Human Interest
Interview with Mark Reynolds and Steve Erickson
By US SAILING "Medallist"
Feb 12, 2004, 08:38

Reprinted from US SAILING's Medallist

As the US sailors with the top overall performance at the 2004 Rolex Miami OCR, Star sailors Mark Reynolds and Steve Erickson are this year’s Golden Torch Award winners.

Steve Erickson is a Star Olympic Gold Medallist (1984) and two-time Star World Champion.

SM: How did you and Mark come to be teammates?

Erickson: Mark gave me a call, shortly after I had been coaching him, Philippe Kahn and Freddi Loof at the North American Championship in San Francisco last October. Mark asked if I would be interested in doing the trials with him, and suggested it would be a good interim project for me, between Americas Cup campaigns.

SM: The two of you have only been sailing together for a relatively short period of time. How have you managed to click as a team so quickly?

Erickson: Firstly, be careful of defining our time together, as relatively short. We sailed together in the '83 Pacific Coast Championship (2nd) and the '93 Miami Olympic Classes Regatta (1st). Looks like we check in with one another about once a decade. Seriously, we have been friends for quite some time. Mark was hugely instrumental in the sail development of Bill Buchan and my '84 Olympic success. Mark's demeanor is a pleasure to work around, and an inspiration others could learn from.

SM: You had a great win at the 2004 Rolex Miami OCR. To what do you attribute your success?

Erickson: Bill Buchan was a giant influence in how I approach life. You'd constantly hear Bill make comments like: "well, we tried that once in '64, but 'this' has changed, and it might work now;" or, "you know, every time I go sailing, I learn something new.” It is this mentality that makes you want to wake to the challenges of a new day. I have little time for the "that wont work" approach. Mark also has been largely influenced by Bill and his approach to success. With this approach, Mark and I have really taken on the downwind game. It has paid dividends, and we are only 1/2 way to our full downwind potential! Mark has always started well, has always been one of the quickest upwind, is mentally tough as rocks, and hopefully the downwind game will only add to his arsenal.

SM: What was the most challenging moment for you at the Rolex Miami OCR?

Erickson: Looking back, after rounding the last weather mark of race five, and only seeing 10-15 boats!? We finished 46th. After leading the series going into that race, we literally laughed it off, and got onto having a good next race (8th), which left us in the lead of the series, upon returning to the dock.

SM: There appears to have been an influx of former Finn sailors into the Star this quadrennium. What kind of influence have these sailors had on contemporary Star sailing?

Erickson: See my comments about the need for downwind speed above. The Finn guys are REAL GOOD downwind. In the "old days” we'd train hard upwind, to get that 1-3 boat length advantage that made all the difference. The other day, we were tuning upwind, and our tuning partner, started leaning into his boat, to fix something. Mark took that cue to reach in and hand me a power bar. I asked him for some Gatorade, which I drank while I continued hiking. Mark started laughing, "you know, in the old days, we ate lunch while we sailed, we eat sailing upwind (don't want to miss precious downwind training time!)." The magnitude of potential gains downwind, can sometimes be measured in 100s of yards!

SM: What will you be doing between now and the Olympic Trials in March?

Erickson: Thursday I am off to coach Meg Gaillard (#1 U.S. ranked in the Europe) at her Olympic Trials. Immediately after, I coach Mark Ewing, and his Farr 40 Riot at the S.O.R.C. Immediately after that, a week of training with Mark before the Bacardi Cup, and then the Bacardi itself. Then, we only have a week, or so, before our trials. Pretty flat out!

Mark Reynolds is a three time Star Olympic Medallist and a Star World Champion.

SM: You won a World Championship and an Olympic Gold medal sailing with Magnus Liljedahl, but you've recently teamed up with the equally successful Steve Erickson. What's the reason behind the change in teammates?

Reynolds: There is no question that Magnus is one of the best crews in the world, maybe the best. Our results last season weren't stellar for one reason or another and so I thought that perhaps a change was needed. It wasn't an easy decision but I thought a bit of a fresh approach might help and a crew can certainly bring that. It's got me thinking about some new things, which is always good.

SM: It must be difficult for a new team to jell so quickly. How have the two of you pulled it off?

Reynolds: Steve has a lot of Star experience and we've sailed together in the past. We first sailed together in 1983, before he won his gold medal. Last time we sailed together we won the Miami OCR in 1993. I guessed that we could get it together pretty quickly but we still have a ways to go to really reach our potential. Hopefully we have enough time.

SM: What was it that put you ahead of the field at the Rolex Miami OCR?

Reynolds: The conditions were very difficult in every race and we were fortunate to only have one bad race where many others had two. In a few races where we were back at the first mark we were able to make some good recoveries and finish with something we could count. It was a regatta that consistent top-10 finishes was all you needed to win. We only fell out of the top-10 twice and we could throw one out.

SM: A win at the Rolex Miami OCR has to be good news going into the Olympic Trials in March. You seem to have a knack for peaking at the right time. Is this what we're seeing now? If so how do you manage it?

Reynolds: I just go out trying to do the best I can every time I race, but I do focus on making sure that I'm as prepared as I can be when the big events come around. I'm sure that helps give me the confidence that I'm ready and I just need to sail the boat right to win.

SM: This is your seventh Olympic campaign. Has this campaign been any different?

Reynolds: Yeah, you're right this is the seventh which is hard to believe. I've had to work harder each time as the bar gets set higher each time and they also get more and more expensive to do right. I have more outside responsibilities then when I started now with three kids, a house, business, etc., but fortunately this time around I'm also in a slightly better financial position than before. I get some USOC support and have my first personal sponsor, Nautica, helping me out. It's still a far cry from some of the other programs I see out there.

SM: Are US Star sailors training together at this point?

Reynolds: Yes I think pretty much all of the US Star sailors are working with other US sailors often paired up for tuning and then getting together in larger groups for impromptu practice races. We are also really fortunate to have a lot of foreign Star sailors hanging out in Miami for the winter to be able to check in at the world level.

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