INTERVIEW: 2016 MC National Champion Frank Reeg with Eric Hood

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2 September 2016

2016 MC Scow National Champions - Frank Reeg and crew Jonathan Prins 
©2016 Patrick Reeg

Today we are visiting with Frank Reeg fresh off winning a big 7 race MC National Championship at Crystal Lake, Michigan. Frank, first of all a big congratulations from all of us that were there at Crystal Lake this past week. Your performance was impressive to say the least and it shows in your scores compared to the other 101 boats. Before we get into the sailing, can you tell us a little bit about how you were introduced to our sport and where you have been sailing? How old are you?; I only ask because you also obviously won the Youth National Division as well. Can you tell us about your education plans as well?

FR: Thanks that means a lot. I was introduced to sailing around 8 or 9 years old by my sailor parents and started sailing lessons on Optis in the summer. From there my parents bought my first Butterfly and we joined the Spring Lake Yacht Club to race on the weekends. I continued to race Butterflies until I was 16 and then switched to the MC. So once high school started I joined the sailing team and raced 420s and Lasers around the midwest. Now I’m 19 years old and I’m sailing for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy against schools in NEISA. I am currently studying Marine Transportation and will be getting a US Coast Guard license to become a third mate in the maritime industry.

EH: So many of us thought this would be a windy series on big beautiful Crystal Lake and quite the opposite happened. The three days before the series we had 15-30 mph winds at Crystal and it literally blew itself out as the big weather system moved east. That said, we ended up with some very unusual WNW and WSW light winds for the first two days and six races of the three day, seven race series. What were some of your first thoughts about the oscillating light breezes and what were you focused on in practice before the first race? Give us a sense of how you prepared just before the first race of this big championship?

FR: In the practice before the first start I was mostly focusing on my sail trim and boat speed. I was not overly concerned with the oscillating breeze because I knew I could just play the shifts and see what happens on the first leg. My biggest concern was the start. If there is one thing I learned from college sailing it is the start is everything. If you start in the second or third row it is very hard to find a lane with clear air and get back to the top of the fleet.

EH: So I just came off sailing in the 56 ILYA Championship on Lake Geneva with the same great PRO and RC group. Now that this 101 boat championship held the following week is behind us, I can say things were quite different on the starting line. You did the same thing with a much smaller WMYA Championship a week before the MC National Championship. Give us an idea of your starting line thoughts, approaches, final 60 seconds and first minute or two after the start. Did you survive every start or did you have to climb back in any of the races? Tell us about climbing back and how you mentally approached that challenge?

FR: This race committee did an awesome job with the line because it was almost perfectly square every time. This made picking a spot on the line a little easier. Do I start above the midline boat or below it? My goal to a start is to be on the line going as fast as I can as the gun goes off. I try not being the first one setting up on the line but sailing in and finding a hole or making a hole that I can head off and start with as much speed as possible. I have to say that I survived most of the starts except for one of the general recalls and the 7th race. Climbing back in a fleet like this is pretty challenging, borderline stressful because in the last race I saw Cam McNeal rounding the first mark in second while I rounded in 20th. I try to not let my emotions take control of me and had to look for every little thing that I could do to go faster or catch up. I’ve had experience winning larger regattas before so I had some confidence that I would do well in this one.

EH: After day one and three races it looked like about 7 or 8 boats had a good combination of races and possibly a shot at the title. After races four and five were completed on day two it was obvious the regatta was shaping up to be two boat race for the championship. If we only had six races there would be no drop and, if we went to a race 7 on day three, then there would be one. Did you approach races 6 and 7 the same or differently? Help us understand some things you were thinking about at that point of the regatta.

FR: Honestly I was thinking about race 6 the same as race 1 through 5. I knew I was somewhat close to Cam but anything could happen in the 101 boat fleet. I wanted to sail my own race and not think about who was in front of me or behind me. Race 7 was different because I knew then that Cam and I were tied. The only thing I was thinking about was that Cam had to beat me by 5 or 6 to win the championship with the throw-out figured in. As I said earlier, Cam rounded the first mark in 2nd and me in 20th. That was when I started thinking about where Cam was for the rest of the race.

EH: At a young age you’ve been around a lot of coaching , you obviously are a student of everything when it comes to sailing and racing a boat well. What words of wisdom can you share with all the readers today about how they can improve their sailing? I like to say and coach people that, if we go out today and can, at minimum, get 5-10% better, eventually things are really going to improve toward our desired set goals. Anything fun you like to do when practicing? I think one area that all of us can relate to is when you’re not sailing what do you do to stay in the game? I know I try to sail races over and over in my mind (good and bad races). What do you do both mentally and physically to stay ready for sailing when it does come?

Other than my summer sailing instructors, my first real coach was Joe Rotunda for senior year of high school sailing. I grew up racing against some great sailors at SLYC who gave me tips along the way. My Grandpa John Madison watches me sail almost every weekend and reviews what I did right and wrong. My new coaches are David Halberstadt and David Fallon at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. It does not matter what kind of boat I sail. The more boats that I can sail fast the better sailor I can become. I think that for me racing scows early in life and getting the chance to race in high school and college, plus sailing a wide variety of classes shaped me into the sailor I am today. What prepares me for racing is staying active and being passionate about the sport and sailing every chance I get.

EH: Once again Frank, a HUGE congratulations on a great National Championship win. It’s certainly a lifetime memory. You are the champ and as is tradition with our fun interviews of our Champions you have the floor. Give us some final thoughts and words on sailing , the MC Scow and your future plans.

No matter where I sail my MC, people in this class are for the competition but to also like to have a good time. I like the sportsmanship and enthusiasm that happens on and off the race course. I like that we can use crew when we need to. My friend Jonathan Prins crewed during race 6. Although college sailing is very competitive, I have the most fun sailing scows in the summer with friends and family. My future plans include more racing in college and a career working on the water.