Chicago, IL – The cold, foggy weather may have dampened the spirits of the thousands of Chicagoans arrayed on shore for the Air and Water Show, but the action could not have been hotter for the final day of racing at the Chicago Grand Slam. The morning fog shut down visibility in the race area enough so that race managers postponed for about one hour until the conditions cleared enough to set up the course and start racing the Semi-Finals and Consolation round to determine 5th – 8th places. The northerly wind at 10-12 knots started building and shifting to the northeast to reach the low teens, with the accompanying sea state also progressing from choppy to lumpy to massively messy.
Through a combination of fearless positioning in the lumpy seas, excellent timing and fast pace, Pierre-Antoine Morvan and his Vannes Agglo Sailing Team first dispensed with their Semi-Final rivals Chris Steele and his 36° Below racing team from New Zealand quickly on a 3-0 score. The wiliness Steele showed yesterday in his come-from-behind victories in the Quarter-Finals was not working against the well-tuned French team. Morvan prevailed despite having a tangled spinnaker halyard on their last drop at the leeward gate of the last race, which kept the spinnaker up while going upwind for about a minute before it finally dropped to the deck.
Taylor Canfield from the US Virgin Islands and his Team US One had a similar dominance in their Semi-Final matches, never giving rival Sam Gilmour and his Neptune Racing team from Australia a chance off the start line. US One won 3-0, setting themselves up for a Finals Battle Royale with the French, and an Antipodal Petit-Final between Steele and Gilmour.
In match one of the Final, Canfield and Morvan were rarely more than meters apart in the pre-start, yet after the split start with the French going left and Canfield headed right, the right side paid off big and Canfield took a commanding 10-length lead at the first top mark. Morvan had no opportunities to close this gap, so Canfield took the first point.
In contrast, the Petit-Final pair was tangled together throughout their match, with the final outcome determined only in the last few minutes of the last leg when Steele attacked on the run, trying to roll over the top of Gilmour, but unable to get well enough past to gain control. Gilmour then gybed for the finish and took the first point.
For the second match, the wind built into the higher teens, and waves rose to meet and exceed a meter in height, further amplifying the action in the pre-starts and around the course. Canfield at the start took the right, but this time Morvan went with him only a few lengths away. But Canfield being bow out to leeward had just enough edge to force the French to the left, and controlling the right now took the early lead.
But Morvan came back to at the top mark, and while entitled for room to round the mark, it was not given, so Canfield earned a penalty. Morvan was fast on the run, split with his rival at the gate, and came back at Canfield from the right to take the outright lead. A last late charge on the run at the finish had Canfield surfing across the line just ahead, but unable to claim with the win with the outstanding penalty still due.
After another hard-fought battle, Steele meanwhile managed to get ahead and stay ahead of Gilmour to even up their series.
In Match 3, Canfield kept Morvan on the ropes throughout the pre-start, even after Morvan copped a penalty in the initial dial-up soon after entry, with the coup de grace being when Morvan earned a second penalty while Canfield had him pinned against the side of the CMRC's 80-foot houseboat regatta center. Never able to recover, the score now laid at Canfield 2 Morvan 1.
And in a close-fought match 3, Gilmour just passed Steele at the finish line, but could not claim victory because he was assessed a ¾ point penalty for damage caused in a prior match. So, only on 1.25 points, a fourth match was needed to decide the third place finisher in the event.
So in the fourth and final flight, Canfield once again came out swinging, forcing Morvan into taking a penalty on a luffing incident, and then taking and extending on an early lead to win the match and the event. This is Canfield's third consecutive victory in the Chicago Grand Slam, one that he says he will use to gain momentum towards his next major event on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, next month's Chicago Match Cup, where he will be defending champion.
“This was the most difficult of the Grand Slams held in Chicago,” said Canfield. “The competition was really tough, with four teams in the top 20 and all the other talent, this could have actually been a Grade 1 event. It was a perfect warm-up for us to the Tour event next month.”
Besides Canfield on the helm, Team US One consists of Brian Janney on the Main, Mike Rehe on the Jib, and Hayden Goodrick on the Bow.
And in the last Petit-Final match, it was Steele's turn to earn a penalty, one he could not shed to stop Gilmour from crossing the finish first and claiming third place overall. This was a remarkable comeback from a lack luster performance in the Round Robin, a tight battle to qualify in the Quarter-Finals, a 3-0 defeat suffered at the hands of Canfield, and a points penalty deduction that forced him to win not two but three matches.
Many competitors from the Chicago Grand Slam are headed east in the next few days to the next event in the Grade 2 USA Grand Slam, the Detroit Cup, being held at Bayview YC over August 21-24th. The remaining events of the USA Grand Slam Series then follow Detroit: the Knickerbocker Cup held during August 28-31, and the Oakcliff International, held during September 4-8.
10. Dustin Durant (USA)