There's More Than One First at the Chicago NOOD

The Lands' End Chicago NOOD Regatta's top boat rises from within the J/105 class.

Two-hundred twenty eight boats, three days, 190 races (more than 43,000 individual finishes recorded), and winds that never dipped below 10 knots-these are the kind of stats that make this year's edition of the Lands' End Chicago NOOD Regatta one of the best in its 15 years. In this final day of three, sailed in a 15-knot southerly, teams in 19 divisions put the finishing touches on a perfect summertime regatta. Rising to the top of the event was John Huhn's J/105 Katana, the J/105 division winner, which was named by organizers as the regatta's overall champion. The title earns them an invitation to the British Virgin Islands in November to sail in the 2006 Lands' End NOOD Regatta Championship, hosted by Sunsail. The entire crew of the red-and-white striped Kantana, based in Lake Carlyle, Ill., are first timers to the Chicago NOOD, and you can bet they not only surprised their counterparts in the competitive 20-boat fleet, but they surprised themselves as well. "This is our first time sailing the boat in Chicago, and for some of the guys on the crew it was their first big regatta, so it was a real pleasant surprise," says Huhn. "We've put in the time and effort and worked really hard, but we never really expected this." Huhn, a longtime Lightning sailor, bought the boat last year and put together a team of "green" guys-a few young ones and a handful of coworkers who knew nothing of racing. They taught newcomers everything they needed to know, and spent the better part of last year working on the mechanics of getting around the racecourse fast. "What really helped us here was that it was flat, and that's what we're best at," says Huhn. "The locals had told us that if the wind is right of south, then we should go right. But on the first day and a half, a lot of those guys banged the shore, and maybe by dumb luck we went hard left and it kept paying. Today the racing was incredibly tight. We ended up with a 6-3, but the scores don't show how tight it was." There was equally close racing happening across the regatta's four circles, especially among the nearby Beneteau 40.7s, where fleet compression at numerous mark roundings kept it interesting for both crews and photographers. Somehow, however, Tom Weber's Beneteau 40.7 La Tempete managed to keep clear of most of it, and secured its fifth Chicago NOOD division title. "We try and sail away from everybody," says Weber. "The key for us is clear air. We find it any way we can. We consistently had good starts where I was able to carve a hole and go the way we wanted. I'd do this by looking at where everyone's going and not go there. One race early in the regatta we were alone at the boat, and we won that race by a lot. So, I said that in the next start everyone would be there, and that's what happened. There was a pile at the boat so we started in the middle and it was perfect. "It was bunched up a lot today," Weber adds, "but we stuck to the Buddy Melges philosophy and tried to get to the first mark ahead and extend from there." The J/109s are one of the newer classes to the Chicago NOOD Regatta, but a boat name once familiar among the J/105 fleet, Lucky Dubie 2, managed to work its way to the front of the J/109 division-despite itself. Len Siegal owns the local entry, but wasn't onboard for the regatta, but in the hands of his crew, Lucky Dubie had an interesting, if not memorable run at the division win. On Friday, all but two boats in its fleet were confused over the starting sequence following a general recall, and started 5 minutes early. Lucky Dubie, with stand in skipper Ray Groble on the helm, and Irv Kerbel's K III, were the only two boats to start properly, 5 minutes behind the rest of the fleet. Lucky Dubie snatched up the opening race easily, and that win would ultimately make the difference in the final outcome. They were none to pleased. "Then we got brain dead," says co-skipper Don Cameron, "because we partied too much on Friday night. On Saturday, the boat was like a ghost ship. "Let me put it this way," he adds, "In the first seven races we were over early four times. We crossed that starting line more than anyone else." With four top-five finishes they managed to hold onto the lead, and with a cleaner head, went 2-1 on the final day to win the division. "The weekend was about boatspeed and traffic management," says Lucky Dubie's tactician Peter Muir. "With all the other fleets on the racecourse you have to balance what you're going to gain by sailing in the bad air in the middle with what you'll gain by getting out of it on the sides. Results from all classes at the 2006 Lands' End Chicago NOOD Regatta