Distance Racers Play Wind Roulette at Regatta Series Chicago

With wind direction changes all day, the Distance Racers had their challenges, as did the buoy racers on the second day of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Chicago.
Koko Loko 2
Tomasz Kokocinski’s team on Koko Loko 2 at the start of the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series Chicago Distance Race. Walter Cooper

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As Tomasz Kokocinski and his crew of the Beneteau 40.7 Koko Loko 2, secured dock lines and flaked sails at their slip at the Chicago Yacht Club, the sky suddenly darkened and strong gusts shook their boat’s rigging. They were happy to be at the dock having finished their 23-mile distance race just ahead of the approaching squall, but they were equally delighted to learn they’d won their PHRF division on corrected time

“It was a really cool race with all sorts of conditions,” Kokocinski said. “It was light to moderate and later down totally, and then up 15 to 18 knots at the end, which was a really nice way to finish.”

Kokocinski typically races his Beneteau 40.7 in the local one-design fleet, but for the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Chicago he prefers the distance racing option as preparation for the annual Mackinac Race. As Mac Race winners they clearly know how to get the most from this popular cruiser/racer.

Tartan 10 sailboat on Lake Michigan
Tartan 10 racing resumes on the second day of the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago Walter Cooper

“It’s a heavy boat with a lot of furniture, so we really have to watch the speed,” Kokocinski said. “We’re going pretty well in the light wind, but we made the decision to jibe toward the city where the wind came from and that was our big jump early in the race. There were only one or two other boats that came with us and when the wind did die, everyone that was further out in the lake stopped. We were in the middle, closer to the city, which was better, and maybe a bit of luck.”

Benjamin White’s Farr 38 Radiance won its PHRF 2 division, besting William Bartz’s Hunter 355 Ranger and David Baker’s Beneteau First 10R Handsome Pete, second and third respectively.

Adam Prettyman’s team on the Tartan 10 Two Trailer Park Girls at the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series Chicago Walter Cooper

Thomas Papoutsis, ORC1 J/133 Renegade was the top boat in ORC 1 and Ben Wilson’s J/99 Rambler was the top team in the ORC 2 division, which was a close battle from start to finish among the top-three finishers. While Rambler won on corrected time, only 10 seconds of corrected time was the difference between the two J/122s that ultimately claimed second and third.

“It was a really good race,” said Andrew Kerr, crew on Mathew Songer’s Evvai. “It was a downwind spinnaker start and the boats that went out on the lake made early gains. It was on the long beat back in a fading breeze that we were pleased to lead the whole time, but we gave up the lead at the end to [Douglas Evans’] Elbow Room. They hooked into a shift and were able to get ahead. They’re an excellent team, and we were 1-2 at the finish, but it was great sailboat racing, great race management and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

Laura Sigmund’s Norboy hunts a layline at the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago Walter Cooper

While the distance racers laid tracks across Lake Michigan, the buoy racing fleets picked up where they left off after yesterday’s high-wind survival fest. Today’s benign conditions, however, did nothing to change the pecking orders in most fleets.

Scot and Yvonne Ruhlander’s Beneteau 40.7 Mojo extended its winning streak to four and now has 5 points of cushion to Thomas Weber’s team on La Tempete. Raymond Douglas Kristine Maybach’s team on the J/109 Courageous won the day’s first race but posted a fifth in the next, which reduced their lead to 3 points, with Michael Hendrie’s Bull within striking distance with one more race day remaining.

Beneteau 40.7 fleet in Chicago
Team Mojo gets a clean and fast committee boat start in the Beneteau 40.7 fleet at the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago Walter Cooper

Shawn and Jerry O’Neill’s team on the Sydney 38 Eagle posted a 1-2, winning the ORC fleet’s first race by a country mile, but John Gottwald’s Grand Soleil 44 Eagles Wings won the second race to shave the O’Neill family’s lead to 3 points.

Tod and Heidi Patton J/122e Blondie went 1-2 in its seven-boat PHRF Spinnaker fleet and now has a 5-point lead over Jamie Downing’s much smaller Beneteau Platu 25 Ravn.

2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago Walter Cooper

On the One-Design Red Circle, with the Tartan 10s and J/70s, shifting winds wreaked havoc on the race committee, which managed to get in two races before abandoning a fourth. With only one race sailed on Friday and two today, Brian Kazor’s Erica leads the standings with a 3-point cushion over Amy Cermak’s Diamond Girl. Edward Mui and Craig Roehl’s Meat, winner of the third race, moved into third overall, only 6 points from the top. Jim Murray’s Calisto continued its winning streak with two wins in the J/70 fleet. Laura Sigmond’s Norboy went 2-2-4 and now sit 5 points behind Calisto.

Roman Plutenko
ILCA sailor Roman Plutenko at the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago Walter Cooper

The three ILCA dinghy fleets, blown out on Friday, got in two races today after a long morning wait for wind. The regatta’s 2023 winner, Roman Plutenko, won both races in the ILCA 7 and Csilla Gal won both races in the ILCA 6. JP Crabb is the top ILCA 4 sailor after two race wins as well.

Beneteau 36.7 on Lake Michigan
James Clouser’s Beneteau 36.7 Joi Di Vie sets at the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago Walter Cooper

Distance Race fleets will have another long one tomorrow for some fast miles and the forecast is for a building breeze, which should allow every fleet to complete a full set of races to wrap up the weekend series.