For the second time since the last Olympic Games, Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and David Hughes (Miami, Fla.) have won gold at Sailing World Cup Miami, Presented by Sunbrella, North America’s premier Olympic and Paralympic classes regatta. McNay and Hughes won their medal race in dominating fashion, as did Laser Radial athlete Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.), which moved her up to 7th overall. For nine sailing classes, the event served as part of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team athlete selection series for Rio 2016. A live replay of Saturday’s racing is available on ESPN 3.
The Finn class battle had been close all week, with the leaders often separated by less than a dozen points. For American sailors battling for Olympic selection, the stakes were high. Heading into the medal race, top-ranked Finn athlete Caleb Paine (San Diego, Calif.) held a narrow lead over Beijing 2008 silver medalist Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.), but it was not to last. “I was in third place on the last downwind leg, but the other U.S. guy match raced me farther back [into the fleet],” said Paine. “He was [then] able to leave me when the opportunity was best, and put some boats in between us.” Despite the setback, Paine remains determined. “I’m right behind him. Basically we’re tied in terms of Olympic qualification. It’s ‘who beats who.’ We thought we might as well make it exciting for everyone.”
Railey used his extensive experience to improve his position right when it seemed Paine would solidify his lead. “On the last downwind, I had to try to slow myself and Caleb down as much as I could, and let everybody catch back up,” said Railey. “I was able to do that with some maneuvers near the leeward gate, and put two boats between us, which was very fortunate. To be basically even, which is what we’ll be going into the second [selection] event, I feel very confident.” The second and final selection event is the Finn European Championship, in Barcelona, Spain, from March 5-12.
Paige Railey won the Laser Radial medal race in Miami for the second consecutive year, and again in dramatic come-from-behind fashion. The victory moved her from 10th to 7th place overall. “I went out there to just do my own race and try to move up,” said the London 2012 Olympian. “I was sailing restricted and conservative.” Railey’s top competition for the Olympic Team berth is Laser Radial Youth World Champion Erika Reineke (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), who finished 17th. “The trials is a two-part system, and currently I’m leading. It’s based on how you do in both events. My goal was to move up as much as possible and put more boats in between us.”
Competing in the Women’s 470 medal race was Sydney Bolger (Long Beach, Calif.) and Carly Shevitz (Santa Barbara, Calif.), who finished 7th overall. Like McNay and Hughes, the pair is looking ahead to their first trials event in Argentina in February. “Miami was an event where we wanted to bring it all together, and see what final preparations we need to make it advance of the World Championship.” said Bolger, who with Shevitz recently won both the 2016 470 U.S. Nationals and 470 North Americans. “Overall, we’re happy with how we sailed, although there were some disappointing moments throughout the week. Those are the areas we’re going to work on over the next few days.”