The Quantum Women’s Collegiate Sailor of the Year award is presented each May to an individual who has performed at the highest level of competition in district and national championships.The goal of the award is to acknowledge women's excellence in sailing and continue to foster its growth in college and beyond. This year the Selection Committee has awarded Boston College senior Sophia Reineke the title, given in recognition of her hard work ethic, team-centric attitude and her perseverance. We caught up with Sophia right after she and the BC women’s team won the Women’s College Nationals. Here are her thoughts:
Quantum Sails (QS): How, when, and where did you learn to sail?
Sophia Reineke (SR): The first boat I learned to sail was an opti at the Lauderdale Yacht Club Sailing Summer Camp when I was about seven years old. Honestly, I absolutely hated it at first. I came up with every excuse in the book as to why I couldn't go back the next day, from stomachaches to headaches, you name it. My parents picked up on this pretty quickly when whatever “sickness” I had would subside as soon as I got home. So, they kept sending me back despite my protests and over time I grew to love the sport and all of the friends I made along the way. A majority of the kids I met in LYC's Sailing Summer Camp are still my best friends today!
QS: Why did you choose to sail in college?
SR: I wanted to take everything I learned in youth and high school sailing and continue building on it throughout college. Having done a lot of singlehanded sailing in the Laser Radial in high school, I wanted to get more involved in the team side of the sport. This was definitely a big part of why I chose to move forward with double-handed sailing in college. There is no better feeling than going out to compete knowing you have the support of all your teammates behind you. Even though we all come from different places, we all compete for one team with one goal of making the person next to us better. No matter what, we always have each other's backs.
QS: You considered retiring from college sailing last year — tell us about that, and why you decided to stick with it?
SR: In the beginning of the Fall 2021 school year, I was personally struggling a lot mentally. I had just taken a full year off from Boston College and college sailing entirely, and wasn't prepared for how overwhelming getting back into competition would be. I've always put a lot of pressure on myself to perform at my best, whether it be in school or athletics, I think it got to the point where that pressure and stress had fully taken over. It was almost as if I forgot how to have fun and enjoy the little things I used to love, like having the first wave splash into you at practice or accidently tripping over the hiking strap and falling into the rail as your crew laughs at you uncontrollably. With the help and encouragement of my teammates, a ton of guidance from my Coach Greg Wilkinson, and a truly unbelievable amount of support from so many of my life-long competitors and friends, I was able to rediscover my love for the sport and finish off college sailing with a smile on my face every single day. I'm beyond grateful for the entire college sailing community and will never be able to thank them enough for an incredible five years.
QS: What does winning this award mean to you?
SR: I'm honored and humbled to have won this award out of a field of so many talented and dedicated young women, as they are the ones who inspire me to work harder every day. The amount of women actively competing in sailing has grown exponentially over the past few years, making it all the more nerve-wracking since the competition has only become more and more fierce.
QS: You and your team also just won the Women’s College Nationals. How did you work together to take the lead in the final day of racing?
SR: Our team at Boston College is very goal-oriented. We all had individual process goals we were working on, whether it was nailing three tacks before each race or non-stop communication about jib trim, and by focusing on those few things we were able to go out and stay disciplined. We don't talk much about scores or numbers; preparing for the next race is the most important thing, no matter the outcome of the last.
QS: College sailing is very team-oriented, what do you consider to be the most important characteristics of a good teammate?
SR: The number one goal on our team is to make the person next to you better. On or off the water, when each of us are individually striving to be the best versions of ourselves, it allows the whole team to perform at its highest level. When the people surrounding you are giving it their all, it leaves no excuse for you to do anything but that. Overall, I would say a good teammate is someone who pushes you to be all that you can be. I was extremely lucky to have 25 extraordinary people do just that for me, day in and day out, this year at Boston College.
QS: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from college sailing?
SR: The biggest lesson I have learned from college sailing is to never give up. Just like sailing, life is filled with so many variables that are out of your control. It is in those overwhelming moments that you have to take a step back and focus on what is right in front of you; what is in your control. College sailing has allowed me to see the truth in that.
QS: Do you have any favorite memories or races?
SR: There was one race in particular where my crew, Laura Ferraris, and I were really tight on lay at the top mark. We were maybe a centimeter or so from hitting the mark but we made it somehow. When we did I just kept repeating, “We did it. We did it. We did it. We made it. Laura, we just made it around the mark. We did it.” Laura completely cut me off and with the most dead serious tone and said, “Sophia, I know we made it. Keep it together dude...pressure high.” We have laughed about it probably every single day since then. I owe her, and all of the crews I’ve sailed with over the years, so much. They taught me more than they'll ever know and somehow knew exactly the right words to say to keep me calm and focused at each event.
QS: Can you think of a particularly challenging race or situation that you and your teammates persevered through?
SR: On the first day of Women’s Semi-Finals we had to transition into being coached over the phone since Greg got sick. Not having any face-to-face interactions with him throughout the entirety of Women's Nationals made coaching a bit challenging. Luckily, we have extraordinary teammates who had Greg on the phone for us as soon as we hit the dock for each rotation. He always says that if we’ve done our job correctly throughout the year and given our all at prepping, we should be able to go out and execute without him come Nationals. I’ll admit it was a little weird without him at first, but we all had full confidence in each other, and I believe he did in us as well.
QS: What advice would you give younger sailors — particularly young female sailors?
SR: I would definitely have to quote my dad on this one. “Just keep showing up.” It sounds simple, but he’s right. Every practice, regatta, workout, clinic, you just have to keep going! When an opportunity presents itself, take it. You never know who you will meet, and what you will learn, unless you go for it.
QS: What are your plans for the future, now that you’ve graduated?
SR: There’s no doubt in my mind I will continue sailing, but for now I have no specific class in mind. I love learning the ins and outs of new boats and positions, so I’m excited to see where life takes me! I’ve always wanted to do an Olympic campaign at some point, and more recently I’ve considered trying to get into pro sailing. If an opportunity presents itself I will be sure to take it. The sport has so much to offer that right now I’m trying to keep an open mind.