J/99 Wins Chicago to Waukegan Race
The day dawned with a gorgeous sunrise from the east, the sun's light radiating across the lake against the magnificent skyscrapers that line the Chicago waterfront, millions of windows mirroring the sunrise back down onto the lakefront in a vast expanse of reddish-orange glow. The weather forecast promised an easterly breeze, fluctuating from ENE to ESE in the 7 to 14 kts range, with a perfectly sunny, cool day. The setting could not have been more perfect for a fleet of nearly 100 boats looking forward to a simple sprint of 30.0nm from Chicago to Waukegan, IL.
As the fleet approached the starting line for the early morning start at 10:00 am, the weather prognosis was anything but close to reality. The first fleet started off in a light easterly of 5-6 kts, but the subsequent starts in nearly calm breeze could barely generate any headway for boats across the line in an extremely severe cross-chop generated by Chicago's notorious "washing machine generator"- the vertical steel walls of the downtown shoreline.
After three fleets could not fully clear the starting line, the Chicago YC's Race Committee was forced to postpone the starts of the remaining fleets. Subsequently, as the next set of classes took off in the building breeze, like J/105s, J/109s and PHRF Classes, it was clear the last class to start was going to have the greatest handicap advantage overall.
In it's inaugural race on Lake Michigan, the J/99 HOKEY SMOKES survived a few starting line debacles, avoiding collisions in a 2-3 kts blast, to ultimately break free with its Code Zero flying to get the ball rolling about a half hour after their start. From there, it was a tight fetch on starboard tack under Code Zero, with TWA's varying from 85 to 120 degrees, with greater pressure seen offshore most of the race with gentle gusts up to 13 kts TWS.
In the end, Rich & Lori Stearns' J/99 HOKEY SMOKES not only won PHRF 3 Class, but was just 12 minutes off winning the PHRF Overall classification, taking 2nd in fleet to the largest boat in the fleet- a custom 66 footer.
Winning the J/109 class of eight-boats was David Gustman's NORTHSTAR. They were followed on the podium by Jim Murray's CALLISTO and the duo of George Miz and Mark Hatfield on SMEE AGAIN.
The always competitive nine-boat J/105 class saw Clark Pellett's SEALARK win, followed by Gerhard Zinserling's Y-NOT in second, and Mark Stoll's PEREGRINE in third.
Not surprisingly, the always formidable J/111 class on Lake Michigan made their mark in PHRF 2 Class with a near sweep; with John Kalanik's PURA VIDA winning, Tom Dickson's WARLOCK second by just 50 seconds, and Tom McIntosh's MISTY in fourth place.
Similarly, in PHRF 4 Class the J/88s nearly sweet, too; Andy & Sarah Graff's EXILE won with Ben Marden's BANTER in second place.
Then, in PHRF 5 Class, Charles Olsen's J/27 WHITEHAWK took 3rd place.