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Now You Can Race an America’s Cup Yacht in Chicago

Two America’s Cup yachts set sail on Lake Michigan this weekend.

Photo: Bob Grisler Pictures

This Friday, Chicago will experience a first when two America’s Cup yachts set sail on Lake Michigan as part of the new Next Level Sailing Chicago. The experience will also mark a first for the country in that Chicago will be the only place in the U.S. where guests can race toe-to-toe on a pair of America’s Cup yachts. That means you won’t have to travel far to knock off this bucket-list experience.

The boats—“Abracadabra” and Dennis Connor’s “Stars & Stripes”—have both raced in America’s Cup events, including “Abracadabra’s” stint in the 2000 America’s Cup in Auckland. Substantial and designed for speed, each weighs 50,000 pounds and measures 80 feet long with a 114-foot mast, which towers 11 stories over the boat.

Local sailing enthusiasts Paul D. Schulz and Ryan Weber, the managing partners of Next Level, brought both yachts to Chicago from San Diego’s America’s Cup Harbor.

“These are the only pair of these style yachts in the USA,” says Schulz, who explains that having the same generation pair allows Next Level to deliver true America’s Cup–style match racing, one-against-one in tight quarters. “The up-close racing often has these 80-foot yachts sailing barely feet apart and crossing each other remarkably close.”

“These boats were built to be the fastest sailboats that an almost unlimited budget could build,” says Schulz. Exotic alloys and high-tech carbon fiber were utilized to save weight and harness tremendous forces. “Guests are amazed to hear the boats howl and groan as they work their way around a race course.”

Next Level will launch sailing and racing excursions aboard the yachts from Lake Michigan’s 31st Street Harbor. Hand-on experiences start at three hours and range from $150 a person to chartered group experiences for up to 20 guests from $3,000. Schulz says Next Level will also offer family packages with teens paying half prices and kids sailing for free. “We are excited to expose people to sailing and racing on Lake Michigan. We want this to be accessible to all.”

To see Next Level’s America’s Cup yachts in action, check out this clip at WGN.

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