The best of the best made port in Wilmette Wednesday, June 15, to the excitement of dozens of local sailing fans and friends.
The Sheridan Shore Sailing School welcomed Olympic gold medalist Blair Tuke and other members of Team New Zealand, the current holders of the America’s Cup — the premier trophy in all of sailing.
“I was getting texts and emails all day long (about the event),” said John O’Malley, the sailing school’s board president. “What these boats can do and at the speeds they are doing it is just insane, and here we are bringing in the people who actually do it.”
America’s Cup is awarded to the winner of a two-sided yacht race between the defending club and a challenger. Team New Zealand’s The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron challenged and defeated Oracle Team USA 7-1 in 2017 to claim the 35th America’s Cup and successfully defended it against a challenge from an Italian unit, Circolo della Vela Sicilia, in March 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Tuke, a co-owner of Team New Zealand, was in town with his team to compete in the United States Sail Grand Prix at Navy Pier on Saturday-Sunday, June 18-19, when nine national teams will race F50 catamarans on Lake Michigan.
The race is part of the sailing series SailGP, which while in town paired visiting sailing teams with local sailing schools and youth organizations, and Sheridan Shores, which operates out of Wilmette Harbor, was fortunate to pair with the owners of America’s Cup.
“These guys who have been literally the most successful people in the world have chosen to come to Sheridan Shores to help show our kids how,” O’Malley said.
Sheridan Shores Sailing School has provided sailing education for more than 80 years. Currently, the school maintains 76 boats, including a variety of sailing boats, and pulls students from across the northern suburbs.
O’Malley said that during the pandemic participation at the school surged. Last year, he said, the school sold 1,100 slots for its weekly course, which is a 3-hour lesson each day for a full week. Thanks to a national grant program from U.S. Sailing, the school also helps fund sailors from traditionally marginalized communities.
About 25 of the students traveled to Navy Pier on Tuesday, June 14, to tour the facilities used to house the catamarans. O’Malley said the students even got to board the vessels.
“They allowed all the kids up on the boat,” he said. “They were in the cockpit, turing th ewheelings, cranking the cranks. They were allowed to touch all the cutting edge technology that exists out there. These kids won’t even understand what just happened to them for another few years.”
The next day the professional sailors came to the school for a meet and greet, during which the sailing school gifted Team New Zealand a framed Sheridan Shores flag.