Erika Reineke – US Sailing’s 2017 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year
A Message from: US Sailing.org from January 25. 2018
Reineke (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), 24, will be honored for the first time as US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of Year. The Florida native and veteran US Sailing Team athlete distinguished herself nationally and internationally while competing in both College Sailing and the Olympic Laser Radial class in 2017.
“I was a little shocked when I got the phone call, but I’m really proud,” said Reineke. “Just to even make it on to the shortlist this year, with so many other amazing sailors, was a big achievement for me. It hasn’t sunk in yet that I actually won the award, so I’m super happy and really thankful for everybody who has supported me over the years.”
Reineke’s 2017 highlights include being honored as the 2017 Quantum Women’s College Sailor of the Year, winning A-Division at ICSA Women’s College Nationals, placed third in the A-Division at ICSA Coed College Nationals, winning silver at the Aarhus World Championship Test event in the Laser Radial, and winning gold at Enoshima Olympic Week 2017, the first major multi-class regatta held at the 2020 Olympic Games venue.
2017 was a time of transition for Reineke, who started her year focusing on intercollegiate competition for perennial contender Boston College. After graduation, she moved into training with the US Sailing Team in the Laser Radial full-time, and continued chasing her Olympic dream.
“Looking back on my last year of college sailing, I was a fifth-year senior,” said Reineke. “I took a year off [for the Rio 2016 Olympic Trials] and came back to a team that I didn’t know as well, but they welcomed me back with open arms. Going into Nationals, it just felt like we were a family, and I think that’s what made our performance so strong.”
Reineke has worked hard to balance school and competitive sailing for much of her career, but only in the latter half of 2017 was she able to turn her entire focus towards international Laser Radial sailing under the guidance of US Sailing Team coach Steve Mitchell (Toronto, Canada).
“It’s definitely hard to balance the two worlds of school and sailing, but I think it was worth it,” said Reineke, who won her first major international championship at age 17 at the Laser Radial Class Youth Worlds. “I have learned a lot of different styles of sailing. I think I have a better perspective on sailing in general, and it was totally worth it. After college, there is more time to focus on little things that maybe I didn’t before. Steve has been working with me on turning those little things into strengths.”
“Erika had an incredible year on the water for the national team, and the way she has progressed in the Laser Radial while conducting a historically great career at Boston College has been remarkable,” said Malcolm Page (Newport, R.I.), Chief of U.S. Olympic Sailing. “She has not only become one of our top performers, and one of our brightest medal prospects, but a leader in our effort to create a tighter-knit and more collaborative Olympic program.”
Reineke did not come from a sailing-centric family, but quickly took to the sport as a child growing up in Fort Lauderdale. “My parents didn’t know much about sailing, but through the years they saw little prams and Optimists out on the bay, and wanted me and my sister to try it. We went from absolutely hating it at first, to quickly making friends and then really loving the sport.”