The boats jostle for position at the starting line. Strategy plays an important role in the race, so a strategic starting position is essential. The trigger is pulled, and the boats careen off. Manned by crews of muscled and tan good lookin' fellas, these boats are so fast they occasionally give an illusion of flying. Sponsor logos and country flags blaze on the sails. Where am I, Amalfi Coast? The spectacular skyline is the race's backdrop. Make no mistake, this is Chicago's lakefront. The boats race on Lake Michigan.
I was graciously invited aboard Land Rover Hospitality Boat to watch the final races on Sunday. Land Rover is the sponsor for British team BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing), one of the top competitors going up against the US team Oracle and the defending champs Swedish team Artemis. The roster of teams also included New Zealand, France and Japan. The hospitality boat, local vessel Anita Dee II, was fully stocked with champagne and food, and it became my vantage point for the three races of the day.
Sipping Pol Roger champagne and having donned Land Rover BAR team gear, I listened to the pros explain the particulars of Sunday's races. Team BAR's objective was to overtake the Kiwis (New Zealand was in the lead at that point) and the US team Oracle, currently in second. With no races held on Saturday due to weather conditions (no wind, no racing), Sunday became "Super Sunday". Each race would earn double points. The top two teams at the end of the day would receive a two- and one-point advantage in the World Series finals in Bermuda. Secretly, I was hoping that BAR and Oracle would come in as top two, gotta cheer for the home team a little, am I right?
Watching the races up close and personal was exciting! When Team BAR won the first race, our boat erupted with cheers, sounding the horn. Champagne toast was immediately poured. Already festive, the atmosphere became practically electric. Strangers on land, aboard Anita Dee II we bonded together in our support of sportsmanship on display.
Now, the race is on to Bermuda! Best of luck to all the competitors! I remain, faithfully, in support of Land Rover BAR crew. And I hope to see America's Cup return to our fair city. Because let's face it, I am now addicted.
This is Part II in our series covering the Louis Vuitton America's Cup in Chicago. Part I: Behind the Scenes at the Louis Vuitton America's Cup with LandRover BAR
VIP access to America's Cup World Series generously provided by Land Rover BAR. All photos courtesy of Land Rover BAR.
Navy Pier, now remodeled and complete with a new Centennial Ferris wheel, is located in the heart of Chicago's lakefront at 600 E. Grand Ave.