Featuring the best sailors on the planet, the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series is ready to hit Chicago — and fresh water — for the first time in its 165-year history.

For Chicago, America’s Cup runneth over

What you didn’t know about the famed race about to set sail in the Windy City

The Wisch List

In Chicago, we’ve seen the World Cup (Opening Ceremony, 1994). We’ve seen the Stanley Cup (often, in recent years). And we’ve seen the Crosstown Cup (can’t the Cubs and White Sox just mothball that thing?).

But a Cup that we’ve never seen is America’s.

Until now.

From June 10–12, sailing’s most famous racing competition will dip its toe in Chicago for the first time as the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series splashes into Lake Michigan. Featuring the world’s best sailors competing on 45-foot wing-sailed, hydro-foiled, multi-hull catamarans, the World Series — a phrase rarely associated with Chicago — is the first stage of competition in the 35th America’s Cup that began last summer and will culminate in the America’s Cup finals in 2017 in Bermuda.

Navy Pier will serve as the prime viewing area — on land, at least — for the America’s Cup boat race.

Chicago submitted a bid to host the finals that Bermuda won, but was instead awarded the consolation prize of the World Series –something that the Cubs hope to host in 2016 too.

The race, which could be a trial run for Chicago to ultimately host the finals, brings the America’s Cup into fresh water for the first time in its 165-year history, and will involve six teams (New Zealand, Japan, France, Sweden, Great Britain and defending champion Oracle Team USA) competing at speeds up to 35 knots (40 mph) on a course that stretches between Navy Pier and Adler Planetarium.

If you’re at all like me and barely know your starboard side from your port (that would be left and right), there’s probably a lot about America’s Cup that you didn’t know. Here are a few factoids to get you seaworthy.

Second place, first loser

In August 1851, a radical-looking schooner emerged from the afternoon mist off the southern coast of England and swiftly sailed past the Royal Yacht stationed near the Isle of Wight while Queen Victoria was aboard watching a sailing race. As the schooner, named America, zipped past in first position, and saluted the Queen by dipping its ensign flag three times, she asked one of her attendants to tell her who was in second place.

Queen Victoria reigned over England from 1837–1901.
“Your majesty, there is no second,” was the reply.

According to the America’s Cup website, that phrase is still the best description of the competition and how it represents the singular pursuit of excellence.

America, the Beautiful

On that day in 1851, the America, which represented the young New York Yacht Club, went on to beat the best the British could offer and win the Royal Yacht Squadron’s 100 Guinea Cup, symbolizing a great victory of the new world over the old as Great Britain was unseated as the globe’s undisputed maritime power.

Shortly after winning, the America’s owners sold their celebrated schooner and returned home as heroes. They donated a trophy to the New York Yacht Club, which stated that it was to be a “perpetual cup for friendly competition between nations.”

And thus, the America’s Cup was born — named after the schooner, not the country.

The America’s Cup is named after the 1851 schooner The America— and not the country.

Winning ain’t easy

It would take 118 years before any other nation was able to wrest the America’s Cup from the New York Yacht Club, which Australia finally did in 1983.

To date, only four nations have captured what’s billed as the most difficult trophy in sport to win: U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland.
In 1983, Australia finally broke the United States’ 118-year-old stranglehold on the America’s Cup.

Join the fun

If you want to experience the America’s Cup World Series, you can.

The event’s 1,400 weekend passes for the grandstand seating on Navy Pier’s have sold out, but general admission weekend passes are available. Costing $59 for adults and $29 for kids, the tickets grant access to the race village on the eastern half of the pier.

For full details, visit acws-chicago.americascup.com.

This Wisch List column originally appeared in The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) and at wischlist.com.