Both Zach Railey and Caleb Paine are upbeat as they head into this week’s Finn European Championship in Barcelona, Spain, the second of the two selection events for the US Finn class place at the Rio Olympics.
Railey, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist, now 31, has a one point advantage over the younger challenger Paine after the first qualifier in Miami in January, which effectively means they are tied on points. Railey finished a disappointing 12th at 2012 London Olympics after beginning that regatta with podium hopes.
Following three years out of sailing to pursue a business career, he reignited his campaign last fall. “I knew it was a late comeback, so there were no disillusions or fantasies on what it was going to be like or how hard it was going to be, but we had a good group of people and have been working really hard. The results showed in Miami and I’m hoping that the results will show here. It’s going to be an interesting week.”
In contrast, 25 year old Paine has been training hard for this moment for five years. He placed 12th at the 2015 World Championship after qualifying USA for Rio at the 2014 World Championship with an excellent seventh place.
Paine was the more consistent of the two in Miami, despite not winning a race and in the nearly-100 boat fleet this week, consistency could be the deciding factor. He became ill at the end of the Miami event, which he said affected his performance in the deciding double points medal race. “But it’s still sailboat racing and you have to go out and do your best. I didn’t pull through with the best result I could have, so basically we are tied coming into this event so whoever beats who goes to the Olympic Games.”
However, neither can be complacent. Luke Muller, after less than a season in the class, is just nine points behind, and in Railey’s opinion is a name to watch, especially for Tokyo 2020. “He is going to be a very good Finn sailor and he’s not that far back in a 100 boat fleet. With the forecast looking like mainly light air, you never know what will happen.”
Railey’s sister, Paige, won her own selection for Rio in the Laser Radial class just last week. “Of course it’s motivating to try and go to the Olympics with my sister again. I am very proud of her.”
The deep field in Barcelona also includes the 2013 European Champion Vasilij Zbogar from Slovenia, three times and defending European Champion Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic from Croatia, New Zealand’s fast duo of Josh Junior and Andrew Murdoch, Pieter-Jan Postma from the Netherlands, and the British second Ed Wright, a former world and European champion.
Racing gets underway Monday with a 10 race series followed by a medal race for the top 10 next Saturday.
For more on the event, and live results, visit 2016.FinnEuropeans.org