Sports

Match racing is getting a boost in the United States. After a year of dreaming and planning, Chicago based Donald Wilson has founded the Chicago Match Race Center, with the simple mission of promoting and elevating match racing in Chicago and the United States. Eight new Tom28s have been ordered and will be delivered to Chicago in April 2009, which will add to the existing two Tom28s that are already onsite. The fleet will primarily race out of Chicago's Belmont Harbor, where any competent sailor who wants to get into match racing will have an opportunity. In addition to the hosting of regattas, there will be weekly training sessions with professional coaches, R/C, and umpires.

The founder Donald Wilson, a longtime avid fleet racer, started match racing just three years ago. Highlights of his year's regatta schedule include the Ficker Cup, Prince of Whales USMRC, and most recently the Bermuda Gold Cup. In Bermuda he finished 12th out of 24 teams but was the second best American team. Disappointed with the average performance of the seven American teams in Bermuda, Wilson returned with renewed enthusiasm for promoting match racing. Wilson says, "There are so few venues in the U.S. able to host Grade 1 and 2 match races. Americans are not getting the exposure and experience at the top level. We plan to change that."

Aiding in forming the Chicago Match Race Center is 2007 Match Race World Champion and 2008 Etchells World Champion Bill Hardesty. Hardesty states, "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for match racing in the United States. It takes a special guy like Don to get this off the ground. Now it is our responsibility as match racers to take it to the next level. We need to get better and will be putting in some serious practice time. For regattas, we will sail close to shore for spectator visibility and try to mimic the success that can be found in Europe and other parts of the world." Hardesty is to serve as the Director of the Chicago Match Race Center.

After five months at sea, teenage solo circumnavigator Zac Sunderland arrived at Port Louis, Mauritius Nov. 12. The stop marks the halfway point in the 16-year-old's attempt to set a record as the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe alone. His father, Laurence Sunderland, met Zac on the island, off the African continent. While in Mauritius, Sunderland will meet with local dignitaries and the press, will perform maintenance and repairs on his 36-foot sailboat Intrepid and plans to provision for the next leg of his record-breaking attempt.

The previous few weeks of cruising after leaving Darwin, Australia offered smooth sailing, after Sunderland had faced harsh conditions in the Indian Ocean. High winds died down, allowing him to cruise at 12 to 15 knots. Intrepid took quite a thrashing in the Indian Ocean, as 8- to 10-foot swells and 20 knots of wind beat against the forestay, causing it to come undone. With his harness on tight, the teen skipper attempted to remedy the situation and almost fell overboard twice, his mother, Marianne Sunderland, stated.

During this period, the boat's genoa became badly damaged, causing the teen to attempt a makeshift repair during the stormy conditions. His stop at Rodrigues Island on Nov. 5 gave the Thousand Oaks teenager time to remove the crippled genoa. Since his departure for Mauritius, he has relied solely on the mainsail and staysail, and not the genoa.

The young sailor's patience and seamanship have been tested numerous times since his departure from the Marina del Rey Boat Show docks June 14. Sunderland intends to become the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the world, breaking the current record held by Australian David Dicks, who completed the feat at age 18.

Zac Sunderland plans to stay at Mauritius for a little more than a week before heading for his next stop in South Africa. Sunderland is scheduled to return to Marina del Rey next April, completing the voyage at age 17.

There's only one new book on the new rules (2009-2012) - and it's terrific. In fact, yours truly has bought four copies and has been handing them out to sailing friends. What makes this book especially good is its organization by tactical situations, not by separate rules. It takes boat-to-boat encounters and explains what you can/can't (should/shouldn't) do in tactical situations. The title of the book is 2009-2012: The Rules In Practice by Bryan Willis, costs $29.95 and is available at UK Halsey. While you are on their website, check out Butch Ulmer's rules blog where you get direct answers to any situations you're still unclear about. Willis and Ulmer have great credentials. Go to http://www.ukhalsey.com to order your rules book, check out the animated quizzes and blog with Butch. The sailing rules change on Jan. 1, 2009, and there are substantial changes this time around. So you will want to spend some time during the cold winter months learning the new rules. Who knows, it just may help you win a close race next summer!

With all the talk of recession, liquidity crises, credit crunches, stock market big dipper rides, job layoffs, dismal financial forecasts, it's no wonder our hands are staying in our pockets. But are we missing out on LIFE? As Ron Lieber pointed out this month in Money Column of The New York Times, the vast majority of people will not lose their jobs, and most of us work not merely for subsistence, but so we can spend money on things and experiences that fulfill some of our dreams.

There are some people who are taking off to sail around the world, chartering to go on that dreamed-of holiday in the South Pacific or the Mediterranean, or even buying their first yacht.

Lieber tells a story about Ron Stefanski, who has just splurged on a 38-foot sailboat and lowered the 20-year-old vessel into their home waters in Michigan. The question his message raised was whether spending money on a boat was actually wise, and if so, why?

Money was part of what kept the family from buying a boat for years, even though Ron had long wanted one. Until four years ago, Ron's wife, Kay, had been home raising their two boys, Dan, now 15 and Will, 17.

'We don't have trust funds for our kids or oodles of discretionary income,' Ron said. 'So I was the one who kept saying, 'Do we really need to be spending money like this when we need to get money in the bank for college?'" Instead, the Stefanskis came to realize, the boat was an investment in something much more valuable than money. 'When you look at life from that perspective, it's about creating memories,' he said. 'Because the good moments can be fleeting and they can be peppered with other experiences that you don't want to be as memorable.'

A boat is also an investment in relationships, something that isn't readily apparent until you're on one a lot. Kay, who is 46 and works in textbook sales, helped talked Ron into buying the boat.

'We're getting ready to be empty-nesters, learning how to navigate the space of being alone together, and that's something that's been a little bit sobering,' Ron said. 'What she helped me to see is that having the boat is an opportunity to connect, to spend time together when the boys are off doing their own thing.'

In fact, Dan and Will have been on the boat a fair bit, too.

'As a teenager, I look forward to doing things that teenagers do, going to parties and hanging out with my friends,' 15-year-old Dan says. 'But the boat is something I really learned to love.'

That has been an added bonus, given that the boys will soon be in college or away for the summers. 'This was a window of opportunity,' Ron says.

The Stefanskis financed the purchase with a home equity line of credit.

For people who find themselves frightened by the possibility of a long, deep recession, well, the Stefanskis know how you feel. Since they bought the boat, the balance in their retirement accounts has fallen by about a quarter. The investments in the college savings accounts for the two teenage boys have hit the skids, and the troubled economy means their house is worth a lot less as well.

'If you value family and friendships and experiences, the things that you might lose don't mean quite as much,' Kay said. 'It puts it all in perspective.'

Ron added, 'Your job as a parent, a friend or life partner is to create memories with each other. That's what we're here for. And I think in that respect, the decision to purchase the boat was a good decision.'

Ron Lieber normally writes about 'money'. This time he has also illuminated something worthwhile.


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