America's Cup qualifying races begin on Lake Michigan

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Fast-paced, world-class sailboat racing will be on display along Chicago's lakefront. For the first time a qualifying event for the America's Cup race is being held on fresh water on Lake Michigan.

The catamarans in the race can hit nearly 40 knots on the water. Thousands at Navy Pier took in the speed of practice runs from AC-45s of six countries, the same ones who will vie for points that qualify them for the America's Cup in 2017.

"The crews are practicing. They're getting their game face on for racing. They're also getting a measure of the oppositions," said Ian "Fresh" Burns, who runs Team Oracle, America's entry. "We've got a strong team, a powerful team. Great owner, Larry Ellison. It's close out there. I can't guarantee a win, but I can gaurantee we're trying hard."

The Coast Guard keeps watch on those taking in the sights from the playing surface. It's the first time such qualifying has been done on freshwater: 20 minutes laps down to the Museum Campus and back, often airborne.

"With sailing, it's like golf. They don't want rain. We don't care about the rain, but we don't want thunderstorms. We don't want light winds, we want strong winds," Harvey Schiller, Commissioner for America's Cup World Series

People from the sailing community nationwide have flocked to Chicago.

"The gravitas is palpable. It feels very exciting," said Taryn Tino, visiting from Miami.

Others from nearby are struck by the pageantry and passion, like when Japan pulls a pass a la NASCAR and edges out a victory.

"I think it's one of those summer activities that's a must-see. Everyone should come down here this weekend," said Sonali Singh, of Chicago.

The America's Cup takes place in Bermuda next year.
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