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Megan Grapengeter-Rudnick

An International 420 skipper from Darien, CT, Megan Grapengeter-Rudnick is one of America’s finest youth sailors. Megan was recently named (for the second consecutive year) to the US Sailing Development Team (USSDT), the Olympic pathway team supported by the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program and US Sailing’s Olympic Sailing Committee. She’s also among the best writers ever published in WindCheck. Her excellent articles, including “Sailing, Surfing, Empanadas and Car-Diving: Opti Racing in Argentina” and “Wind and Warmth: A Winter I420 Campaign Across Florida,” are archived at windcheckmagazine.com. 

© Michael Rudnick“I started sailing at Noroton Yacht Club when I was eight years old,” says Megan, 17. “Both of my parents, Janet Grapengeter and Michael Rudnick, grew up sailing. I spent my whole life on boats with them, and they really got me into it. My first boat was an Optimist. I joined LISOT (Long Island Sound Youth Sailing Team) when I was 9 or 10, and I sailed Optis until I was 14. LISOT was originally just for Opti sailors, although it’s grown to include 420, Laser and Laser Radial sailors.”

Sailing year-round with LISOT, Megan won the 2009 Connecticut Optimist Championship, and as a member of the Optimist U.S. National Team she was the top-ranked female Opti sailor in the United States, the United Kingdom and Argentina in 2010. “LISOT has a really good system for consistent coaching, and you don’t change your coaches all the time,” she explains. “There’s a head coach that coaches you at every regatta. They get to know you really well, they know what makes you tick, and they know how to make you a better sailor. Being on a team is also conducive to improvement because you sail with the same people all the time, and you get to know your competitors.”

“All of the LISOT coaches that worked with me in Optis, including Erik Storck, Trevor Moore and Pepe Bettini, really helped me because we built strong relationships. In 420s, I’m being coached by Steve Keen. Steve really connects with his sailors, and he tries to get to know us very well. He knows exactly how to teach each of us what we need to know, and he’s really good at pushing people. He gets everyone on the water as often as he can. We have a strict fitness plan and we do fitness tests throughout the summer, and Steve likes to wear us out by making us do hundreds of push-ups! Doing a long regatta doesn’t feel all that bad compared to his training regimen, and that pays off!”

Megan has competed in regattas in several foreign countries. “I’ve raced in Argentina, Uruguay, Poland, Germany, Holland, Portugal and Italy,” she says. “I had a lot of fun at all of those regattas, and it was a really good learning experience to see different parts of the world…and that people sail the same way over there! The competition was really good, too, and it was good to be exposed to that. I made friends in Optis, and I still see them when I go overseas for 420 regattas. It’s really cool to have connections all over the world.”

“The best place I’ve ever sailed is Lake Garda in Italy,” Megan enthuses. “It’s an awesome place to sail. The scenery is beautiful, the food is amazing and the wind is great. I think it blew a solid 20 every day I was there! I’ve sailed Lake Garda twice – once in Optis and once in 420s. There were 1,000 boats in the Opti regatta! They had three racecourses and three starts on each course, with 150 boats in each start. The 420 regatta only had 300 boats! They only race the International 420 in Europe – they don’t have the Club 420 – and I feel like 420 sailing is fragmented in the U.S. because there’s only a handful of people sailing the I420 while the rest are sailing the Club. In Europe, they’re all in one boat so they can train together.”

Megan’s I420 crews have included Caroline Atwood of Killingworth, CT and Abigail Rohman of Larchmont, NY (shown here on the trapeze on Lake Garda before last year’s I420 Junior European Championship). Megan and Abigail won the Youth Worlds Qualifier in 2012. “Going to Youth Worlds was my goal for the year, and it was a great experience,” she says. “Abby is sailing at Dartmouth, and I’m now sailing with Haley Fox from Fort Lauderdale. I met Haley [another member of the 2013 USSDT] in Optis way back when we were 11 or 12, and we’ve been very good friends since. We’ve both sailed Optis and 420s for a long time and we get along really well. We’ve only been sailing together since November, although we finished second at the 2013 Youth Worlds Qualifier.”

“I don’t do much straying into other classes, although I’ve sailed a Moth and I really want one!” says Megan. “I own a 29er, but I haven’t raced it yet. I ended up sticking with the I420 because 29ers are sparse in the Northeast and it’s hard to find good training and competition. The mechanics of sailing a 29er and an I420 are generally the same, although the skipper and crew have different roles. For example, the crew trims the mainsheet in the 29er. I hope to continue sailing the 29er, whether for fun or in regattas.”

A recent graduate of King Low Heywood Thomas School, Megan is enthusiastic about racing at Brown this fall. “The Brown Sailing Team is very good,” she says. “I’ve also heard that their Head Coach, John Mollicone, is excellent, and I really look forward to being coached by him. I haven’t chosen a major, although I’m very interested in writing, photography and journalism. I’ve thought about an Olympic campaign, but I don’t know if I’ll have time to sail Olympic class boats in college. I’m going to try new things and see where it takes me.”


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