The Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) has announced its Quantum Women’s Sailor of the Year Award. Presented each May to an individual who has performed at the highest level of competition in district and national championships, this year’s winner is Erika Reineke, a 23-year-old graduate of Boston College who earned a B.S. degree in environmental geoscience.
Reineke, who grew up sailing at Lauderdale Yacht Club, was a finalist for this award each year of her college sailing career. In addition to being named this year recipient, in her final year at Boston College, she also won the Women’s Singlehanded National Championship for the fourth time. These achievements highlighted her deep appreciation for her fellow sailors and her relentless drive to sail well, both alone and with teammates.
You've been close to winning this award throughout your collegiate career. What do you think made the difference this year?
The team we had this year made the difference. If you look at professional sports teams, you can usually pick out a handful of people who carry the team. However, those teams rarely make the finals. It's the teams without any standouts or weak links that bring home the win. This description defines our team. Win or lose, we did it together. We were a team, and we pushed to get the most out of each other. I believe the Quantum Women’s Sailor of the Year Award is a team award. I am proud we were able to achieve it together!
Winning in college takes a team approach vs. a single-handed approach. What does your team mean to you? Which type of racing do you prefer?
The Boston College sailing team is my family. If I had a problem, I could call up any one of the people I spent the last five years with and they would go above and beyond the call of duty to help me find a solution. It's funny, because in the single-handed boat, you do things for yourself, but in the double-handed boat, you do things for your team. That's what I love about it. Everyone becomes part of you.
What do you consider the most important characteristic of a teammate?
Selflessness. No matter what sport you go into, once you’ve made a commitment to a team, you do what’s necessary for the team's success. Maybe it’s boat work so the starters can hit the water faster after the off-season. Maybe it’s waking up early and getting deli orders for everyone. Maybe it’s being a leader in the gym and pushing others, even though you know you might never be selected to go to nationals. It also means that when you have the chance to compete, you give it your all because that's what your team expects from you.
How do you maintain your intensity over what seems like a season that lasts year round?
As a youth sailor coming out of high school, I would have said that the dream of one day wearing a gold medal around my neck and winning a Collegiate National Championship was what kept me working hard year round. Now that I’m older, I never really think about the medal or the championship; I think about who I want to be and what that person would do in this moment. That mindset helps me make the most of my day-to-day decisions and keeps my intensity unwavering.
What is your favorite part of a race?
Downwind sailing in any boat is an absolute dream, and not because I’m trying to avoid hiking! When I’m downwind sailing, I feel as if all my senses are heightened, with every maneuver flowing into the next. I wish I could explain it better, but it’s an art I deeply appreciate.
Tell us about a time when you had to get your crew through a failure or adverse situation of some kind.
I can say with complete confidence that my crews over the years have never failed me. They help me not to fail, not the other way around. My coach at Boston College, Greg Wilkinson, always says, “Make your teammates perform at their best.” That's what my crews do for me. They get me through failure and make me perform at my best.
What do you do to prepare for racing when you're not out on the boat practicing?
The thing that gives me the most confidence on the water is fitness. There are so many variables in sailing, but the one thing I have complete control over is my fitness. When I’m not racing, I’m in the gym pushing myself to get stronger or doing other things I love like surfing, hiking, and boating. There’s a time and place to think about racing, but there’s also a time and place to not think about it. Many other activities make me happy. Going out and doing them helps me come back to sailing and cherish every second of it.
What advice do you have for young girls who are interesting in competitive sailing?
First, be someone you want others to look up to, no matter what success or adversity comes your way. If you live by that on and off the water, you’ll have success in anything you do. The next thing I would say is, remember to smile. Doing what you love is supposed to be fun, so please never lose sight of that.
What's next after college? What future competitions are you looking forward to?
I’m excited to say I will be starting my first full-time Olympic campaign in the Laser Radial! There are so many events coming up these next couple of years that I can't pinpoint any single one I’m more excited to represent my country in, but it sends chills up and down my spine to know I will have more opportunities to better myself as a sailor. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love for a few more years!
Quantum wishes Erika the best of luck and looks forward to following her future campaigns! Click here to read more about the 2017 Sperry Women's National Championship and Erika's award.