Momma said there’d be days like this

Published on April 12th, 2021

The first year of an Olympic campaign in the women’s 49erFX skiff event is mastering boat handling skills, and progress does not occur without setbacks. Lucy Wilmot and Erika Reineke, who are working toward Paris 2024, share the pain of improvement:


Training in Fort Lauderdale this past month brought a whirlwind of chaos. However, preparation and thinking quick on our feet gave us the opportunity to maximize each day to the fullest.

We started off March testing our boathandling skills in short course racing. The pressure was on to execute maneuvers we had been working to perfect since last October. With no obvious pattern to the waves, each tack, gybe, set and dowse was slightly different from last.

Heart rates were high as we found ourselves constantly adjusting timing and weight placement through each maneuver. The margin for error was high and having fluidity in our boathandling was the only way to constantly hit the averages.

Continuing to progress and gain confidence in back-to-back maneuvers, we unfortunately hit a speed bump and stumbled into a bit of bad luck. During one of our sessions, we were barreling downwind on starboard closing in on port layline. Reaching the corner of the course, it was time to gybe and head to the gate. Mid-gybe, the boat bucked beneath us like a wild bull. The new leeward wing caught the water and sent us into an immediate capsize.

The two of us stood on the centerboard attempting the right the hull yet, waves kept battering the boat to ad nausea forcing it to turtle. The next thing we heard, shook us to our core. “CRACK.” The mast had smacked the reef. As the boat came up, the carbon top section and spreaders had broken in half and splintered off. Our hearts sank.

Having planned for an unlikely yet totally possible event like this earlier in the fall, we had an old mast set-up and ready to go in the backyard. That night, we dropped the old rig and put up the new one like nothing even happened.

The next day we launched, headed out of the channel, and were blessed with beautiful 15 knot conditions. We both looked at each other and started giggling. It was like we never hit the reef in the first place.

Down but not out.

Our organization and preparation saved us from missing a training day on the water, but just when we thought we were in the clear, another curve ball was thrown at us. As we headed out in to the gulf stream, we hit a bad set of waves and the soft shackle on the jib halyard came loose…nightmare.

Thinking quickly on our feet, we capsized the boat and tried to jury-rig a tie to avoid canning the practice. With 5-6 foot waves charging at our capsized hull, it took us roughly 15 minutes to rig something up that would hold.

Once we were satisfied with our new gangster halyard system, we righted the boat. We took off up wind and again, it was like the entire event never happened. In fact, our hard work and quick thinking paid off immediately.

The TP52, Hooligan, was ripping downwind, and with the jib halyard still holding, we rounded their stern and raced them to the entrance of Port Everglades. Matching gybe for gybe, both boats were bombing downwind at an incredible pace. Holding us to layline, Hooligan put in their final gybe to the harbor. We just crossed their bow before the dowse and took the “W.” Whoop whoop!

This month we are excited to team-up with Steph Roble and Maggie Shea, the Tokyo 2020 49erFX U.S. Olympic representatives for a 2-week camp in Miami. After that, we will migrate to the west coast and start our summer training in Los Angeles.

Team information: https://www.wilmotreinekefx.com

 

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