Pushing through pandemic for Paris 2024

Published on May 2nd, 2021

The ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has Lucy Wilmot and Erika Reineke, a new women’s 49erFX skiff team working toward the Paris 2024 Olympics, facing unique challenges as they explain in this report:

With the delay of the 2020 Games due to the pandemic, the previous quadrennium extended to a fifth year in 2021. In January, what would have been the start of the Paris 2024 Olympic quad, athletes campaigning for these games were put on the back burner.

As a result, most sailing federations and individuals worldwide view the road to Paris as a “three year” journey starting at the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympics.

Seeing others take a step off the gas pedal for this reason, we saw an opportune moment to advance. Knowing how long it takes to reach the top, our team was unwilling to delay the campaign.

Since last May, our team has successfully logged over 300 hours in the boat. Right off the bat, we trained in advanced venues like San Francisco, Hood River, and Fort Lauderdale. As a new team, we had our fair share of paying dues in extreme conditions. However, sailing has yet to be the most taxing component to the campaign.

Put bluntly, the delayed games have not only stretched resources another year for Tokyo, but it has also taken away opportunity from athletes looking towards Paris.

Teaming-up a year ago this month, we have yet to receive coaching support, see a published US Sailing Team qualification guideline, USOPC (United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee) Direct Athlete Support qualifications outlined, or any other evidence suggesting support for athletes training for the 2024 Games.

All this being said, our team was still unwilling to wait for resources to become available. Our mindset became, “Paris is the goal, ‘x’ and ‘y’ are the constraints.” With funding being the major hindrance to advancing on the water, we each took up part-time jobs as sailing coaches in the fall and spring.

Sailing Monday to Friday, jumping right into coaching high school sailing practice for a half-day on Tuesday/Thursday, and working with the Laser/Opti programs on the weekends, our schedule was tough. With minimal time off, we put our heads down and did what needed to be done to keep our dream alive.

Some days were great and felt rewarding to help youth sailors gain a competitive edge. Other days hit us like a defensive end tackles a quarterback, abruptly and aggressively. Caught cycling through an unsustainable routine, our tanks were running on empty for months.

Even with a part-time job, it was difficult to buy groceries and pay the rent. Coaching and equipment costs on top of that, our efforts weren’t making a dent in the 49erFX’s yearly projected campaign budget.

Searching for alternate ways to raise revenue, we partnered with Lara Castellano Pucci of Italy to create silk scarves. We sold team Wilmot Reineke FX lululemon athletic wear and t-shirts. We reached out to regional yacht clubs and were ever so grateful to have received support from the bay area.

Additionally, we connected with interested individuals over zoom calls late night after sailing/coaching. All these different approaches allowed us to hire our coach for seven days a month. We are incredibly proud to have achieved this number of coaching days with the help of our supporters.

Looking forward, we are optimistic for the rest of 2021. Our appreciation for each other and love for the boat grows each day. We are excited to kick off our month long training camp in Long Beach, California on May 3rd. We will have our coach, Willie McBride, and another team to spar against.

From there, we will move north and relocate to San Francisco to train in heavy air. There our focus will be on nailing boathandling maneuvers in extreme conditions and gaining speed insights with our training partners.

Though we will have only had a year and a half under our belts by the start of the 2021 Oman World Championships in November, we are confident we will have emerged from this pandemic the best team we can be. Thank you to our supporters for understanding the urgency to get ahead in the 2024 quadrennium. Because of you, we are on track to execute our dream.

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

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