Chicago hoping to catch drift with the America’s Cup

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Emirates Team New Zealand (L) and Oracle Team USA compete during the first race of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series New York May 8, 2016 in New York. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

As Tod Reynolds watched Oracle Team USA capture the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco, one thought kept crossing his mind: Chicago’s lakeshore provided the perfect venue for high-stakes competitive sailing.

Reynolds, the director of the Chicago Match Race Center, was a student at Northwestern the first time he sailed around Navy Pier. He envisioned an ideal sailing stadium without fully realizing the venue’s full potential at the time.

The feeling, however, never left him.

“To this day, when I’m on the water and I look back and I see Navy Pier and I see that skyline and I see that break wall, I still get a little giddy about it,” Reynolds said.

Three years ago, America’s Cup organizers came to the same conclusion.

After submitting a bid to host the 2017 America’s Cup finals — which went to Bermuda — Chicago was selected for a qualifying race series that will determine who challenges Oracle Team USA next year.

The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series will take place June 10-12 with six teams competing in fresh water for the first time in the America’s Cup 165-year history.

Crews from New Zealand, Japan, France, Sweden, Great Britain along with defending champion Oracle Team USA arrived this week to prepare for an event expected to attract 12,000 fans per day to Navy Pier.

The event features 45-foot, wing-sailed, hydro-foiled, multi-hull catamarans that will race on a course stretching between Navy Pier and Adler Planetarium and that will reach speeds up to 35 knots (40 mph).

The boat’s carbon foil allows 98 percent of the boat to fly atop the waves, creating a new generation brand of sailboat racing.

“This is NASCAR on the water,” Reynolds said. “This is something that transcends (the sport). You don’t have to be a passionate sailor, a passionate racer, a passionate boater to appreciate the America’s Cup.”

The World Series event could be an audition for Chicago’s second bid for the America’s Cup finals. The eventual site will depend entirely on the 2017 champion, who will dictate where the next America’s Cup — likely held in 2021 — takes place.

Should the Larry Ellison-owned Oracle team defend its crown next year in Bermuda, Reynolds likes Chicago’s chances, although it doesn’t boast the racing history San Diego, San Francisco or Newport, Rhode Island does.

Reynolds knows next weekend’s fresh-water race could be unique in its own right, ripe with opportunities for speed records to be established.

“This truly could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Reynolds said.

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The U.S. men’s soccer team — which will play Costa Rica Tuesday at Soldier Field — opens the Copa America Centenario tournament against Colombia on Friday in Santa Clara, California.

The 16-team tournament will be held in 10 cities, including Chicago, which will host the semifinals in addition to the U.S. men’s match.

The Fire will host a watch party for the opener beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, 90 minutes before kickoff, at the PrivateBank Fire Pitch, located at 3626 N. Talman Ave.

The venue will offer indoor and outdoor viewing opportunities, with raffles  and food and drinks available for purchase.

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