SailGP will help restore native vegetation to the Chicago river as part of its first ever visit to the Windy City for the T-Mobile U.S Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier.

Spearheaded by Friends of the Chicago River, the Instream Habitat Restoration Project aims to restore the native plant communities which were once abundant in the Chicago River.

Season 3 // U.S Sail Grand Prix // Local Impact Project // Friends of Chicago River

These plant communities provide habitats for small mammals, such as otters, beavers and water birds, as well as improving water quality and helping to mitigate climate change. Since the project began in 2017, the group has planted over 9,700 Water Willow and Lizards’ Tail plugs in the hope of establishing self-sustaining plant colonies.

As part of SailGP’s year-round purpose-led calendar of sustainable initiatives, the league will expand this instream planting program through the planting of over 5,000 plants over a two mile stretch of river.

Season 3 // U.S Sail Grand Prix // Impact Project Graeme Sutherland

To kick off the project, athletes from across SailGP’s nine international teams visited the Lathrop Homes river site to support the project ahead of racing this weekend. Athletes, including Great Britain’s Matt Gotrel and Canada’s Graeme Sutherland, helped to plant Lizards’ Tail and Great Bulrush along the riverbank.

Season 3 // U.S Sail Grand Prix // Impact local project kayaking

These specific plants, which were chosen by fishery biologists at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, have a positive impact on water quality, help reduce water pollution and mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration.

Speaking about the project, SailGP Sustainability event operations manager, Rosie Hamilton, said: “Sustainability is a core part of SailGP so we try and focus on it in everything we do so part of that is connecting with local impact projects and making sure we can be involved in anyway we can. We thought Friends of the Chicago River was the perfect group for us to collaborate with in Chicago.”

Canada athlete Graeme Sutherland added: "It was great to see how established the project is here in Chicago and the strong impact they have made in the community. The environment is clearly benefiting from this initiative."

It comes after SailGP renewed its support and partnership with The Bermuda Seagrass Project as part of the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess.