With eighteen boats registered, the J/70s are the “talk of the town”, the biggest city in the American Midwest and known as the “Windy City”- mostly for its reputation of politicians blustering all manner of vacuous “hot air” (e.g. "talking the talk versus walking the walk"). Nevertheless, the sailors are the real thing, and when a number of leading teams in the Chicago area decide to move forward and support class development, things happen. In the case of the J/70s, the class has developed a very strong local following with many leading the class on a national basis.
It will interesting to see how the Lake Michigan J/70 sailors tackle this weekend’s weather forecast. While Friday and Saturday may produce light to medium winds from the northeast as part of a massive thunderstorm complex moving through from the Canadian Prairies, Sunday at least promises beautiful sunny skies with mild temperatures and breezes from the southeast (a classic direction for Chicago sailors).
Top teams surely include Bob Hughes from Macatawa Bay, Michigan sailing HEARTBREAKER. Bob is renowned for having sailed J/35s, Farr 40s, Melges 32s and, most recently, a TP52 in this year’s Chicago-Mac Race of the same name. Challenging Hughes will be a member of the famous Londrigan family (Star World and J/109 Champions), Tom Londrigan from Island Bay YC on POLARIS. From Wilmette, IL and sailing for Chicago YC will be John Heaton on EMPEIRIA. Lasse Berthelsen from Norway will also be sailing NOR 645 and Leif Sigmond will be racing NORBOY. Blane Shea is racing GEMINI, a fast, up & coming young sailor in the 70 class.
What is also notable about the J/70 Chicago fleet development are “family-owned” boats (e.g. brothers, sisters, cousins, father/son, etc), like Martin & Jorgen Johnsson’s AQUAHOLIKS from Lake Forest YC, Jeff & Mark Veenstra’s J’HAD from South Shore YC in Milwaukee, and Ryan & Bryan Frey’s JOHNNY UTAH from Chicago YC. For Chicago history buffs, “family” is important in Chicago sailing circles— even guys like the famous Italian mobster Al Capone purportedly loved boating with his friends between doing not so nice stuff.
Women skippers are also becoming a significant component of the development and evolution in J/70 regattas on a regional, national and worldwide level. With a top woman sailor like Heather Gregg-Earl from Boston, Massachusetts leading the charge, it’s no wonder the element of “women empowerment” is pervading the class (note- Heather was 2013 J/70 North American Champion as skipper of MUSE in Annapolis, MD). There are several women skippers from Chicago YC alone, including Andrea Krasinski on BUCEPHALUS, Amy Neill on NITEMARE, and Pamela Rose on ROSEBUD. For more Verve Cup sailing information