Hall of Fame Interview—Mark Reynolds

Stuart Streuli

Mark Jeffery Reynolds, born in 1955, grew up in San Diego immersed in the Star class. His father, Jim, crewed with Dennis Conner, winning the 1971 Star Worlds. Now with two world championships and three Olympic medals to his own credit, Reynolds has joined the Sailing World Hall of Fame. We talked with the Quantum sailmaker after his election.

Sailing World: Who influenced you as a young sailor?
Mark Reynolds: I was pretty lucky to be at the San Diego YC growing up. My dad sailed Star boats, so I was around Malin Burnham, Lowell North, and Dennis Conner. I was also at Star regattas with Tom Blackaller, Gary Mull, Bill Buchan, and guys like that when I was 14 to 16 years old. Another guy was Ash Bown, a Star boat sailor and ocean racer who Dennis learned a lot from, and who my dad and Malin and all those guys sailed with. They’d come over to our house all the time, especially Dennis, to have a gin and tonic or whatever they used to have in those days and talk with my dad about Star boats and whatever. I could hang out and ask questions of Dennis Conner every day after school–it was a pretty good deal.

SW: What did you take from these guys in the way of key lessons or philosophy?
MR: One thing I learned from Dennis was the importance of boat preparation. Dennis is one of the best at making sure he has all the best equipment. I worked for him for almost 10 years and I was always working on the best equipment. He always had a lot of ideas for improving things. Later I worked for Lowell North and I learned a lot from him. Peter Barrett was another guy I learned from, too, in the late ’70s and early ’80s when I was sailing the FD and starting in the Star. When I started making my own sails, I started making sails for Bill Buchan and, as far as Star boats are concerned, Bill knows more than anybody. I went to the ’84 Olympics and helped him a little bit with tuning and his sails. Every six months or so I still check in with Bill; he’s the type of guy who always keeps learning. He’s been around for a bit–he’s a grandfather now–but I’ve never heard him say, “That will absolutely not work. I know the best way to do all this stuff.” Instead, he’ll say, “Actually we did try that once, but that might work.” He always keeps an open mind, and if you want to keep improving you have to be that way.


SW: So boat prep and an open mind are the key tenets of your philosophy?
MR: Dennis’s main thing is working a little harder than the other guy, so I’m always trying to work a little harder than the other guys, too. When I go to a major regatta, I like to know that my boat is better prepared than everybody else’s. That’s been true at all the Olympic Trials I’ve been to. I think that helps your confidence out on the racecourse. It used to piss people off–especially between Blackaller and Dennis. Blackaller thought Dennis worked too hard. It’s getting harder and harder to be the best prepared, though. Especially if you compare what I do now to what my Dad did in the ’60s. He did three Olympic Trials in ’64, ’68, and ’72, and we all put a lot more time into it now than they did then.

SW: Of all the events you’ve won, what’s No. 1?
MR: It’s really hard to say between the Star Worlds and the Olympics; Barcelona was incredible, and then coming back to win in Sydney¿I’d have to rate all three of those a dead heat, but winning the Star worlds was always a thing I focused on. I think it was my 14th Star worlds that I finally won. It was blowing really hard. It was a tough regatta. We had at least two races that were abandoned when we were doing really well, and we had one race when other top competitors had been black flagged and were reinstated. So we had three big things that went against us in a regatta in which we were doing pretty well, and we began to feel, “This regatta’s going to go on forever.” But we finally won it.

SW: What keeps you going at it?
MR: No. 1 is that I enjoy doing it. I have fun doing it. It’s also the way I make my living; fortunately that’s not No. 1 or I think that might be a problem.


SW: Any thoughts on your Hall of Fame selection?
MR: It’s nice to be considered on a list with all the people you respect and admire in the sport–and to be considered one of those people. It’s like, “Wow! I guess I’ve made it now.” It’s kind of like going to the Olympics and already having a gold medal: the desire to do well drives you and makes you work harder, but the fact that you’ve already done something and been recognized for it–they can’t take that away from you. That’s takes a little bit of the pressure off.