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Skyway Yacht Works COLORS Regatta at Columbia Yacht Club - Day 1

by Morgan Kinney 4 Jun 2017 08:03 BST 3-5 June 2017
Skyway Yacht Works COLORS Regatta Distance Race © Zachary James Johnston

The Skyway Yacht Works COLORS Regatta at Columbia Yacht Club had traditionally been known as a tune-up regatta held the weekend before the Chicago NOOD. However, with a record-breaking 114 entries, COLORS is bucking all former trends.

Not only is Columbia's one level offshore racing series regatta the first major event of the season on lower Lake Michigan, but it is also one of the largest in a time when racing is perceived as a sport experiencing declining rates of participation.

"COLORS has been known as the best regatta party in Chicago since 1992. At Columbia, we want to encourage and celebrate everyone coming out of the woodwork to compete whether they're racing PHRF, distance or one design," said Columbia's Commodore, Craig Horton. Ten PHRF section boats may not sound like many, but it is still an incremental improvement over the 6-8 boats that register for the section on average.

Additionally, another 35 boats raced PHRF in the Distance Race that travelled 17 miles along Chicago's lakefront. Among the fleet were seven solo racers from the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society. Gary Verhaerk, President of GLSS, said, "Skyway Yacht Works referred our group to this race as a great, low key tune-up for the Solo Mac in a few weeks. So, we got the group together to enjoy a beautiful day on the water." After waiting 10 minutes under a short postponement due to lack of wind, Principal Race Officer Olof Andersson, declared, "Let's do this." With less than a minute left in the starting sequence, the breeze clocked around 180 degrees and turned up to 12 knots providing a sporty start for the fleet of boats ranging from the J/88s to an Andrews 77. Despite the size difference, the small boats managed to dominate the fleet with Ben Wilson's J/88, Rambler, winning the offshore PHRF section alongside Michael Tuman's Seascape 27, Nemo, taking first in the singlehanded section.

Amongst the one design fleets, one to two races were held due to the varying wind conditions. Always a strong contender, Bob Arzbaecher's Sociable proved consistent snagging two bullets. Hailing from Milwaukee Yacht Club, Sociable, has been competing in the COLORS Regatta for more than six years and has had first-place finishes four of those years.

The J/111 Fleet is also welcoming two out of town boats, Solution and Shmokin Joe, who are getting a jump on the competition for the Chicago NOOD next weekend. Local favourite, Kashmir, is two points behind Class President Len Siegel's Lucky Dubie. Kashmir has dialed in on the key to success with a consistent crew winning their section at COLORS all but one year.

On the south course, Chicago's iconic Tartan 10 fleet collectively paused when Meat approached the start line as the team had renamed themselves Witch Craft in honour of Jim Webb who passed away suddenly on Wednesday, May 28. "Every T-10 had Jim on its mind today," said Brian Kennalley, one of Meat's three owners. "His laugh could be heard across the harbour. He gave so much to [Jackson Park Yacht Club] and the fleet. We had a great moment to honour him on the race course, and we remember the positive impact he had on racing in Chicago."

Sunday's forecast calls for unstable air building to 12 knots out of the west as storms build over the shore. Results can be found at www.yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=4145.