Chicago finally delivered for sailors on the third day of the J/70 North American Championship, hosted by Chicago Yacht Club. Racers saw wind speeds build to 8-13 knots after two days of ultra-light air racing and few finishes on Lake Michigan, allowing Race Committee to eke out four races for the day.
By the end of Saturday, the regatta posted six races over three days, helping teams reach the designated five needed for a drop of their worst score. With one day left to go, there’s still plenty of opportunity ahead.
The unstoppable machine known as Savasana is on top of the leaderboard entering into the final racing day. Helmsman Brian Keane, with Conor Harding, Thomas Barrows and Ronald Weed, sailed a near perfect day on Saturday, winning three out of four races. The team has been a powerhouse throughout the year, winning J/70 Midwinters and, more recently, the Verve Inshore in Chicago.
In the Windy City, Keane says the team is working hard to keep the boat moving through the ever-present choppy sea state on the lake this week.
“We’ve been very active with adjustments because this wave state is crazy,” Keane said. “If you’re not active with adjustments with everything––the main, the jib, the traveler––you’re going to slow down. Part of the secret is we’re able to adjust and keep the boat moving.”
In addition, getting a good start has been critical for the team’s success in gaining and keeping the lead in such a competitive fleet. “Getting good starts and getting a lane, that’s been really important,” Keane said. “It’s a lot easier when you’re in the lead, because you can play the shifts. When you can’t find a lane, that’s when it gets tough. That’s why we put a premium on the starts. Once you get out and get into a lane quickly, we’ve got the confidence in our boat speed to be hopefully top 10 to the mark.”
On the Corinthian side, USA 1516, helmed by Lee Sackett and co-owned with Dave Kerr, both of Cleveland, pulled ahead on Saturday, pushing into the top 15 overall. Sailing with Chicago native Eria Trejo and St. Pete, Florida, sailor Michael Booker, the team found a groove on Saturday, posting three top 10 finishes before posting a Black flag on the final race of the day.
“It was a big boat speed day, and we had pretty good speed,” Sackett said. “We seemed to be fast downwind. It’s just been about boat speed. We’re focusing on finding big holes on the start to stay in. We had three good starts, but in the fourth race we kind of got bit with a black flag. I guess that’s just how it goes.”
Despite one bad start, the team is using the bouncy sea state to their advantage, leaning on their experience as Midwest sailors. With one more day to go, Sackett is excited for more races and opportunity to push forward. “Being from Cleveland and Lake Erie, we’re pretty used to this chop,” he said. “We kind of see it as an advantage because we sail in it a lot. We’ve been learning tricks that are new for us, in terms of playing the backstay and windward sheet, and how to adjust how high you are sailing, which really makes a difference among the top boats. We’ve dialed that in and have been sure to keep the bow down in the waves.”
Chicago Yacht Club would like to thank sponsors AA Dive Services, Acqua Panna, Boater’s Closet, Casa Azul, Crowley’s, Noble Oak, North Sails, Sail 22, Samuel Adams, San Pelligrino and Twisted Tea.
Full results: https://yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eid=15805
Report by Amy Baxter Felder