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Organizers hope 2016 event could be prelude to America’s Cup

Hosting an event next year in the America’s Cup World Series is an important achievement for the event’s organizers. It’s also not their ultimate goal.

Plans for the World Series sailing races were announced Tuesday at Navy Pier. Chicago will host the event from June 10-12 next year with the racing area between Navy Pier and Northerly Island, becoming the first fresh-water sailing in the 164-year history of the storied America’s Cup.

The World Series, however, is a series of qualifiers leading up to the 2017 America’s Cup finals and not the famed championship itself. That event will be hosted in Bermuda after Chicago was one of the bids that fell short.

A successful event next year could help any potential Chicago bid for the 2021 Cup, though that’s dependent on multiple factors. Those include how the 2016 races are executed and if the United States wins in 2017 and gets to dictate the terms of the next Cup.

“Certainly, that’s an ambition. We would love to host the America’s Cup here but obviously all the stars have to align,” said Don Wilson, the chairman of the Chicago World Series races. “The U.S. needs to win and then obviously we need to put on a great event here, which I’m sure we will, and hopefully that will open up that possibility.”

Wilson founded the Chicago Match Race Center in 2009 and wondered why there weren’t more prominent sailing events in the area. One such race is the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac – but that’s only here to start.

Since it was organized, the CMRC has hosted top-level races off Navy Pier, which Wilson said showed off the “really great setup.”

“It’s kind of all coming together,” Wilson said. “It’s exciting.”

The race will be staged in June because it’s the best weather for the boats to speed around the course. Seeing that in Chicago will be “unreal” for Matt Cassidy, a member of ORACLE TEAM USA.

“A lot of people think when they think about Lake Michigan that have never been here they think of small lakes. But this is an ocean. It’s huge. You can’t see the other end,” said Cassidy, who moved here five years ago and whose wife is from Chicago. “We get big wind, big waves. I think if we get good conditions, it’s going to be epic.”

An “epic” race next year could lead to an even bigger one in 2021.