With the increased emphasis on “extreme” pro racing—including wing-sailed carbon-fiber cats, gigantic oceangoing multihulls and Volvo 70s leaving arrow-straight wakes across the Southern Ocean—many might consider the idea of an inshore displacement monohull circuit to be a nonstarter.
But as was proved at the recent Chicago Match Cup regatta, they’d be dead wrong.
Hosted by the Chicago Match Race Center, the event served as the fourth stop on the eight-stop 2012 Alpari World Match Racing Tour and provided a welcome relief from the fist-pumping, made-for-TV adrenaline-fests that seem to be the goal of so many promoters of the sport.
The fact that defending Alpari World Match Racing Tour champion Ian Williams of Great Britain wrapped up his regatta victory by going 3-0 against Australian skipper Jordan Reece in a near drifter did nothing to detract from the event. On the contrary, it made his accomplishment all the more impressive.
The level of seamanship displayed was nothing less than extraordinary, whether it was jockeying for position during the prestart, getting in phase on the way to the windward mark or gybing on a dime on the way to the finish—and it was all right there for everyone to see.
Twenty-knot-plus windspeeds may be necessary to keep some racing enthusiasts' interest as they clicks from place to place on the Internet. But when the competitors are mixing it up literally beneath your feet—as was the case when the skippers started using the viewing area at the end of Chicago’s Navy Pier to set “picks” on each other before the final drive toward the start—conventional monohull boatspeeds are just fine. Even the non-sailors in the crowd were impressed.
For all the hype, the jury is still very much out on the America’s Cup World and the Extreme 40 series, especially here in North America. There’s a good chance one or both of them may ultimately prove to be a flash in the pan. But to this sailor (who unashamedly admits at least a partial allegiance to Russell Coutts’s Flintstone generation) the skills displayed by the 12 crews taking part in the 2012 Chicago Match Cup represent the kind of “ultimate” sailing that never goes stale.
For complete Chicago Match Cup results, including the overall standings for this year’s Alpari World Match Racing Tour, click here.