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A Big Hand

Matt Cassidy is one of the newest members of the Oracle sailing team, defending champions of America’s Cup. He’s had plenty of time on Lake Michigan—and he says we can expect a speedy good time when the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series arrives June 10 to 12.

The mainsail on the current class of catamaran used in the America’s Cup races is essentially “an airplane wing made out of carbon fiber ribs” overlaid with plastic, says crewman (and former Chicago resident) Matt Cassidy.

You’ve got a lot of connections in Chicago.
I lived there from 2008 to 2014. My wife is from Glenview. And I did a few junior events in Chicago. But my first professional sailing job was with architect Helmut Jahn. He has a Farr 40 called Flash Gordon, and when I was around 19, I started racing with him. Chicago held the world championships in 2012, and we won it there, in his hometown.

What was your role with Jahn?
I’m a bowman; I took care of the front of the boat. I called the starts, making sure we weren’t over the line early, and I coordinated all the sails going up and down. In Chicago, I’ll be a bowman; the America’s Cup boats are going so fast that you don’t really pull sails up and down.

The boats you’ll sail here are quite different, right?
It’s a completely different boat, and when I first got on the learning curve was significant. It felt like learning how to sail all over again.

They’re extraordinarily fast.
Today [at practice in Bermuda], we were doing over 40 knots [around 46 mph] a lot of the time—that’s ripping. When you’re by yourself or next to another boat, you don’t really appreciate how fast you are going, but then you go by a dinghy or a channel marker and it goes by very, very quickly.

Cassidy

What are we going to see here?
It’s the first time America’s Cup racing has been held on freshwater. Chicago has a huge boating and sailing culture, and to have those people see these types of boats is going to be awesome.

Can we get a good look?
The starting line will be right off Navy Pier. You’ll be just boat lengths away from the action. You’ll hear the guys yelling and talking about prestart tactics. The course takes us toward the planetarium and the Museum Campus to the south. If you’re cruising along Lakeshore Drive, you’ll see the boats—and if you have a boat, you can get out there in the spectator area. If the conditions are right, it will be the best event of the year. Weekend grandstand pass $349, lvacws-chicago.americascup.com