Sailor of the Week: June 17-23
Don Wilson has a passion for match racing. It was this passion that motivated him to develop a state of the art match racing complex, which has done a remarkable job at showcasing this form of racing. In 2009, Don co-founded the Chicago Mat ch Race Center (CMRC), a high-level match race training facility for professional and amateur sailors in the U.S.
was an avid sailor since he was young. He picked up the sport while
visiting his grandmother in Maine. Don was a serious fleet racer.
However, it wasn’t until 2005 when Don decided to give match racing a
shot. He needed a new challenge and became addicted immediately. “Fleet
racing just isn’t always that efficient,” Don said. “It takes time to
get to the race course, and often only two races in a day means a very
limited number of strategic decisions, mark roundings and starts, and
an entire day’s commitment. On the other hand, ten races in a day is
the norm for match racing and competition is generally done close to
Don decided that the best way to solve this problem was to start a program in Chicago devoted solely to match racing. In consultation with Bill Hardesty, a highly experienced match racing sailor, Don established the program in the winter of 2008-09. The CMRC is located at the north end of Belmont Harbor. They now have ten Tom 28s, four Elliot 6ms, five umpire boats, two 28’ protectors, and a custom built 70’ houseboat, which serves as our floating club. The venue is outstanding for spectators. Positioning the course at the north end of the harbor allows for fans to easily watch the races from a seawall. Live commentary is broadcasted over speakers to those watching and listening on shore. “One of our goals is to get sponsors excited about the opportunities afforded by our spectator friendly form of sailing,” he said.
Don has big plans for the summer match racing season. The CMRC will host three double-header grade 3 regattas, one grade 3, one grade 2 event, a charity match race called the Windy City Match Race, and the Richardson Cup, which is an annual Great Lakes competition. He also plans to have advanced match racing sessions on Tuesday and Friday evenings and beginner sessions on Mondays.
In addition to hosting these regattas, Don invites members of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics to practice at CMRC, including Anna Tunnicliffe and Genny Tulloch. Match racing is a new addition to the 2012 Olympic Games, and bringing these teams to CMRC is helping raise the overall quality level of match racing. “It is also fun for CMRC members to have the opportunity to sail with and against them for an evening when they are in town,” added Don.
“I love good competition. By improving the sport as a whole, I am also making it more fun to compete in for myself.”