There are many stories coming out of the Open Finn Europeans in Barcelona this week, but one of the more absorbing is that of the US Finn trials, which will reach a conclusion by the end of the event. The two favourites are Zach Railey and Caleb Paine, currently in 12th and 21st overall.
Railey has been to the Olympics twice before, picking up a silver medal on his debut in 2008, followed by a 12th in 2012. After pursuing a career in the family business, he returned to the campaign trail late in 2015 and has been catching up ever since.
The US Olympic selection is based on the results from the Sailing World Cup Miami and this week's Europeans. They finished one place apart in Miami, so whoever comes out on top in Barcelona will likely win the American berth in Rio. The younger and less experienced Paine has been campaigning the Finn since 2010 and has put in a huge effort to be here challenging for the US spot.
For Railey, success this week means he will carry on until the Olympic Games in August. Failure means this would very likely be his last Finn regatta. Not knowing which way the week would go he bought a one-way ticket to Europe. “If I don't qualify this week there is no more sailing. The plan is if I qualify we're going to drive to the ferry in Barcelona on the 13th and we go to Palma. And if I don't qualify then the boys are going to drive me to the airport on the way to the ferry, throw me off at the curb and then they are going to Palma and say 'see you later, good luck, have fun in the real world Zach.'”
Railey has put together a late campaign for Rio and knew it was going to be tough. He has also lost 26 kg of corporate hospitality bodyweight in the process. “I have been sailing for a little over six months now and we've put together a really good training group. I feel really good about what we have done. I knew it was going to be incredibly hard, but we had a really good group of people, and we've all been working really, really hard. And the results showed in Miami and I'm hoping that the results will show here.”
After London he decided his life needed a change in direction. “I am almost 32 years old and I have to have a life after the Olympics and that was important to me and important to my family. We have a family business at home and my dad is almost 70 and he's looking to not work as much, as he deserves. My sister Paige and I have been sailing our entire lives. Paige's twin sister Brooke has been at home helping run the business and has dedicated the best part of 15 years to making sure she keeps everything at home together for Paige and I and that's a huge commitment from her.”
“When I was 28 years old I had to figure out what I was going to do for the rest of my life so I took a few years off to figure that out, and now I love the business world. I love the competitive side of the business world. I am a very competitive person. I don't like to lose. It doesn't matter what it is. We can play a board game, I don't want to lose the board game. I hate losing. And I hate not reaching my goals.”
“So when I got into the business world, I found there's goals there too, there's things you can obtain, and obviously there's money to be made. There's employees and business growth, there's competition against other people who are selling the same products as you. And you are trying to beat that competition, so it's just like sailing or athletics, but you are not on race course racing in your boat. And of course I miss that side of it and I really missed sailing.”
“That was the draw to come back. I miss being in the boat and I enjoy being out on the water. There was the right group of guys that were coming back sailing and that was very important to me.”
That group included London 2012 Silver medalist Jonas Høgh-Christensen from Denmark and Ed Wright from Great Britain. “My history with Jonas is very well known. We have known each other since Optimists and we've been friends since we were 11 years old. We have gone to two Olympics together and have each been very successful in individual Olympics, so when I got that phone call that he was going to give it another go, then there was a bit of peer pressure to get out of the office a bit more. And it's been really good and a lot of fun.”
He says his result in London was disappointing and there is a desire to try again. "Obviously I want to qualify to go to the Games, but part of high level athletics, high level business, and high level anything is that success is not guaranteed.”
“A lot of people don't like to embrace the fact that failure is something that happens, especially when you are trying to achieve really high goals. I think as I have gotten older I am been able to embrace that a little bit more and just accept that's it's part of the process and just worry about what you can control. And in the end you're going to win or you're going to lose and you'll see what happens at the end of the presentation, or the end of the competition.”
“And all you can do it put your best foot forward and see what happens."