Pressure On at 2016 Finn Europeans

Paine and Railey both face big challenges in American Olympic selection race.

The Finn Europeans should now be at its half way stage, but is two races behind schedule. In spite of this, and as forecasted the American Finn trials look like going right down to the wire. After four races there is nothing to separate the two favorites, Zach Railey and Caleb Paine.

Railey won the first day, Paine bounced back to close the points gap on the second day, and on Wednesday posted a better result to draw them almost even, though it could all change after the throw out comes into play after one more race. There are still potentially seven races and a long way left to go.

Current US placings are Railey (12th on 84 points), Paine (21st on 91 points), Henry Sprague (44th on 174 points), Phil Toth (55th on 222 points), Luke Muller (58th on 226 points), Charles Heimler (87th on 343 points).

Caleb Paine Finn Europeans
Caleb Paine currently sits in 21st overall in the Finn Europeans. The 25-year old has been campaigning the Finn for the entire Olympic quad, compared to Railey's re-entrance into the class last fall.Robert Deaves

Paine has the highest drop, a 58th to Railey's 38th, so could be considered to be in a stronger position, but it is also a risk as one more mistake would be very costly. He is also carrying a yellow flag penalty for a Rule 42 infringement. One more would make the 58th a counter.

Paine admits he is on the back foot: “The pressure is all on me to make sure I perform, but that's what we are here for – and that's what happens at the Olympics. There's tons of racing still to happen and we'll see what happens further down the line. At the end of the week we'll know.”

He said Wednesday's only race was tough. “I was doing everything I could, scrambling hard. A lot of the guys got stuck on the right, me being one, and were just trying to make up the loss.” He considered a recovery to 19th a moderate success.

Railey faired badly, picking up a 38th. “It was a tough race. I started towards the boat and we had no wind. I was about 65th at the first mark, along with a lot of the top ten here. We just didn't have a chance to get into the race. That's just part of sailboat racing, sometimes. It was unfortunate. The race committee has a tough job in conditions like that.”

Zach Railey Finn Europeans
If he continues to lead, Railey's victory over Paine and the other American sailors would be a major upset for the American Finn Olympic hopefuls. With the two-event selection process, Railey went into this event just one point ahead in the trials over Paine. The next three days of racing will determine who sails under the American flag in Rio.Robert Deaves

Railey says it is very hard to control any outcome but your own. “You are just trying to sail your own race so it's hard to focus on anyone else. And of course you are looking around the race course to see where they are but you just don't have any control over it because there are so many boats.”

A surprise appearance at the front of the fleet on Tuesday was Sprague. Sprague was class world champion back in 1974 and showed some old form with a second place rounding at the top mark in race 2. “The top guys all try and stay together. I am not going to try and compete against them so I have to stay outside that track and find my own wind shift and get clear air,” said Sprauge. “It worked pretty good the first race but didn't work so well in the second race.”

Henry Sprauge Finn Europeans
71-year-old Henry Sprauge shows the young-guns how its done on the course in Barcelona.Robert Deaves

The overall lead of the championship changed Wednesday with regatta leader Milan Vujasinovic from Croatia picking up a 44th to drop out of the top three, while consistency from Josh Junior from New Zealand leaves him in the lead from Zsombor Berecz of Hungary and Pieter-Jan Postma of the Netherlands.