Grand Slam Match Racing Series 2012 qualifying events start this weekend in Chicago and Oyster Bay, New York. After last year’s successful debut, organizers from the Chicago Match Race Center (CMRC), Bayview YC (BYC), Manhasset Bay YC (MBYC) and Oakcliff Sailing have expanded their international slate of teams to compete in this year’s Grand Slam Match Racing Series.
In all, teams from eight countries will be represented in this year’s series of four consecutive ISAF Open Grade 2 events: Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, US Virgin Islands, and throughout the US.
‘What began last year as a series to promote the growth of match racing in the US has grown to be a major international series,’ said Oakcliff Sailing’s Executive Director Dawn Riley. ‘The requests for invitations for our event have come in early and hot, with only a few spots remaining.’
The four events of this year’s Grand Slam are held over four consecutive weeks to allow invited overseas teams the best opportunity to optimize their travel costs in one US trip. The schedule is as follows: CMRC’s Chicago Grade 2 Invitational, held over August 17-19 at Chicago’s iconic venue for stadium sailing, Navy Pier, on TOM 28′s; BYC’s Detroit Cup, held in Ultimate 20′s with racing in front of the clubhouse on the Detroit River over August 23-26; the oldest event of the series, MBYC’s Knickerbocker Cup, will be held in Oakcliff’s Swedish Match 40′s in Long Island’s Manhasset Bay over August 29 – September 2; and the Oakcliff International, held over September 5-9.
Besides winning valuable Grade 2 points for the ISAF World Match Race Ranking List, the winning team of the series this year will be determined by scoring the best three of four events. That team will then receive an invitation to the oldest Grade 1 match racing event in the US, Long Beach YC’s Congressional Cup, to be held in March 2013.
‘The Grand Slam series is a valuable addition to our match racing program,’ says CMRC Director Tod Reynolds, ‘because it gives us many overseas entries we’d normally find hard to attract to a Grade 2 event. It also gives a great opportunity to attract new teams to CMRC from qualifying events around the US.’ The Chicago Grade 2 Invitational has two qualifiers: the Oakcliff Spring Clinegatta held this weekend over May 19-20, and the Governor’s Cup youth event hosted by Balboa YC in Newport Beach, CA over July 18-21.
BYC’s Detroit Cup will once again have the Grade 3 Bayview Spring Invitational held over June 9 -10 as its qualifier, and the winner of the main event will get an invitation to the Argo Group Gold Cup in October, an event on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. According to BYC Fleet and Regatta Director Debi Schoenherr, defending champion Jordan Reece (AUS) will be returning to defend his title this year. ‘We will also partner with Detroit’s Big Brothers/Big Sisters program again to provide racing with the pro skippers for one hour on Saturday,’ says Schoenherr. ‘This was a huge success last year and you should have seen their faces as they took photos wearing [2008 US Olympian] Anna Tunnicliffe’s Gold Medal!’
This year the Knickerbocker Cup will be celebrating its 30th anniversary since its founding by America’s Cup 12 meter syndicate member Ed DuMoulin, who was an early proponent of growing match race sailing in the US and abroad. The event thus has a long heritage in providing international match race sailing, and this year will feature a celebrity pro-am race aboard the Swedish Match 40′s used here and at Oakcliff, as well as a charity benefit for nearby St Francis Hospital. In winning the US Match Racing Championship, Dave Perry has already qualified for an invitation, and the winner will, like the Detroit Cup, also receive an invitation to the Argo Group Gold Cup. The racing schedule was interrupted last year by Hurricane Irene, ‘so we look forward to having more racing this year,’ says Knickerbocker Cup Principal Race Officer Sue Miller.
And the final event in the series, Oakcliff Sailing’s Oakcliff International, will feature more match race sailing in the Swedish Match 40′s, this time further east on Long Island in Oyster Bay, NY. Invitations are extended to the winners of the following three qualifying events: Oakcliff’s Spring Grade 3 Invitational held this weekend over May 19-20, CMRC’s June Grade 2 event held at Chicago’s Navy Pier over June 1-3, or the Oakcliff Summer Invitational held over July 28-31.
‘It’s very exciting to see the interest in open match racing in the US continue to grow,’ says Dave Perry, Chairman of the US Sailing Match Racing Committee. ‘Last year’s Grand Slam generated so much interest, it’s not surprising to have such a strong turnout from the overseas teams, where the series is acting not only to bolster their rankings points, but also prepare them for higher-grade events, such as those on the World Tour.’
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