Check, Mate

Sailing and Chess: Basics of the Chicago Match Race Cup

By Jamie DeGraaf

“When I say ‘sailing,’ the first image that comes to most people’s minds is most likely a pristine wooden yacht with a blue blazed captain manning the woodwind,” says Tod Reynolds, director of Chicago Match Race Center. “That could not be further from what is taking place at Navy Pier this week.”

A life-long lover of all things sailing, Reynolds is in full glory as the Chicago Match Race Center (CMRC) hosts the Chicago Match Cup, the only U.S. stop on the Alpari World Match Race Tour. The event has drawn 12 of the world’s top-ranked skippers and their teams to compete for their share of the $100,000 in prize money and points earned towards the Tour’s overall World Championship, which features $1.75 million in prize money, the largest booty offered in the world of sailing. Kicked off on July 10, the event continues at the end of Navy Pier through Saturday, July 15 and is open to spectators.

“These boats are sleek racing machines that the teams push to their limits maneuvering within inches of their opponents as they seek to gain an edge,” says Reynolds. He explains match racing strategy by saying, “It turns sailboat racing into a game of chess where you control your boat using the physics of the wind and water to out maneuver and outsmart your opponent.”

Reynolds inherited his passion for sailing from his father, an Olympic runner-up in the sailing trials. At 7-years-old, Reynolds entered his local junior sailing program in his New Jersey hometown. “It was an activity I immediately took to learning from not only my instructors in the local program, but my dad, grandfather, and older cousins,” he remembers. “It was a true family activity.” Reynolds sailed throughout high school, joined the Northwestern University team in college, and competed across the Midwest, making it to nationals his senior year, after which he began match racing at CMRC.

2011 found Reynolds elected as the new director of CMRC and, every day since then, he has felt  there has been something new and exciting to contribute to the development of the Cup. For example, in reference to organizing the Chicago Match Race Cup, Reynolds says, “My role is to create a signature Chicago event that utilizes what I consider the city’s greatest asset: Lake Michigan, which showcases the city globally, is entertaining to spectators locally, and provides value to event sponsors.”

Since opening in 2009, CRMC has established an international reputation for high quality match racing; therefore, being asked to host a new stop for the Alpari World Match Race Tour seemed to be a natural, logical choice.  CRMC is confident and prepared to run the entire event, both on and off the water. “The tour brings with it the top teams in the world, an international media team, and some fantastic sponsors,” says Reynolds, “but I have to thank the staff and volunteers at the Chicago Match Race Center as they are the ones who made this event a reality.”

Reynolds invites the entire Chicago community to join CRMC at Navy Pier this weekend for the first of what he expects to become an annual must-see Chicago summertime event. “The concept of match racing is simple: beat your opponent off the line,” says Reynolds. “However, the path to execution is one of thrills, spills, collisions, and emotion.” He promises you won’t be bored.