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Getting In Phase With Mark Reynolds

December 20, 2001
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The Star Class winter circuit kicked off on Dec. 1 and 2 with the Commodore’s Cup in Miami. The event was hosted by the Biscayne Bay Star Fleet and Coral Reef YC, and 31 boats, including a number of foreign teams, competed. After three long races a familiar pair of names were at the top of the leader board, Mark Reynolds and Magnus Liljedahl. Though they hadn’t sailed together since August, the reigning Olympic gold medalists won the last two races, finished third in the first, and avoided the alphabet soup that sunk a few other strong contenders, including the newly formed British teams of 2000 49er silver medalist Ian Barker and Ed Peel and 2000 Finn gold medalist Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell. To get an idea of what Reynolds plans for the next few years, one doesn’t have to look much further than his new website, (http://www.Star2004.com). But we figured we’d rather hear it from him. We also wanted to ask him about the recent change in the class’ weight-limit formula, one which will force many top sailors either to do some serious dieting or to look for lighter sailing partners.

GPS: Mark, congratulations on your win at the Commodore’s Cup. It looks like there were a few familiar names on the entry list and a few we haven’t seen much of before?

MR: There are quite a few new people getting into the class, which is really nice. [2000 Star silver medalist] Ian Walker’s program looks like it was split down the middle. He had two boats, one is now being sailed by Ian Barker and the other one by Iain Percy. They were both down there for a couple of weeks training and learning the boats. They both looked good. They looked really good.

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GPS: What was your motivation for heading east for that particular regatta?

MR: I’ve sailed in that regatta quite a bit, but I haven’t sailed in it every year. The Commodore’s Cup is the first one that most of the people from out of town start going down to. We’ve got a lot of sailing in January and I was pretty anxious to get going, to get back in the Star with Magnus. We hadn’t sailed together since the Worlds.

GPS: Is there something specific you missed about sailing the Star with Magnus?

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MR: It’s just fun. I just enjoy doing it.

GPS: The class recently approved a reduction in the weight-limit formula. Will this be a significant change?

MR: In the past most of the top teams were at maximum weight. At the Worlds, there were a little over 100 boats, and I think 61 of them wouldn’t make the new weight limit, and out of the top third of the fleet there were only a couple of boats that would make it, probably only one or two. Almost everybody in the top 20 or 30 had been sailing at max weight

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GPS: It seems like it took people here by surprise?

MR: I didn’t expect it. It’s more of a European thing. You look at the votes, the Europeans voted very much in favor of it, and in the U.S., it was more evenly split. I didn’t think it would pass because it would affect so many people. We’re fortunate because Magnus is normally a smaller guy than what he’s been sailing the Star at. He bulked up a lot to get to that weight. When I first met Magnus, when he was sailing the Finn, he probably weighed 200, 210. And he’s a very dedicated athlete. As a matter of fact, he was in favor of the rule, he’s one of the guys who was hoping it would pass because he’d like to lose a little bit of weight. Some of the other teams will have to adjust.

GPS: So, it’s not going to affect you too much?

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MR: No, it doesn’t look like it. And we’ve got almost five months to get down to weight, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

GPS: The proponents of this rule hope it will open up the class to more people. Do you think it will? Is it a good decision for the class?

MR: People were complaining, particularly in Europe, that they don’t have big strong guys. We didn’t want the class to be like basketball where it’s limited to people who are tall enough to compete. We’re the only keelboat class in the Olympics right now so it would be nice to try and accept as wide a range of people as possible. That’s always been the case really for the skipper of a Star boat. In the last Olympics we had guys like Ian Walker who was 165 and Peter Bromby who was 250. There’s not too many places where two guys that different can compete against each other. But there was a problem that Ian had to find a guy who was 280 to crew for him. Now Ian will still have to find a pretty big guy, but a guy like Bromby can take pretty much anybody walking down the street.
It’s been tough because the Star is not just an Olympic class boat. It really has a lot of grassroots support, a lot of fleet sailors. A lot of those fleet sailors went into the boat because they were big guys who couldn’t sail anything else. They couldn’t sail an Etchells because of the weight rule or the 470 or the 49er or classes like that. I’m a little worried that these guys [the Pater Noster Star Fleet in Sweden that proposed the rule] pushed it down a little too far. We’ve got guys who aren’t Olympic athletes, who aren’t as committed as Magnus to losing weight. They’re that size and they’re not going to lose 30 pounds to sail the Star. So it’s a little unfortunate for some of the fleet racers. Although this rule doesn’t apply, for the most part, to fleet activities. It’s really just the worlds and qualifying for the worlds. That actually presents another small problem. Prestigious regattas like the Bacardi Cup, which are not qualifying regattas or a world championships, won’t have a weight limit. Someone can come along with a huge crew and have a little bit of an advantage over us.

GPS: Domestically, there are a lot of rumors flying around about who’s going to be sailing the Star during this quadrennium. How do you think things look for the U.S. team?

MR: I think it looks pretty good. The U.S. has a little bit of a problem in that a lot of our good sailors have something else going on, so they can’t put quite as much time into it as is necessary for an Olympic campaign. But I know Terry Hutchinson’s going to spend most of January sailing the Star boat and Paul Cayard’s enthusiastic about doing as much sailing as he can. George Szabo just bought a boat. There’s quite a few new people and the worlds are here this year [in Newport Beach, Calif. in August] so that’s gotten a few more people to get boats.

GPS: Any one of those sailors that, more than the others, you think could turn it on quickly and become a real threat?

MR: I think all the above. Szabo’s only sailed off and on, yet he got third at the Trials and won the North Americans. Terry hasn’t sailed too much, but he’s been right up there in the regattas he’s sailed and is only going to get better. Cayard only sailed two regattas last year and I think he got a second and a third in the Springs and Bacardi Cup. There’s also Kevin Hall and Brian Ledbetter. Carl Buchan could be back out there again.

GPS: But it’s full speed ahead for you for the next few years?

MR: Sure. We’ve got a pretty good program planned for this winter and then the boats are coming out west for the worlds in LA. We’ve got a new website that I just finished a few weeks ago, www.Star2004.com. We’re going to keep adding to that. It’s shaping up.

GPS: What about outside of the Star boat. Are you still involved with Philippe Kahn’s program?

MR: Yeah, I have been. This year I did a ton. We spent quite a bit of time in September, October, and the beginning of November sailing in the Melges 24. A lot of practicing up in Santa Cruz and that’s going really well. We’ve got a month and half off, and then we meet up in Key West plenty early, where we’ve got Luther [Carpenter] coaching us. Philippe’s also sailing the Finn, so he doesn’t need any help there, as far as crew is concerned. He’s going to be at the Rolex OCR sailing the Finn dinghy and I’m going to be sailing the Star boat. I’m going to try to meet up with him on the water so he can hop in the Star and get a feel for that too. He hasn’t been in a Star boat before. Maybe that’ll be the next boat for him.

GPS: Any bigger boats, longer races?

MR: I’m going to do quite a bit of Farr 40 sailing. It’s not going to be with Philippe though; he’s gotten rid of all his Farr 40s for now. I’m going to take Pedro’s [Peter Isler’s] place on Revolution for the West Coast series, and I have some other plans in the works for the Worlds. It fits in pretty nicely with the Star.

GPS: By trade, you’re a sailmaker. Does this schedule represent a shift for you–the amount of professional sailing you’re doing?

MR: This year was a big change. I’d done a little bit, Key West every year, a few things here or there. But this year with Philippe, I did a lot with the Farr 40, and then the Melges in the second half of the year. It was fun. I’ve got a lot of experience tactics-wise so I can kind of step into those roles. I had a good year. Hopefully I can do more of that this year. And Szabo’s at the loft and a lot of the stuff I do, talking to customers and stuff, is via email, so I don’t always have to be at the loft.

GPS: It’s something you’re enjoying?

MR: Yeah. I was gone a little bit more than I would’ve liked. I’m not gone as much as someone like Terry Hutchinson is or some of those other guys. But still, that’s a little disadvantage to the whole thing.

For a complete set of results from the Commodore’s Cup: http://www.regattabase.com/search.cgi?Action=view&Event;_id=87

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