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SAILING: Despite Youth, Reineke Does Not Lack Experience

Heights Staff

Published: Monday, November 12, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01


What does one do when they win a national championship? Some go to Disneyland, others make a big show of parading the country as praise is lavished their way, and the most fortunate find themselves on the steps of the White House, shaking hands with none other than President Barack Obama.

If it is at all a possibility to be crowned a national champion and still be under the radar, the Boston College sailing team, and specifically freshman Erika Reineke, has got it down to a science. If Reineke’s name is not yet a household one around the Heights, it is not for a lack of trying, as the first-semester student brought home a national championship of a different kind.

Last weekend, Reineke became the second woman in BC sailing history to be crowned champion at the Women’s Singlehanded National Championships, following in the distinguished wake of recent graduate Annie Haegar.

“I’m really happy about it and obviously a little surprised,” Reineke said of her success. “We worked really hard as a team. They’ve really pushed me. [Head coach] Greg Wilkinson has really helped me to focus my talent and develop my skills over the past semester. It’s been short, but it’s been worthwhile. It’s all surreal, and I’ve got three more years now, so we’ll see where it can go.”

Reineke captured first place in the laser radial competition, where she won the opening three races of the 18-race event and never looked back.

“It was a big confidence boost,” the freshman said of winning the first three races. “I was really nervous going into the event because I had high expectations for myself. After those three races I just said to myself, ‘Ok, I know how to make a boat go fast.’”

The laser radial is a small type of dinghy, generally preferred to the laser standard model by women. The radial is a one-person boat, with a reduced mast and smaller sail area, which allows for lighter sailors like Reineke to race more effectively in heavier winds.

The event, held in Long Beach, Calif., was contested by the top 18 singlehanded sailors in the country, but BC’s Reineke made them mostly bystanders in her victory parade.

After capturing the first three races, Reineke would go on to win two more of the eight races on day one. In a competition where the lowest score wins, Reineke grabbed a commanding 23-point lead after the first day. The second day would feature her best work, as she sailed across the finish line in first place in all eight races that were held that day.

After 16 of the 18 overall races, the gap between Reineke and the other 17 sailors was mathematically insurmountable, and she was declared the national champion.

The weekend was not without its hiccups for the freshman, as she capsized her boat in the fifth race on her way to her lowest finish for the competition, fifth place.

“It was a really silly mistake, I don’t even really know how it happened,” Reineke said of the mishap. “I flipped over, but I wasn’t too disturbed or distraught by it because it happens. You just have to try and claw back as much as you can and not let it faze you. You can’t let it determine the rest of your day.”

The championship was the 12th in BC program history in various events. Reineke becomes the second woman to capture the women’s singlehanded title, after Haegar captured three of her own during her four years on the Heights.

Reineke named the accomplished Haegar, who graduated from BC last year, as a “huge role model” for her and as someone who set the bar high for any sailor coming to Chestnut Hill.

Reineke began her sailing career at the age of eight years old, and to hear her speak of her start, it almost comes as a bit of a surprise that she is still sailing today.

“I started at age eight, and I hated it at first,” Reineke said of her first involvement with the sport. “I couldn’t get in the boat, I hated it so much. But at around 12 years old, I began to really like it. My parents [pushed me toward sailing], even though they don’t sail at all. They saw boats around at the yacht club and thought it looked fun, so they stuck me in a boat. It was tough at first. Other kids have soccer or dance, but I made some great friends through sailing that made me want to stay in the sport and want to do it long-term.”

After taking the gold in two youth world championships and one under-21 world event, Reineke began to look toward moving her sailing career to the collegiate ranks. BC was a natural first choice for her, as it offered her all the tools that she felt were necessary to further her career in the water.

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