DOWNTOWN — This summer's America's Cup races in Chicago won't just be the first on fresh water, they'll also be the first with a boat party.
The sailing races coming next month to Lake Michigan are the first for the America's Cup, a 165-year series between the world's best sailors.
And local marina officials hope to make waves with another debut for the occasion: a "Boater's Bash," or a 100-foot-long, 26-foot-wide barge with a DJ and video screens boaters can dock to in Monroe Harbor.
If America's Cup is like NASCAR on water, the boater's bash will be like the infield, organizers say.
"The Boaters Bash is something we dreamed up as a way to get boaters involved who are not necessarily America’s Cup fans to see it and enjoy it in a nice, controlled environment," Scott Stevenson, an executive vice president of Westrec Marinas, said. "We created this because we know our boaters will be so excited."
The race will start and finish at Navy Pier but will sail near the party at Monroe Harbor. [America's Cup]
The boat party is like a "more organized" version of the fabled "Playpen" that surfaces during summers on Lake Michigan, Stevenson said. The bash will last during the America's Cup races from noon to 6 p.m. June 11 and 12 in Monroe Harbor, one of the 10 marinas Westrec manages for the city.
Boaters can only dock to the barge, and can't party on it per Coast Guard regulations, Stevenson said. Boaters who do tie up to the barge will need to pay $50 per day or already hold an America's Cup ticket, he said. Guests who try to crash the party without an invitation to a specific boat will be returned ashore, and tender services to the bash will cost $15.
Drinks won't be served from the barge, so boaters will need to bring their own for the boat party.
Oracle Team USA sailing in an America's Cup race. [Ricardo Pinto]
The boaters' bash is the first in the 165-year history of the America's Cup, now a racing circuit between sailors on 45-foot-long catamarans and the oldest international trophy in sports. The racers sail "three times as fast as the wind" and can hit maritime speeds up to 50 miles per hour, Stevenson said.
Stevenson said between the barge and boats that "raft up" to other vessels docked to it, the boat party can accommodate more than 100 boats. DJ Rock City of Chicago is playing the parties. Visit the America's Cup website for more information or to buy tickets.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: