The St Francis Sailing Foundation (StFSF) is proud to have in its inventory of grantees women sailors who are at the pinnacle of not only their own sailing careers, but that of women in sailing. Just recently, six sailors were named to the New York Yacht Club American Magic Women’s Team who will compete at the Puig Women’s America’s Cup scheduled from October 10-16, 2024, in Barcelona, Spain, in 2024.
On the squad are four Olympians, two former winners of US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award, and a recent winner of The Ocean Race, including:
Francesca Clapcich: Park City, UT
Erika Reineke: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Steph Roble: East Troy, WI & Miami, FL
Helena Scutt: Kirkland, WA & San Francisco, CA
Sara Stone: Marion, MA
Anna Weis: Fort Lauderdale, FL
StFSF is immensely proud that four of the six sailors selected are Foundation grantees: Steph Roble, Erika Reineke, Helena Scutt and Anna Weis, paving the way for the future of women in sailing. Reineke commented, “Women in sailing at the elite level is finally here – it’s now up to the individuals and the teams that we are on to really run with it. That there is now a women’s circuit speaks to where this sport is going and the opportunities ahead.”
An overall training plan is in place and while AC40s may not be available to the women’s team until May 2024, they are getting as much simulator training as time presently allows given that each team member has a lot going on outside of the America’s Cup; the Olympics, SailGP, the Ocean Race and Super Series.
“We are all racing at the highest levels in the sport and are constantly learning and progressing as sailors even if we aren’t immediately logging time in the AC40,” Robles noted. “We’ll get as much time on the simulator in Barcelona as possible – getting confident and comfortable with boat handling will be a big goal for racing.”
In the simulator the team can learn AC40 boat handling and boat speed and can drill down on starts and actual racing skills that they will need to perfect. Reineke noted that her big take-home from the simulator sessions is the muscle memory she is developing for the control buttons that basically run the boat.
“Establishing that muscle memory for where each button is so that you can keep your head out of the boat, keep the boat foiling and going fast, and make the tactical decisions that hopefully put you in the front,” she said. “Then there is coordinating those maneuvers with the team as they are also all pushing buttons – it’s definitely not dinghy sailing. We’re not a 49er and even a Moth is different.”
Weis agreed, “My experience trimming in the Nacra, and the communication skills required there, understanding where you are on the racecourse are, those cross over skills I hope will be valuable. I’ve always had a sheet in my hand to trim but now I’ll be trimming with buttons so that will be an adjustment.”
While roles haven’t yet officially been assigned within the team Roble and Reineke are slated to helm, and Scutt and Weis are likely to step in as trimmers.
“While my strength is on the helm and making decisions on the racecourse, the exciting thing about the team is that everyone has a unique background and brings different strengths to the table, so we are going to see how roles evolve as we hit the simulator together,” Roble commented.
Scutt may have the most foiling experience on the team and in her engineering role with American Magic, she is familiar with the AC40. Nonetheless she reminds us that the boats are extremely fast and there will be a lot to learn.
“For trimming I need to learn the correct sail shapes and settings for different wind speeds up and downwind, the nuances of how we take off – how we go from displacement mode to foiling as quickly as possible and acceleration for starts, tacks and gybes – there is plenty to learn there.”
The women unanimously concur that communications between the team will be extremely important. While communication is more of the driver’s job, on the AC40 it’s difficult to see from the other side of the boat or past the boat because the sail comes all the way to the deck, noted Scutt, which means the trimmer also needs to be sharp with communications.
“It’s like having a wall on one side of you at all times,” Scutt said. “Being able to paint a picture from the other side of the boat, from a tactical and strategic perspective, will be really important so learning about those communications and how to sail the boat with that limited visibility will be really critical.”
Scutt continued, “In order to be competitive, we need to be able to sail the AC40 instinctively as possible and be comfortable enough in the boat so that we can just focus on racing,” Scutt said. “If there is anything that Moth sailing has taught me is that the boats are so difficult to sail you can be fast in a straight line but without a good foundation in boat handling, you’re going to give up so many meters around the course that you just can’t compete.”
Coach for the New York Yacht Club American Magic Women’s Team, and long-time Foundation associate, Charlie Ogletree commented, “The team we have selected are some of the most professional sailors I have worked with, and I am honored to be involved with them and the AM/NYYC Women’s AC Team. Their willingness to win, work hard and be open minded to accelerate their learning process is something we can all learn from. Once we receive our boat, we will begin a training program in Barcelona with the women’s team and the youth team. This will push our sailors to an incredibly high level with the goal of winning the WAC and the YAC in the fall!”
All the women’s teams will have limited time on the AC40 setting up a fairly even platform across the competition; ultimately, the biggest challenge the women will face is learning on an accelerated time frame and getting as much training time together as they want.
“Time is always the challenge in any big project,” Roble said. “We are racing the clock to get enough hours in the boat, learn new team dynamics and understand a new style of racing. We must be smart with our limited time.”
Like the other women, Rieneke has a full dance card going into 2024, including the Paris Olympics.
“Throw SailGP in there too!” she smiled. “It’s definitely a lot but each of the projects balance out the other sailing I am doing. Sailing in the F50 makes me a better Radial sailor and sailing the Moth makes me a better F50 and Radial sailor. They all complement each other and doing different projects really helps the sport be new and refreshing. Even though it’s full on and I’m constantly sailing all the time, it feels awesome to be able to do all these things.”
Just what does it mean to be on the first America’s Cup Women’s team to race on a foiling monohull?
Steph Roble (East Troy, WI & Miami, FL): It’s a huge honor. If you told me 10 years ago that I’d be racing in the first ever women’s America’s Cup in a foiling boat, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. However, I’m really proud to be in this position. I am so grateful to have had women who inspired me to pursue the Olympics and professional sailing. Now I hope to help inspire and pave a path for future women’s sailors.
Erika Reineke: It’s something that I always wanted as a young Opti sailor – I can remember looking up to people like Jimmy (Spithill) and other past Cup winners and always admired what they were doing. It means the world to me finally seeing it come together, to compete with women who I highly respect flying the US flag, and being supported by a team who I believe will perform exceptionally in the AC37. It’s a dream come true.
Helena Scutt: It’s a tremendously exciting opportunity, it feels like I’m combining so many different aspects of things that I have worked towards over the last fifteen years from sailing the 49FX in Rio – the first Olympics with a high-performance skiff class. It was cool to make history then and this feels similar. I also love that it ties into my work as an engineer. It is a big opportunity for women in sport and sailing and it will be a great way for women to become immersed in the higher performance world.
Anna Weis: It means everything to me in the sense that I’ve been pushing for women in sailing for a long time and I am really honored to be part of the “first”. I never fully imagined myself to be here; I never imagined myself to be going to the Olympics let alone here. I’ve just put my head down and worked hard and I enjoy what I am doing. It’s cool to have been able to track my progress like this, with a lot of help from others of course, and a huge honor. I am grateful to all my supporters. I’m really lucky!
Official story and sailor profiles: https://americanmagic.americascup.com/en/news/148_New-York-Yacht-Club-American-Magic-Announces-Women-s-Team-for-the-Puig-Womens-Americas-Cup-2024.html
Stay updated with NYYC American Magic’s Women’s Team on AmericanMagic.com and on Instagram @AmericanMagicTeam.