Soft Opening For Chicago’s Big Regatta

The breeze was light and the racing was tight on the kickoff of the 2023 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Chicago.

Final Results

While Daniel Floberg was at work on a glorious summer Friday in Chicago, he turned the his J/88 Misty to his crew, which did their skipper proud on the opening day of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series by not just winning the first race of the morning—by a Lake Michigan mile—but then winning the next one and finishing fourth in the third to close the day with a 1-point lead in the seven-boat class. This was, of course, easier said than done with flat water and an easy breeze that slowly built but often shifted dramatically, catching some teams off guard.

2023 Sailing World Regatta Series – Chicago
J/88 Team Misty rounds the weather mark on en route to winning the first race of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Chicago. Walter Cooper

For the first day of this early-season Chicago summer classic, three races were scored across all four race circles and with winds on the tamer side, conditions were ideal for race teams new and old to re-acclimate with their boats and their positions after the long offseason. But for Tod Patton, the professional sailmaker and skipper of the J/122e Blondie, today was an opportunity to better understand a boat that is new to the team. “This is the first buoy race regatta we’ve done since we’ve gotten the boat,” Patton says, “and given that we’re happy with our results today—the crew work was great and that certainly helped.”

With a trio of second-place finishes in the six-boat PHRF division, Patton’s Blondie padded themselves a 3-point lead over Robert Smeeter’s Ohana, a Dehler 34c, but it’s not Ohana that Patton is most worried about. He says Joe Hummel’s C&C 115 Archimedes III, sitting in third, seemed to be the fast boat they’ll have to keep tabs on over the weekend. “They had good speed,” Patton says, “but for us, everything worked pretty smoothly, so that made for a good day to start with.”

Gary Powell and Scot and Yvonne Ruhlander’s Beneteau 40.7 Mojo, past overall champions of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Chicago, got off to a good start with a second in the first race and race wins in the next two to establish a 2-point lead over Thomas Weber’s team on La Tempete, which won the day’s opening race. Jeffrey Davis’ team on the J/111 Shamrock also put a pair of wins on the scoreboard to lead its three-boat division.

2023 Sailing World Regatta Series – Chicago
The Beneteau 36.7 fleet exits the mark and looks for the next shift at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Chicago. Walter Cooper

In the J/109 fleet, George Miz’s team on Smee Again got off to rocky start with a fifth in the first race after seemingly getting caught out on the morning’s first big wind shift, but with that result behind them, they rallied with a 1-2 for the next races and closed the day tied at the top with Peter Priede and his team on Full Tilt, winners of the final race of the day.

For Mark Fruin and his teammates on the J/105 Nyctosaur, today on Lake Michigan was a banner day and an even better start to their season. After winning the first-race wire-to-wire they finished second to Josh and Laura Lutton’s Kinship in the next. Their win in the third race, Fruin says, was all on account of a full-speed start. From there, however, he doesn’t remember much. He was doing his job concentrating on driving and letting the crew do the rest of the good work, including his tactician, Bob Bernstein, a local champion with plenty of experience on Lake Michigan.

2023 Sailing World Regatta Series – Chicago
Team Mojo, the top Beneteau 40.7 after three races on the opening day of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Chicago. Walter Cooper

“It was all about the right side today and Bob put us in some great places.”

For Saturday’s coming races, Fruin says the plan is to stick with what’s been working: “We’ll just listen to Bob, put ourselves in clear air and sail fast.”

On the regatta’s one-design circle, which features the two largest classes—the J/70 and the Tartan 10s—it was all Richard Witzel’s team on the J/70 Rowdy, which went undefeated to build a 9-point lead over Dick Kalow’s crew on Superior 1. For the Tartan 10s, last year’s winning team on Brian Kaczor’s Erica remains on form with 1-3-2 scoreline which puts them 3 points ahead of their rivals on Edward Mui and Craig Roehl’s Meat.

2023 Sailing World Regatta Series – Chicago
Tartan 10s group off the start of the day’s third race in Chicago. Walter Cooper

“We were expecting lighter winds all day and were happy to have the breeze we did,” Kaczor says. “For the first race, we had the boat set up for lighter winds and it was quick, but when the wind built for the scone we didn’t shift gears very and missed some shifts, but were happy to claw back from seventh to third in that race. Overall, we’re pretty happy with being a bit more consistent than the rest of the fleet. The crew did great and I think we are sitting in a good place but we know there are a lot more races to go.”

With a good forecast for Saturday’s races, the regatta’s Distance Race fleets, topping more than 30 boats, will join the action with longer courses across the lake. Once ashore, all competitors will gather at host Chicago Yacht Club’s Monroe Station for the weekend’s biggest party and the ultra-competitive remote control racing with the Dragon Force 65 fleet.