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Erika Reineke: Ready to wreak havoc

Published on February 6th, 2020

Seven of the 10 Olympic events were held at the 2020 Hempel World Cup Series Miami on January 20-25, providing North American sailors with a close-up look at many of the competitors that will be vying for medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Erika Reineke would like to be one of those sailors, and helped her cause as one of three USA sailors to win gold at Miami. Erika has been a leader on the US Team for sharing her story in hopes of enlightening the community on the journey she’s on, and offers this report from Miami:

After a long winter of domestic and international training camps, pushing myself to my limits in the gym, and working to improve my mental game, I am proud to say that I came away with a gold medal at the Miami World Cup!

The series opened with light and shifty conditions on day one. When I woke up the second day of the event, I rolled over in bed and reached for my phone to read through the forecast. As soon as I saw that the next few days were going to bring some wind, a mischievous smirk took over my face.

The “old Erika” might have been timid to race in those conditions but this “new Erika” went out each day feeling dangerous. I was ready to wreak havoc and prove myself a player in the breeze.

Previously my mindset had been focused on de-powering the sail, hiking hard and trying to keep up with the girls who excelled in strong wind. This time I honed in on getting the sail set up correctly, hiking hard, and beating the other girls to the top mark.

With all the training I had done over the past few months, I was finally confident that I knew what the boat was supposed to feel like and how to make it go fast in those conditions.

I ended the qualifying series leading the event and dropping a 6th place. Vasileia Carahaliou (GRE) would be trailing me by two points and Matilda Talluri (ITA) by five points going into the double-points medal race.

On the night before the medal race, 9PM came around and I was craving some of that edible cookie dough in a jar (Sweet Loren’s is my favorite…SO GOOD). My teammate Kaitlyn Hamilton and I headed over to Fresh Market to find some but they only had “healthy cookie dough!” I was so heartbroken but I figured that since they were healthy, I could buy two.

I finished one of them in line and the other before we even got home but I was not even close to satisfied with that healthy dough. The only thing that was going to satisfy me was hitting the water the next day, sailing my heart out during the medal race, and winning that gold medal.

About twelve hours after the cookie dough predicament, I hit the water for the medal race and the gun went off. Out of the gates Matilda suffered a penalty which put her behind. It had then become a match race for the gold between Vasileia and I.

Off the starting line I was in a controlling position until I made a mistake and let my opponent split from me. That error cost me as she rounded the windward mark in 2nd and I was behind in 8th. At that moment, all that was going through my head was “go fast and never give up.”

I was able to make up some ground on the downwind but at the leeward gate mark, my opponent made the same mistake I did on the first upwind; she let me get away. I was so excited I now had an advantage that when I tacked to come back towards her I dropped my tiller extension and spun out.

This next mistake only put me back two boat lengths at the final windward mark rounding, so on the downwind, I did what I had to do and positioned myself directly behind to cover her. Second by second, I drew closer and finally established an overlap. It was at that moment when the judges gave her a penalty for propulsion. I rounded the final gate mark ahead and crossed the finish line clinching the gold.

Thank you to my friends and fans who came out to watch the medal race that day. I will never forget you all cheering “GO USA” as I rounded the top mark. It warmed my heart.

Thank you to the US Sailing Team and our sponsors, my LYC family, the Saint Francis Sailing Foundation and everyone who has supported me up to this point. I am honored to have you behind me on this journey. Thank you Force Physical Therapy and Bommaritos for pushing me hard in the gym. I would not have earned this gold medal without you.

Last but far from least, thank you to my coach Steve Mitchell. You continue to challenge me and help me grow into the best sailor/athlete that I can be. Sailing over to your coach boat and hugging you at the end of the medal race was one of the most special and meaningful moments of my life. I am forever grateful for all you have given me.

Looking forward, on February 9 I head down under to the 2020 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia (the second/final US Olympic Trials event). The time has come for me to show the world what it means to be a champion. Win or lose, I will not give up until my breath escapes me and I can no longer stand. I couldn’t be more excited or more ready to give it my all down there.

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