Originally from Fort Lauderdale, Erika Reineke has gone from foiling for the first time two years ago to stepping on board the U.S. F50 in Cádiz. With just one day of practice under her belt before taking to the racecourse, Reineke reveals how she’s been preparing for the strategist role ahead of racing.
When Reineke first heard about SailGP, the concept immediately sparked interest. “I thought it was mind-blowing that there was going to be something like it, which is almost equivalent to Formula One,” she says.
Fast-forward to Season 2 and the introduction of the Women’s Pathway Program - ‘that really stopped my heart’, Reineke says. She applied immediately but lost out to the first contingent of women - CJ Perez, Anna Weiss and Daniela Moroz, all of whom had ‘tremendous foiling experience,’ according to Reineke. But now, with U.S. athlete Steph Roble sustaining an ankle injury in Saint-Tropez, Reineke has been drafted in for a racing trial in Cádiz. “I feel honored to be in the mix and able to come on board.”
Due to the tight turnaround between Season 3’s fifth event in Saint-Tropez and sixth event in Cádiz, the already limited training time ahead of racing had been further shortened to just one day of practice racing.
With minimal training time, Reineke has no option but to ‘hit the ground running’, and has been undertaking all the preparation she can before the intensity of racing begins.
This has involved ‘doing a ton of research and talking to the right people’, including injured athlete Steph Roble and a variety of different sailors from different teams who, Reineke says, ‘have been very supportive’.
When it comes to the U.S. team, Reineke has only ever sailed alongside flight controller Hans Henken when they were both trying out for the Youth America’s Cup. The rest, she said, are athletes that she has ‘always looked up to’.
“I’ve spoken with the sailors and coaches and the whole U.S. team has been so supportive,” she says, “I’ve looked up to the guys so much but not had the opportunity to sail with them yet.”
The purpose of the strategist role varies according to the team, with some spotting pressure shifts around the course and calling out developing boat-on-boat situations and others acting as a tactician.
Reineke will be ‘calling out time to kill in the pre-start and time on distance, and feeding that information to the team.’ After the start, she’ll be ‘looking out on relatives, planning the next leg, checking in on the fleet and looking at the favored gate marks'.
“The other athletes are very preoccupied with their jobs so my goal is just to be the eyes of the team,” she added. “I just want to have a clear mind, stay calm and do what I know to help the team out as much as I can.”
Racing gets underway at 4pm CEST.