As a trader, Don Wilson's success has been made in developing the strategies and tactics necessary to understand and outmaneuver others in the highly competitive financial markets. So, it's no wonder Wilson has also found success in his life-long passion for competitive sailing, where these concepts are also in constant use, especially so in match race sailing. This most aggressive form of the sport resembles gladiatorial combat, where two teams in command of equally matched boats face off against each other in a head-to-head struggle to win at all costs ... because in this game, there is no second place.
To fuel his interest in the adrenaline rush of match racing, Wilson helped to found the Chicago Match Race Center, located in Belmont Harbor, in Chicago, Illinois. For the past five years this center has become an important part of the infrastructure that has given hundreds of sailors from the Great Lakes region and around the world the opportunity to hone their skills at this most intense and exciting form of sailing.
The results are impressive: in only five years, Chicago has not only hosted dozens of match races regattas, ranging from local contests to world-class televised prize money events, it has also helped initiate a new wave of interest at other match race centers started throughout the United States. Fifteen American match racers now rank within the Top 100, and for the first time in nearly a decade, the top-ranked match racer in the world is not from Europe, New Zealand, or Australia, but from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Taylor Canfield, who calls Chicago home. Wilson himself, at 23rd in the world rankings, has climbed to be the top-ranked match race skipper from the USA.
Wilson's continued support for Chicago Match Race Center's activities has also helped attract interest in sailing as an exciting, yet eco-friendly activity, on Chicago's waterfront. The prominence given the Chicago Match Race Center's signature event – the Chicago Match Cup – has shown tens of thousands of non-sailors, through its venue at Navy Pier, the beauty and excitement of competitive sailing in action. In only five days, this year's event attracted over 90,000 spectators in which is being widely recognized as one of the ideal venues in the U.S. for "stadium sailing."
This spectator-friendly public use of the waterfront for sailing is an idea Wilson has long supported, including a few years ago in the planning and development phases of Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Even though the bid was unsuccessful, the ideas are being used regularly at Chicago Match Race Center to bring more people to the waterfront and into sailing. Besides being a host and organizer of events, Chicago Match Race Center is also a facility dedicated to training its members in the art and craft of match race sailing through weekly training sessions.
By being pro-active and disciplined in his training, Wilson has earned himself prestigious match race victories, including the 2010 and 2011 Richardson Trophy, in addition to the 2010 Canada's Cup. Wilson and his Convexity Racing Team have applied these skills in fleet racing as well, winning the 2009 Farr 40 Class Verve Cup and the 2010 J/105 Class North American Championship. In fact, one of his goals for the 2014 season is to get back into the class he first raced in Chicago and win their North American Championship as well: the infamous Tartan Ten.
"Competitive sailing in Chicago has had a great heritage, but also a great future ahead," says Wilson. "With our easy access to the waterfront, and the enthusiasm, interests and resources of this great city, these elements can all come together to produce a truly world class center of excellence for this sport, at all levels."
The Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation is pleased to induct Donald R. Wilson into the Lake Michigan Sailing Hall of Fame.
November 13, 2014
Chicago Yacht Club, Monroe Station