Kaczor’s Tartan 10 Erica Wins Regatta Series Chicago

With strong downwind skills and a crack team, Brian Kaczor's Tartan 10 Erica wins a berth for the Caribbean Championship.



Brian Kaczor’s Team on Erica was ready for the big breeze coming their way on the third and final day of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Chicago, but they were unprepared for how difficult it would be to defend their lead and pull off a win in the ever-competitive Tartan 10 fleet. After six challenging races in all ranges of wind, Team Erika’s winning margin was a single point, and it was this point they had fight for in the final race.

“We hung on to first place, barely,” Kaczor said. “We had a tough day with tactics and my driving, but we were able to make up a lot of it on the downwind stuff.”

Brian Kaczor's Tartan 10 team
Brian Kaczor’s Tartan 10 team on Erica is BVI Championship bound. Walter Cooper

Their downwind speed in top-end conditions, Kaczor says, was all down to the crew (Corey Fast, Christa Georgeson, Scott Melanson, Seth Morrell, Brian Nelson, and Chuck O’Donnell). “They were the key in the last race. We had to catch one more boat and there was no question that the chute had to go up to catch that one boat in front of us,” he said. “The crew was amazing, and was able to handle that and pull it off.”

The class win also earned Kaczor’s team the regatta’s overall title and a berth at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series Caribbean Championship in October, hosted by Sunsail in the British Virgin Islands. The team will face winners from the regatta series’ other stops, as well as the 2023 defending champion.

Beneteau 36.7 Free Radical
Robert Nelson’s winning Beneteau 36.7 Free Radical at the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago Walter Cooper

For many sailors in the fleet, Sunday’s strong winds were reminiscent of Friday’s. A fast-building northwest wind pushed boats, gear, and crew to their limits, with more than one team reporting breakages and blown sails. Still, the Chicago and Corinthian YCs gave the sailors a full slate of races and enough stories to share all summer. This edition of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta will certainly be remembered for its testing but tasty champagne conditions. Beneteau 36.7 skipper Robert Nelson’s lasting memory was challenges his team on Free Radical faced in the final race while persevering to win the class.

“It was incredibly close racing,” Nelson said. “The biggest key for us on Friday was keeping the boat under control and under the chute. We made out that day and were 1-2-1. Keeping your air clean and the boat under control. When it’s as windy as it was, with the Beneteau 36.7, the winning technique is the helm and main trimmer being in sync. This was some of the most competitive racing I’ve experienced in this fleet and I’ve been in the fleet since 1996.”

Michael Hendries’s J/109 Bull at the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago Walter Cooper

On the One-Design White Circle, Andy Graff’s Team Exile experienced its share of broaches, as they had on Friday, and had a tough day today but pulled off a 4-point win. “We entered the day with a 1-point lead and in the first race we just covered the boats near us in the standings. In the last race I didn’t know the scores of the boats behind us, but we didn’t want to put a kite up—knew we just had to finish. The last race was a hard race…we were just trying to get around without hurting anything or breaking anything.”

In the J/105 class, John Kalanik’s Pura Vida pulled off an impressive win in the big breeze, earning the team’s first win in the boat. “We went in leading and had two good races and were still leading,” says Jim Elvart, Kalanik’s helmsman for the weekend—they trade off between helm and mainsail trim. “But in the last race we hit the weather mark. We were last for a bit and had to come back to save enough points. Over the weekend we had a few great experiences, but this is a great first regatta win for this new team.”

2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago
Thomas Papoutsis J/133 Renegade, winner of both races in its ORC1 distance race division at the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago Walter Cooper

The regatta’s distance racers were again treated to 20 miles of fast sailing that had the first boats across the line after less than four hours. Thomas Papoutsis J/133 Renegade won its second race of two to win its ORC 1 division; Ben Wilson’s Rambler won its ORC 2 division and Tomasz Kokocinski’s Koko Loco 2 survived the day to enjoy a 1-point win in PHRF 1. Ben White’s Farr 38 Radiance was the top boat in PHRF 2 with a second in the day’s race, which was won by Branwell Lepp’s J/105, It Wasn’t Me.

Action on the Green Circle continued into the final race with Scot and Yvonne Ruhlander’s team on Mojo strolling away with the class win with a 10-point margin over Tom Weber’s La Tempete.

ILCA class at Regatta Series in Chicago
ILCAs race at the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago Walter Cooper

Michael Hendries’s J/109 Bull was a standout performer this weekend with four wins in six races. Hendrie has been racing the boat for 14 seasons as its helmsman under the ownership of local sailor Jim Murray [Calisto], but this was his first win as the new owner and driver of the boat, renamed Bull.

“It was a relief to win,” Hendrie said. “I didn’t sail much last year and to come to this regatta and pull it all together was a relief because we started with a few mishaps on Friday—our jib halyard shackle broke twice and that set us back initially.”

Bull was down by 3 points going into the day, but they made their move to the top of the scoreboard with a win in the first race. “We had a great start, tacked, crossed the fleet and knocked it out from there. It was shifty, though, and we played the shifts really well in that race.

“But the next two races we did not have great starts—were over early on the third one, came back and were able to claw our way back in that big breeze. We are good and set up well for the heavy breeze, we’re comfortable in it. When the big breeze comes on, we were able to minimize the errors and sail fast.”

J/70 class in Chicago
J/70s approach the mark on the windy final day of racing at the 2024 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, Chicago Walter Cooper

Shawn and Jerry O’Neill’s Sydney 38 Eagle won its ORC division; Tod and Heidi Patton’s J/122e Blondie was the top PHRF Spinnaker winner and Jim Murray’s Calisto Racing [Hestia] was the top J/70, winning four of six races to beat out Laura Sigmond’s Norboy by 5 points. Norboy was the top Mixed-Plus J/70 team and Bob Willis’ Rip Rullah was top Corinthian.

Roman Plutenko and Csilla Gal were the regatta’s top ILCA sailors (6 and 4, respectively) with three races counted.