the classes. With new boats or owners this year, it could be anyone’s game.”
Steve Karstrand, aboard Tartan 10 Lightning, echoes Sigmond’s vague predictions. “Ten of the 23 boats in our class have a shot at winning the thing,” says Karstrand. “With a fleet this big, consistency is key. You don’t need to win every race to do well, just be steady, and be conservative with your starts.”
Karstrand has had plenty of experience with crowded starting lines, and for the Tartan 10’s it’s something to look out for on the lake. “Only one person wins out when boats bunch at the start like they tend to,” he says. “It likely won’t be you. The key to this regatta has always been getting clear air and keeping it clear.”
Both Beneteau First classes have 2014’s first and second place winners returning for another round in the ring. In the 40.7s, David Hardy’s Turning Point is looking for a repeat performance, while the 36.7s will be looking to Nick Norris aboard Split Decision.
“The other 36.7s that we typically race against here are some of the most competitive in the nation,” says Norris. With a few new sailors on his crew, and a few more practice hours that a typical year under their belts, Norris has been keeping a close watch on the competition in the 13-boat class. “Fog is always an extremely strong competitor,” he says. “They are consistent and fast and usually seem to choose the faster side of the course.* Soulshine* has had a great couple of years so they are definitely a boat to watch out for. And, Tequila Mockingbird and Tried and True are always among the top 36.7s in the ‘Chicagoland’ area.”
A few days out from the regatta (Tuesday) forecasts for the weekend show scattered t-storms and the typical early-season wind shear caused by Lake Michigan’s cold water interacting with the mid to high 70 air temperature on land. “Sometimes in those conditions you have to rely more on the feel of the boat than what your windex is telling you,” says Norris. “We can have storms or severe weather changes occur in a matter of minutes. The forecasts are usually good guesses, but they’re not always reliable.”