Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta in Chicago, Friday

The early season racing series in Chicago reveals teams that come out of the off-season on their game.

The windy city didn't entirely disappoint sailors competing in the Chicago edition of the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta series. The first of three days of racing saw steady breezes on Lake Michigan, paving the way for three challenging races for all 11 classes.

The regatta’s principal race officer, Sue Reilly, overseeing action on the regatta’s Blue Circle, which is comprised of a few of the regatta’s larger keelboat fleets, reported that conditions were forecast to be marginally sailable at best, but winds held strong enough to get one race off early before increasing up to 10 knots mid-day and then fading across the lake altogether. She added that larger progressive windshifts were prevalent throughout the day, allowing three quality races.

“We thought there would be a postponement [before the first race] because it was so light,” says Karl Brummel, co-owner and bowman for the J/111-series leading Kashmir, which won all three of its races by significant margins. “We got caught off guard, were pretty far upwind, and barely made it back to the start.”

Kashmir’s near miss aside, they were outstanding in the day’s light conditions. “We got off the starting line clean every time,” says Brummel. “In the last we were in a bit more traffic, but we were able to peel off the guy to weather and keep up off the guy to leeward. We were able to just keep an open lane off to the left [side of the course], which seemed to really pay today.”

The team onboard Kashmir, which came out of the local J/105 class, is in its fourth season with the J/111, and over the past few years, has put up top results in other regional regattas. “Our results have allowed us to attract good sailors that want to sail with us,” says Brummel, “and the program is getting better every event. That, and we’ve worked hard with the rig tune and sail development this year.

Today was the first day with their new North Sails-designed jib, which Brummel says is a significant improvement over last year’s design. “We’ve have been diligent about rig tune,” he adds, “and I think we have forestay to a place where we’re comfortable with the amount of headstay sag we have for the light conditions.”

Kashmir’s speed team is happy with their light-air performance, says Brummel, but the team is looking forward to a stronger wind forecast on Sunday. “We like to play in big breeze, and right now they’re talking about five-foot waves, so maybe we’ll get some surfing in.”

On the same Blue Circle, Charles Wurtzbach and Mike Bird’s Beneteau 36.7 put up three keeper races, too, including a win in the last light-air race of the day.

“We consistently went right,” says Wurtzbach, “but ultimately on our course, with the T-10s and other fleets it was all about pressure and clear air. “In the third race we were shot out and way ahead after the start and did a good job just staying out of the T-10 traffic, but on the last leg we jibed into a huge no-wind hole. For a few minutes the boats were coming at us at 5 knots and we were going zero. In the end we only won it by 3 feet.”

The local Beneteau 36.7 fleet has been working together with clinics lately, says Wurtzbach, which has brought up the level of the fleet significantly. “We’re at the point where everyone really can win a race in this fleet right now, so we’re ecstatic with our finishes, but there’s a lot more racing ahead.”

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