Team Mojo, the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta Chicago’s overall winning team, took its lumps early in the regatta but ultimately won the seven-boat Beneteau First 40.7 class and the overall title. The Chicago NOOD is the largest regatta hosted on Lake Michigan since the pandemic began.
Team Mojo, a Chicago-based raceboat owned by Gary Powell and Scot Ruhlander, moved into first place on Saturday and never looked back to win the one-design 40.7 class by one point over Thomas Weber’s La Tempete. The 12-member team is already making their plans to attend the Helly Hansen NOOD Caribbean Championship in October in the British Virgin Islands, representing Chicago.
“We sailed our best races yesterday,” the co-owners said, acknowledging the first day of the regatta presented challenges for the team. “The crew work was spectacular, and that’s what makes it fun.”
Sunday’s fading breeze allowed for one race to be completed on the final day of the regatta, but it was enough for three teams to capitalize on the conditions and move into winning positions in their classes.
Eagles Wings, the Grand Soleil 44 owned by John Gottwald, won today and earned the overall win in the ORC division. The boat has been in storage for five years, but it took little time for the crew to get up to speed. “Getting it back out on the water has been awesome,” he says. The ORC division had close racing all weekend, but today’s light air was tough.”
“I feel fortunate to come out with a win,” says Gottwald, who came into today’s racing sandwiched between yesterday’s leader, Shawn and Jerry O’Neill’s Sydney 38 Eagle, and third-placed Philip Dowd’s Farr 40 Inferno.
“Today’s conditions were particularly challenging,” says Gottwald. “Our strategy was to get clear of everybody and stay out of trouble. We knew Inferno would be ahead of us given their boat rating [boats are scored using a corrected-time formula], so we just had to stay in contact with them and stay far enough ahead of Eagle, who we had to beat by almost four minutes to correct out on time.”
In another mixed-boat class, PHRF 1, Jeff Janicek’s Dire Wolf won its class, and its first major regatta, since beginning their sailing program not long ago. Like Gottwald, he also launched the boat after an extended absence. “How cool is it that the two boats named after Grateful Dead songs battled it out for the win,” says Janicek. His team overtook yesterday’s leader Scarlet Begonias and Janicek says, “As the ‘Dire Wolf’ lyrics go, we collected our dues in the end.”
The third team to clinch their class win today was Erizo de Mar in the nine-boat Beneteau First 36.7 class. Arek Szawlowski, the team’s main trimmer, says despite a poor start today, thanks to good boatspeed they were able to finish in third place. “It was enough to recover from yesterday’s mistakes when we had a bad race.”
Other teams that maintained or extended their leads included the J/70s, J/88, Tartan 10, Great Lakes 52, J/105, J/109 and J/111, as well as overall winner, Mojo. Richard Witzel’s Rowdy won the six-boat J/111 fleet, and says he’s happy to be racing again. “It’s been great to be back sailing at a major regatta,” he says. “It’s obvious people are super excited to be back on the water, and part of the fun is having a mix of conditions. Chicago delivered over the three days.”
Next for the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta series is Marblehead, Mass., the final stop for the nation’s largest regatta series before each city’s winning team heads to the British Virgin Islands for the Helly Hansen NOOD Caribbean Championship presented by Sunsail.