Before we all went under quarantine, I got a call from two of the country’s most talented sailors and spent a day on Biscayne Bay with Erika Reineke and Lucy Wilmot in the 49erFX.
San Francisco Bay area native and senior at Harvard University, Lucy has spent the last 4 years in the skiffs (29er and 49erFX). Wilmot along with her partner Nate Housberg placed 12 at U23 Junior Worlds in 2018, and have been the consistent training partners to Anna (Tunicliffe) Tobias and Paris Henken since.
Erika Reineke has been at the top of the women’s radial fleet for the last decade, has two Radial Youth Worlds titles under her belt, along with World Cup finish accolades that could fill this page. She’s the 2017 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and a 4x Collegiate All- American.
When these two powerhouse athletes called me up, I dropped everything and raced to Miami and blew the whistle for their second day in the FX. In conditions gusting above 17mph they handled the skiff like seasoned vets.
With Erika’s background in the Radial, she comes at the skiff with a very different skill set and experience. So I wanted to share this interview since Erika brings a new and fresh perspective to the skiff:
Give us a little background on Erika: “It’s been just about 11 years now that I’ve been in the boat. I’ve loved it. It’s been a great experience for me training against some of the best singlehanded girls in the world. I grew up under Anna Tunnicliffe, and having her as my coach was incredible. Training with Paige, I’ve been able to learn a lot from her. We both approach the sport very differently.”
11 years in the Radial? Over a decade?: “The Radial and I are one at this point. We’ve been through so much together. There’s so much pain that I’ve gone through in the boat. And so many happy times as well. That boat knows me better than I know myself.”
I think the Laser teaches qualities of perseverance and grit better than any other in the sport. What are your thoughts? “You hop in the laser as a kid, and you realize, this is hard. And you push a little harder than others and it’s really rewarding really fast. After the youth circuit, in the Olympic class circuit, you can’t just push a little harder. You have to give your absolute all. You suffer and suffer. And you have to keep fighting and pushing. It builds grit into you.
From a youth standpoint, it was interesting, I just had to work a little bit harder. I just needed to be a little more dedicated. Then moving to the Olympic circuit, I realized everyone is just as dedicated. You need to be strong and never give up. And to actually be humble.
The laser class is very talented. Girls that win regattas, aren’t always winning. There are 35 girls at every regatta that could win the event. Which is unlike any class.
How does that mindset of humility translate into success? There’s not much pressure because you’re going out there to perform for you. There’s such a big playing field, there are so many girls, you can’t focus on one boat, it’s hard for someone to dominate the radial circuit like Pete & Blair. In the radial fleet you’re more focused on yourself.
You’ve spent two days in the 49er FX so far, tell me about that: “Yewwwwww, it was lit. I had a smile plastered on my face as soon as I was out on the wire. A little hesitant at first, I asked Lucy, ‘Do I just go out?’ She said, “Think of all the sailors this wire has held, Erika. It can hold your 145 lb body (laughing).
Just looking at the water from a different perspective was beautiful.”
Was that your first time trapezing? “I trapezed when I was fifteen in the club420 for a summer, but we weren’t going very fast really.
What stuck out as different? “It was interesting how the crew has so much control of the balance of the boat holding the mainsheet and how much the crew can feel. There were moments when I felt like I was steering the boat. I was crewing but I felt like I was skippering.
I notice a lot of people who come out of single handed boats, like the laser, who jump into the skiff they are really quiet because they are so used to sailing with an internal monologue. You didn’t seem to have a problem with that at all: “For me I just want to go as fast as possible. So anything I can do to help. I think when I was younger I was really quiet, but now that I’m more confident. I have good feel and I want to make the boat go fast. I want to make us go fast. Coaching (youth sailors) has helped me with communication.
How was sailing with Lucy?: “Awesome, she’s an incredible human being. We don’t know each other very well. But I’m impressed with how mature she is and how she handles her sailing. Lucy has great maturity, knowledge on what needs to get done. That stems from her drive and wanting to be the next big thing and bringing home that medal for our country in 2024.
You talked about Anna (Tunnifcliffe Tobias) being significant in your Radial career. Anna has done the same thing for Lucy in the FX in this last quad. Did you notice that? “Yes. Lucy is awesome in just the way she is. And there are certain things that Anna instilled in her, especially in food prep, in taking notes, and being organized. There are certain things that Anna gave me that she did for Lucy.
Did you and Lucy has a specific goal in mind? “No. It was just let’s go try it out, let’s have some fun. There were no expectations. It was just two girls going out and sailing with each other. To see if I like the boat.
It sounds like you do: “I love it”