United States Sail Grand Prix cruising into Chicago this weekend; “Going those top speeds, it makes you feel alive”


CHICAGO (CBS) — Sailing like you’ve never seen it. High tech and high speed, the International SailGP League is making its first-ever stop in Chicago for the T-Mobile United States Sail Grand Prix this weekend

CBS 2 ‘s Jackie Kostek takes you inside the world of SailGP, and out onto Lake Michigan before races start this weekend at Navy Pier.

Clear, calm, and not a cloud in the sky; perfect conditions for take off.

The nine identical F50 catamarans of the International League SailGP don’t so much sail as they do fly – atop carbon fiber foils reaching from beneath the hulls, hitting speeds of just over 60 miles per hour.

“Going those top speeds, it makes you feel alive,” said CJ Perez, the only woman on Team USA, and the youngest athlete in the league at 18.

But getting to that blissful state of feeling alive takes a lot of work.

“Big process, big team effort,” said Team Canada grinder Tom Ramshaw.

Inside Team Canada’s shed, the athletes and shore crew are bustling, essentially re-assembling the boat before it can head to water. At about 235 pounds each, the foils look even more impressive on land, with edges so sharp the crew has to wear protective gloves to hoist them into place.

“Most of the job, even as a sailor as myself, is on shore,” Ramshaw said. “When you’re out sailing, you’re doing the fun part.”

It’s an hours-long process to get to this point where the boats are rolling out of the shed. These things weigh about 4,000 pounds and are almost ready to set sail.

The sails, or “wings,” are lifted and attached by crane before the whole boat floats over and into the lake.

The sail is remarkably light, made mostly of carbon fiber. You can see how it’s shaped like the wing of an airplane, and that’s what gives the boat lift when it moves into the wind.

When the boats are in the water, cutting through the wind, sailing becomes a high-octane sport.

“Every maneuver, everyone has to run across to the other side, and that’s a really fun part, because you get all the G forces around you and sometimes people are flying off the boat,” Perez said. “We’re tethered in, but some people do get whipped almost off the boat. You get left with a few big bruises.”

This is SailGP’s first race in Chicago’s Skyline Stadium. The course is tight, and stretches between Navy Pier and Adler Planetarium.

Lake Michigan will also be SailGP’s first championship in fresh water, which Perez says could add an element of surprise. But one thing is for sure – when these boats race, they’ll make your heart do the same.

“You have so much adrenaline when you’re sailing these boats, you have no clue what really happens until a few days later,” Perez said.

But Perez says it’s worth it. After all, what else on earth could make you feel so alive?

If you can’t make it to the lakefront this weekend, you can watch the U.S. Sail Grand Prix live on CBS Sports Network on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Check with your local cable or satellite provider for what channel to find CBS Sports Network.

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