America’s Cup: The Circuit Comes to Chicago

Published on June 7th, 2016

The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series (LVACWS) racing circuit forms part of the 35th America’s Cup programme, with LVACWS scoring contributing to the selection of the 2017 America’s Cup Challenger.

The six America’s Cup teams have already competed in five events, with Chicago now to host the next stop on June 11-12. Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checks in with Tod Reynolds, Program Director of the Chicago Match Race Center, for an update…

How’d Chicago become the center of the America’s Cup world?
The Chicago Match Race Center (CMRC), which was founded by Chicago sailor and entrepreneur Don Wilson in 2009, is the local event organizer. Discussions with the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) began in Q1 2014 and detailed planning for the event has been going on for over a year.

Navy Pier is the local host venue and is celebrating its Centennial this year. It is a true partnership between CMRC and Navy Pier to deliver the LVACWS. Navy Pier are major event experts while CMRC brings the sailing expertise, I cannot begin to express how thankful I am to the CEO of Navy Pier Marilyn Garden and her entire team, including Special Event Manager Jared Rush, for their tireless effort on this event.

What is the motivation for bringing the circuit to Chicago?
In some ways this is what CMRC was founded to do. Our mission is “To Bring World Class Match Racing To Lake Michigan”, though I don’t think that when Don Wilson founded the Center he had any sense that hosting an America’s Cup event would be in the realm of possibility.

However, through trial and error we keep learning how perfect Chicago is for stadium racing. We are building the foundation for America’s Cup racing here in the city and, fingers crossed, Mother Nature will let us show off our fantastic freshwater venue this weekend.

Expense-wise, the economics of running a two day America’s Cup World Series event are hard. Allocating the infrastructure investment required (Grandstands, AV equipment, hospitality structures, event branding) across two days is a challenge. The cost of rental and install for a two day event and a month long event is essentially the same, but you only have two days to split over.

I’m not sure there is a perfect model for hosting yet, but at the end of the day my revenue sources are tickets, hospitality, and corporate partners. We are so lucky to have the support of the CME Group to make it all happen.

Tell us how Chicago is so perfect for this type of event.
The stadium for racing really is second to none. Navy Pier is a turn-key event venue with everything in one locations (Tech Zone, Broadcast, Fan village, Hospitality) which is pretty unique. Racing inside the breakwall gives us four true walls – not virtual walls – to form our stadium.

What was learned from the New York event that can benefit Chicago?
I’m really glad we don’t have current! A weather dependent sport like ours is hard enough to get right as it is, and we saw how hard it was to get racing off in the strong current and light airs on the Hudson River.

Figures crossed, Mother Nature delivers in Chicago. I would love a strong northerly or southerly, but we have spent a lot of time thinking about how to set up the course to minimize randomness from wind shifts through the buildings in a west breeze.

Attracting sailors to watch is not the challenge. What is needed to attract the non-sailors?

1) Start early to get the sailing audience engaged
2) Develop story lines beyond just the racing
3) Break the message down to its most basic components.

I am pretty comfortable with where ticket sales are but we will see if all of Chicago will turn up this weekend to check out the spectacle. If all goes well, they’ll will be stoked by the epic, tight racing in a venue that puts them right at the heart of the action.

Anything else?
Pray for wind.

Event detailsFacebookScoreboard

Comment: I will be in Chicago for this one, hopefully with a view of the race course from the Dark N’ Stormy Bar on Navy Pier. Bring on the Windy City! – Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt


Background: The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) racing circuit forms part of the 35th America’s Cup programme, with ACWS scoring contributing to the selection of the 2017 America’s Cup Challenger. The ACWS will feature fleet racing in one design foiling AC45 catamarans.

ACWS 2015

July 25-26: Portsmouth, UK
August 29-30: Gothenberg, Sweden
October 17-18: Bermuda

ACWS 2016

February 27-28: Muscat, Oman
May 7-8: New York, USA
June 11-12: Chicago, USA
July 23-24: Portsmouth, UK
September 10-11: Toulon, France
November 19-20: Fukuoka, Japan

ACWS 2017 – One event expected


Using a format of fleet racing in foiling, wing-sailed 45ft catamarans, the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) winner will be the team with the most points accumulated from all the ACWS events.

In 2017, the six teams (5 challengers and 1 defender) will compete in the new 15-meter AC Class, beginning with the America’s Cup Qualifiers, a double round robin match racing series which will reduce the five challengers to the top four teams. In this series, the winner of the America’s Cup World Series starts the America’s Cup Qualifiers with a 2 point advantage (runner-up in ACWS begins with 1 point advantage).

At the conclusion of the America’s Cup Qualifiers, only the four challengers with the most points (each match win earns 1 point) advance to the final stage to determine the challenger which will face the defender in the 35th America’s Cup. Complete schedule.

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