This week in the continuing series on the LGBT athletes of Washington who will compete at the 2014 Cleveland/Akron Gay Games, we visit with Mark Hertzendorf of the Rainbow Spinnakers Sailing Club.
WASHINGTON BLADE: What is your sailing background?
HERTZENDORF: I took my first sailing class when I was a freshman in college at SUNY-Oswego on Lake Ontario. Although I sailed a bit on Lake Ontario that year, the training didn’t really take hold until years later. It was several years before I found out about Rainbow Spinnakers Sailing Club at Capital Pride. Since joining the Rainbow Spinnakers, I haven’t stopped sailing. I began sailing with them on the Potomac River from Belle Haven Marina using Flying Scots. After a number of years, I started dividing my time equally between sailing on the Potomac River and sailing in Baltimore Harbor mostly on Sonar23s — a racing boat popular in this area. More recently I’ve spent time sailing and fixing up my Catalina 25 currently located at Belle Haven Marina.
BLADE: Did you play any other sports growing up?
HERTZENDORF: My only other form of consistent exercise has been swimming.
BLADE: Will you be racing in the competitive division or the recreational division at the Gay Games?
HERTZENDORF: The Rainbow Spinnaker’s team will be racing in the recreational fleet. It’s a bit of a misnomer perhaps to refer to one of the fleets as recreational and the other as competitive. Both fleets will be competing fiercely. The terms are generally used to distinguish between fleets that will fly a spinnaker downwind, versus those that will rely on the standard jib or genoa sail. So, perhaps ironically given our name, our team will not be flying a spinnaker.
BLADE: Tartan Yachts is supplying the fleet to be used at the Gay Games. Will it be difficult to navigate a boat that is new to you?
HERTZENDORF: Navigating a new boat should not be difficult. I’ve sailed on many different types of boats, as have the other team members.
BLADE: What will your training regimen consist of leading up to the Gay Games?
HERTZENDORF: Our team members have limited racing experience since that hasn’t been the focus of Rainbow Spinnakers. Most of the team has signed up for a racing seminar at J-World in Annapolis. We haven’t settled on specific training schedule, but we intend to participate in local races throughout the season in preparation for the Games.
BLADE: What is it about sailing that keeps you in the sport?
HERTZENDORF: There is nothing like being out on the water. A famous quote says, “A bad day on the water is always better than a good day on land.” There is always something new to learn and opportunities to improve your skill set. As you get older, you just get bigger boats.
BLADE: Any embarrassing sailing stories to share?
HERTZENDORF: Too many to count. If you don’t have any embarrassing stories to tell, you haven’t been a serious sailor. My favorite such story is the time I tried to impress my friends in Seattle with my relatively new sailing skills. The first day visiting my friends I rented a boat from the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union. Inside of an hour I had managed to sail into a houseboat. A guy in a rowboat with his dog attempted to rescue me, but the effort ultimately required a power boat from the CWB. I swear it wasn’t my fault. Apparently the keel of the boat had not been lowered before they handed her off to me. This was a strange, old-fashioned wooden boat where the adjustment had to be made deep in the hull. This made it impossible for me to tact into the wind.
BLADE: Have you been to the Gay Games? What are you most looking forward to?
HERTZENDORF: This will be the first time I’ve participated in a serious race. I am really looking forward to the opening ceremony and competing.