When the race committee postponed the first day of racing at the 2019 Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta Chicago, Nick Norris’ crew was left with one choice: eat or sleep.
“We left the dock at about 8:30 so we could get an hour of practice in before racing,” says Norris (Chicago, IL). As 120 boats made their way to three separate race courses two miles east of Navy Pier, a thin layer of fog hung over Lake Michigan. As boats neared their starting areas, visibility dropped to 50 feet. With uncooperative weather conditions, the Chicago Yacht Club race committee postponed racing at 11:00 AM.
“We all have different nuances when it comes to delays,” Norris explains. “Some of us like to sleep, others like to stay active. I like to stay active and keep my mind in the game.”
Norris has been helming the Beneteau 36.7 Split Decision for eight years, though the core crew has been sailing together for more than 30 years. “It’s a really tight-knit group,” says Norris. “The team is competitive so we’re looking forward to getting in some racing tomorrow.”
“It was one of the most unusual days of sailing I’ve ever had,” says David Gustman (Wilmette, IL). “And I’ve been sailing for 50 years.” Gustman sails his boat, Northstar, in the 10-boat J/109 fleet out of Chicago Yacht Club. “The key to keeping the crew focused in a situation like that is to only let them drink one beer an hour until they’ve cancelled racing,” says Gustman. “We like to put music on to keep everyone pumped up. After that, there’s not much you can do but wait.”
And there was plenty of waiting Friday morning. Even with the wind averaging 8 knots, the fog lingered and the forecast was not promising. After an hour and a half delay, the race committee sent the competitors ashore at 12:30 PM.
“This kind of fog can happen in the Spring when the wind comes in from the north,” says Ron Kallen (Highland Park, IL) “The lake is so cold that it’s hard for the sun to burn the fog away. The water is still quite cold for this time of year, which doesn’t help matters.”
Kallen sails his boat MASH in the 23-boat Tartan 10 fleet. Like other owners, keeping the crew focused is a challenge when races get delayed. “Once the race starts, it’s all about concentration. There’s no chatting about the movie you saw last night or anything like that. It’s all about what is just in front of you.”
For Michael Dannecker (Chicago, IL) in the PHRF 1 fleet, getting used to a new boat and a new style of racing is the primary goal of his Chicago NOOD Regatta. “We do a lot of one-design racing in Etchells,” says Dannecker, “so getting used to the handicap system in the PHRF fleet has been a challenge for us. You need to focus on your own boatspeed more than anything else.”
Dannecker and crew are gearing up for the Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac in July, using the NOOD as a training event. “We love doing the NOOD every year. The regatta is super well-run. Other than the weird weather today, we’ve never had a bad experience at this event.”
With racing continuing throughout the weekend, Saturday will be an action-packed day for racers in all fleets. The North Sails Rally Race is set to start at 10:30 AM, with a mixed group of racer-cruisers setting out on Lake Michigan for a single race around navigational buoys.