Monday, June 18, 2018

Thrilling Chicago NOOD Regatta

J/109s sailing off Chicago waterfront- Chicago NOOD regatta
J/111 KASHMIR Awarded Overall Regatta Win!
(Chicago, IL)- The highly popular Helly Hansen Chicago NOOD Regatta was hosted by the Chicago YC, with sailing taking place on the fresh waters of Lake Michigan, off the spectacular Chicago city-front as their backdrop.

The Chicago event is one of the biggest on the Helly Hansen Sailing World NOOD Regatta circuit.  This event included one-design classes for J/70s, J/105s, J/109s, J/111s, and J/88s. In addition, there was the North Sails Rally with ORR/PHRF divisions for a J/100, J/105, J/120, J/130, J/133, J/112E, and J/44. Of the 144 keelboats registered, 58 were J/Crews (40% of the fleet).

Karl Brummel- skipper of J/111 KashmirIn the end, it was the trio on the J/111 KASHMIR (Karl Brummel/ Steve Henderson/ Mike Mayer) that were awarded 1st in the J/111 class and also 1st Overall Winner of the regatta, earning a trip to the Caribbean this fall to sail on big, heavy, comfy charter boats for the Overall NOOD Regattas Championship.

Day One- Friday
Despite morning weather delays as lightning passed over Lake Michigan, crews competing in 11 classes completed two races during the first day of the annual Helly Hansen National Offshore One Design Regatta in Chicago. Now in its 30th year, the series is the largest and longest-running sailboat racing circuit in the country.

Sailing conditions were difficult for the J/88 fleet, according to local skipper Andy Graff.

“The challenge is that this boat is really tender and picky on rig tuning and sail tuning,” Graff said. “We didn’t know what we were going to get in terms of wind velocity, and it was important to make a last-minute call to get our best chance for the race.”

Graff and his crew aboard Exile closely observed the conditions in the half hour before the first start, noting where the wind extremes and shifts were appearing on the racecourse. They changed sails several times before settling on a middle option, which helped then power through the waves and quickly change gears as needed.  Exile led the fleet heading into day two.

J/111 sailing Chicago NOOD regattaDay Two- Saturday
The 2018 Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta in Chicago’s second day concluded with two teams tied atop the J/70 class. With one final day of racing on the schedule, the pressure is firmly on the leaders.

Andrew Criezis, skipper of the top-ranked boat, Rip Rullah, said he’s been relying on the skill of his crew to manage the fleet’s highly competitive racing and Lake Michigan’s challenging conditions.

“I have an amazing team,” Criezis said. “We’ve worked really hard to push ourselves and go for competitive starts. We’re pushing the line, being aggressive and really going for a good position. The crew is doing a good job with their weight management, which is so critical in the J/70 in light to medium breeze. It’s really paid dividends for us — we had great speed upwind and downwind, smooth transitions and pretty good overall fleet engagement.”

Because winds were light and shifty on Saturday, Criezis said constant sail trim was required to take advantage of small wind shifts throughout the day, and that was the key to Rip Rullah’s two race wins. The crew plans to stay on top of the weather — and hold on to today’s winning formula — to maintain their place atop the fleet.

“It’s going to be about being consistent tomorrow, not making any big mistakes, keeping our eyes on the boat, being smart and really going for top-five finishes,” he said. “Have fun while we’re doing it, and we’ll be in a good position to close out the regatta.”

J/109 Callisto sailing Chicago NOOD regattaLocal skipper Jim Murray and his crew aboard Callisto currently lead the J/109 fleet. Murray and team have been taking great care to calculate how the variable wind, chop and fog will impact their boatspeed before making a decision on how to tune the boat for each race.

“Conditions have been very challenging out there both days,” Murray said. “It hasn’t been physically challenging because we haven’t had big breeze, but it’s been mentally challenging having to adjust everything from rig tune to all of our sail controls every race.”

Despite their comfortable lead, team Callisto isn’t yet counting on victory. The evenly matched, eight-boat fleet offers plenty of competition to keep things interesting on Sunday.

“Anything could change, so consistency is really what it’s all been about for us,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to have a few moves pay off, but we’re not taking anything for granted. We’re going to be prepared for a range of conditions tomorrow and try to stay conservative.”

J/111s sailing Chicago NOOD regattaDay Three- Sunday Finale
After three days of intense competition and challenging conditions on Lake Michigan, the Helly Hansen National Offshore One Design (NOOD) Regatta concluded its fourth stop of the season in Chicago on Sunday.

Among the eleven class winners stood one above all: J/111 Kashmir, which earned the event’s overall title. The boat is co-owned by Steve Henderson, Mike Mayer and Karl Brummel.

This was team Kashmir’s first major regatta of season in preparation for the J/111 North Americans later this summer, and the crew saw improvements in boatspeed throughout the weekend as they settled in with new sails.

“I thought we were fast downwind and our speed upwind was OK on Friday, but not great,” Brummel said. “We had some boathandling problems that we were able to fix."

Kashmir’s results on Friday were a second and a third, but in Saturday’s first race, said Brummel, “we just got launched, and fortunately the other top three or four boats somehow got buried. We just kept getting faster and faster; our speed upwind was probably better than anybody’s at the end of the regatta. We were breaking in new jibs, so it was the first time trimming those and getting the rig right.”

The game plan going into the final race was to get a clean start and cover the competition, Brummel said. All they had to do was sail their boat well and sail better than everyone else.

“But we failed to execute that plan,” he said. “We got a horrific start. We were second row, we tacked out to port and went right. It turns out there was a nice lane of pressure on the right that wasn’t on the left and we rounded the mark first.”

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, he added, but what also helped was that the second-place boat was over the starting line early and had to restart.

“That took some pressure off of us, but the third place boat got a good start so we were not thrilled with the first 30 seconds of the race,” Brummel said. “We were flat out lucky.”

As the Helly Hansen Chicago NOOD’s overall winner, team Kashmir earns a berth in the Helly Hansen NOOD Caribbean Championship Regatta, presented by Sunsail in the British Virgin Islands this October.

After the KASHMIR trio, the balance of the podium for the 111s was Jeff Davis’ SHAMROCK from Cleveland, OH (the J/111 Midwinter Champion in St Petersburg, FL) in second and Rich Witzel’s ROWDY from Chicago taking the bronze.

J/105 winners- Stone/ BreaultBruce Stone and Nicole Breault dominated the J/105 fleet at the Chicago NOOD Regatta. They were the only competitors in the entire regatta to score straight bullets.

Bruce reports, “weather fronts rolled through each night into the morning, causing postponements and making steering difficult in the leftover lumpy conditions, with winds 7-10 knots, versus the 14-22 knots on SF Bay that can power us through the chop. Our mainly StFYC team worked well together and made the needed adjustments to keep the boat moving. Nicole tuned the rig for each race and made the calls to find the best pressure on the course. We managed six bullets in six races, extending our string to 11 straight wins over two regatta weekends with two mostly different crews. We might not get invited back to Chicago!"

San Francisco native Bruce Stone was sailing in Chicago for the first time in nearly 40 years in anticipation of the 2018 J/105 North American Championship in nearby Harbor Springs, MI this July.

Stone and his wife, Nicole Breault, own two J/105s of their own, but are chartering Gryphon from owner Sam Powers, who joined their crew.

J/88s sailing Chicago NOOD regattaBehind Team GRYPHON were Jon Weglarz’s THE ASYLUM in second and Gyt Petkus’ VYTIS in third, both are local Chicago teams.

Skipper Ben Marden on the J/88 BANTER echoed Bruce Stone’s thoughts on what it was like to sail in the tough conditions off the Chicago waterfront, praising his own crew aboard the BANTER for finding a good groove, as they train for the J/88 North Americans in Chicago this August. After a tricky first day, they made a radical decision that ultimately propelled them to four consecutive first-place finishes during the next two race days.

“I was the only person who had the same job on the second day,” Marden said. “Five people changed jobs, and we stuck with the new positions. We loosened everything up and were more aggressive with rig tune and light-air boathandling. This was a great test for the team so we could take notes and come out of it with some new information on things we can improve upon.”

This was Marden’s first Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta as a boat owner, and only his second regatta since buying the boat last winter.  The balance of the J/88 class podium included Chicagoan Andy Graff’s EXILE in second and Tim Wade’s WINDSONG from Bowling Green, OH in third.

J/70 woman skipper- Chicago NOOD regattaLocal J/70 owner John Heaton also celebrated a “first” this weekend with his inaugural win in the J/70 class. For his crew on EMPEIRIA, the keys to the weekend were consistency, boatspeed and communication.

“It was mainly about working really hard on speed all the time,” Heaton said. “That’s a testament to the team I have onboard. They work the boat really well. In the J/70s, it’s important to get free of other boats, put the bow down and go fast. That really helped us, especially today. We were confident in our boatspeed, got free of other boats and kept it rolling.”

While constant discussions on speed and tactics fueled team EMPEIRIA, the winning boat in the regatta’s largest fleet found a different way to focus.  Behind them on the podium was Andrew Criezis’ RIP RULLAH taking the silver (the only other double-race winner), and Jake Christy’s PALE HORSE securing the bronze.

The eight-boat J/109 class saw a seesaw battle take place between Jim Murray’s CALLISTO and Scott Sims’ SLAPSHOT II (a former Chicago Blackhawks player living in Wilmette, IL).  As an illustration of how tight and competitive the sailing was for the 109s, both boats only managed one 1st and two more podium finishes! In the end, it was Murray’s CALLISTO that finished with a 4-1-2-3-5 tally for 15 pts to take the class win.  Sims’ SLAPSHOT posted a 5-3-1-6-3 record for 18 pts to take the silver.  And rounding out the podium for the bronze was Keith Eickenberg’s BLACKFIN with a 1-4-5-4-7 scoreline for 21 pts.

In the world of PHRF offshore handicap racing, the eight-boat PHRF 2 ToT fleet was Dan Leslie’s J/35 NOMATA post a 1-3-3-8 for 15 pts to hold on to the bronze, just barely.  And, in the North Sails Rally ORR 1 Division of twelve-boats, it was Tom Papoutsis’ J/133 RENEGADE that took home the silver. Sailing photo credits- Paul Todd/ Outside Images.  For more Helly Hansen Chicago NOOD Regatta sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.