St. Charles native sails with America's Cup ships into new business
Ryan Weber, a native of Aurora and St. Charles, has been a longtime sailing enthusiast. He's sailed with his brother Byron Weber and dad Tom Weber, both of St. Charles, and won top competitions, including their division for the Chicago-Mackinac race in 2012.
Now Ryan Weber and business partner, Paul D. Schulz, have acquired America's Cup yachts, Stars & Stripes and the Abracadabra, each 80-foot long, 114-foot tall ships as the centerpiece of their new business, Next Level Sailing Chicago. The ships launch in May and will be rented for parties, costing roughly $3,000, or for tourists seeking shorter trips on Lake Michigan.
While passengers can enjoy bragging rights of sailing on such illustrious vessels, Ryan Weber, at 35, has a few of his own bragging rights.
He's been sailing since he was 3 when his family went to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He and his family then started in various competitions on Lake Michigan.
"I love sailing and racing sail boats," he said. "That is truly my passion and this new business was my opportunity to continue that passion."
Weber was born and raised in Aurora, then lived in Champaign briefly before returning to the area and attending school in St. Charles.
He then went to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, for a marketing degree. He worked as a ski instructor and even as a runner and clerk at the Chicago Merc.
He, his brother and father continued to compete in sailing with La Tempete, a Beneteau 40.7 name brand of sailing ship.
They won their section using the Beneteau in 2012 during the Chicago to Mackinac race. Considered the oldest annual freshwater race in the world, it involves sailing 289.4 nautical miles from Navy Pier to Mackinac Island, Michigan. The race often includes more than 300 competitors.
They also won the overall championship during the Chicago Nood Regatta in 2012 as well with the Beneteau.
It was his love of sailing that led him to a job at Next Level Sailing in San Diego, California, that changed his career.
When he developed the idea for the America's Cup yachts for rental in Chicago, he negotiated with Next Level Sailing for the use of the name on their new business. They recently acquired the yachts and did some work on each before sending them to Chicago. They arrived about two weeks ago and are being readied for their May debut, he said.
With his memories of those sailing adventures, he wants to bring some excitement to others with the new company, he said.
"I want to deliver the America's Cup experience to others," he said.
From Hollywood to Geneva
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