While Chicago missed out on an opportunity to host the Olympic Games in 2016 (while also likely dodging a financial bullet), the city will still welcome prestigious international sporting competition this summer. On June 11th and 12th, the world’s best sailors will take to Lake Michigan for the Chicago round of the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS). For the first time in its 165 year history, the event will take place on a non-saltwater body of water with Chicago’s skyline of iconic architecture presenting an eye-popping backdrop to the sport’s wide global audience.
The event organizers have marketed the Chicago round of the America's Cup under the tagline "the Windy City is made for this." While Chicago received its Windy City moniker from its long-winded politicians, the venue is nonetheless expected to have the waterfront breeze necessary for an exciting regatta. Even moderate wind pressure will allow the series' fleet of high-tech carbon fiber catamarans — the yachting equivalent of Formula 1 race cars — to raise onto their hydrofoils and achieve speeds upwards of 40 knots (roughly 46 miles per hour). Because the racecourse is located entirely within the confines of Chicago’s protective breakwater, safety concerns over rough water are also eliminated.
Course conditions aside, perhaps Chicago’s greatest advantage for hosting such an event is the city's uninterrupted shoreline. While the constant invocation of Chicago’s master planner Daniel Burnham has become somewhat of cliche these days, the America’s Cup can certainly thank his Plan for Chicago for allowing the city’s lakefront to develop as publicly-accessible recreational space rather than commercial and industrial wharfage.
Next weekend’s regatta will see challengers SoftBank Team Japan, Groupama France, Emirates Team New Zealand, Sweden's Artemis Racing, and Great Britain's Land Rover Ben Ainslie compete along side America’s Cup defender Oracle Team USA in a series of qualifying races. Points will determine the seeding for the 35th America’s Cup final scheduled to take place next year in Bermuda. While grandstand seats at Navy Pier’s race village sold old months ago, general admission tickets are still available on the event’s website.