The America’s Cup will hold one of its preliminary races here next year, on June 10-12. Event organizers hope it will be an audition for Chicago hosting the finals of the world’s most famous sailboat race in the future.
Race officials today unveiled plans showing the course layout and the planned setup at Navy Pier, which will serve as the finish line during the qualifying event for the 2017 America’s Cup Finals.
The pier will serve as the event headquarters for the race, including a grandstand viewing area, VIP hospitality and entertainment near the venue’s east end.
Here are two renderings of what the setup will look like:
Chicago won the right to host the event with a strong push from the Chicago Match Race Center, the boating club based in Belmont Harbor, and its founder, Chicago trader and real estate investor Don Wilson of DRW Holdings.
Lake Michigan will be the first freshwater venue for an America’s Cup race in the event’s 164-year history.
In addition to serving as an early round in the larger America’s Cup competition, the World Series race will give participants a sense of Chicago’s ability to host competitive sailing. The Chicago Sports Commission and Chicago Match Race Center likely will submit bids to host the America’s Cup Finals the next time around, after falling short in its bid to host the 2017 race.
“This is the next test,” said Tod Reynolds, program director of the Chicago Match Race Center and event director for the World Series Chicago race. “One of our next steps is having catamarans (race) in Chicago so that we can get more data points in terms of sailing conditions.”
The World Series race will be held on a course between Navy Pier and the Shedd Aquarium with areas on the water designated for spectator boats. The exact course and length of the race will be determined by wind conditions on the days of the event.
Just as important as wind conditions in recruiting future America’s Cup events will be local corporate support. On that front, Chicago-based trading firm CME Group has stepped up as the race’s first top-line sponsor.
“When the international sailing world descends upon Chicago next summer, they will understand why Lake Michigan is called the third coast,” Wilson said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is just the beginning. . . .We are building the foundation for stadium sailing and the America’s Cup in Chicago.”
by DANNY ECKER