by Dana Paxton
Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships - The US Sailing’s Olympic Sailing Committee has selected the first members of the US Olympic Sailing Team 2012.
Zach Railey, Finn - Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships
The next chapter in the lives of five US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics athletes began in Fremantle, Australia when they were selected for the US Olympic Team 2012. As the top-scoring eligible American athletes in their respective Olympic sailing classes, Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.), Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.), Stuart McNay (Boston, Mass.) and Graham Biehl (San Diego, Calif.) have successfully completed qualification. US Sailing's Olympic Sailing Committee will officially nominate the US Olympic Team 2012, pending approval from the US Olympic Committee. Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.) earned a nomination in the women’s windsurfer (RS:X), pending both US Olympic Committee approval and qualification of the USA in the RS:X. As the USA did not qualify at the ISAF Worlds, the final opportunity will be the 2012 RS:X World Championship, March 20-29,2012 in Cadiz, Spain.
'All five athletes have demonstrated determination, drive and the commitment required to win Olympic medals,' said Olympic Sailing Committee Chairman Dean Brenner (Wallingford, Conn.). 'They worked full-time to earn the right to represent the USA at the 2012 Olympic Games. I can speak on behalf of the OSC, US Sailing’s Board of Directors, our staff, volunteers, friends and family when I say how I proud I am of each and every one of them.'
Paige Railey won a bronze medal in the Laser Radial in a 102-boat fleet. 'I think the excitement of winning a bronze in the medal race is all over and it’s starting to sink in that my brother and I are going to the Olympics, it’s pretty exciting,' said Railey after finishing the regatta.
At age 24, Paige Railey is no stranger to the fierce competition of the international sailing Olympic class circuit, and she is determined to win a medal at the 2012 Games in England. While she had a meteoric rise to the top at a young age – she was the world’s most celebrated female sailor in 2006, winning both the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year awards – she has proven she has the talent and maturity to evolve as an athlete and stay on top of her game. After taking most of 2008 off to attend college, she jumped back into the Laser Radial. She tried new techniques and took new risks, but also trusted her instincts when to hold back and sail consistently. Since then, she has dominated the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup series, consistently finishing in third place overall for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons. The bronze medalist for the 2011 Pan American Games (Laser Radial) and Weymouth and Portland International Regatta (London 2012 Olympic Test Event), she is currently ranked number five in the world and a member of St. Francis Yacht Club.
Zach Railey finished in ninth place in the 72-boat Finn class. 'Getting the USA qualified for the Games and winning the trials is a huge step in the right direction,' he said. 'Making the Olympic Team with my sister Paige is a dream come true for both of us. This is what we’ve worked for. This is what we sacrificed for.'
When Zach Railey won an Olympic silver medal in 2008, he described that moment as 'a rush of emotion, satisfaction and pride. I dream about being able to have that moment again in 2012.' This time, Railey is hungry for gold, and he has a calculated plan to achieve his goals in 2012. The 27-year-old member of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics spends approximately 200 days a year training and competing on the water and is on a full-time physical fitness program specially designed to ensure he is in peak athletic shape. Since 2009, Railey has continued his success in the Finn class, the men’s heavyweight dinghy, by winning a silver medal at the Finn Gold Cup; winning the Finn Nationals (’09, ’10, ’11), and three medals at ISAF Sailing World Cup events. He is currently ranked number five in the world and a member of St. Francis Yacht Club.
Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl finished 13th in the 80-boat Men’s 470 class. 'We know we can sail much better than that,' said Biehl at the conclusion of the regatta. 'But, at the end of the day we’re going to the Olympics and we’re pretty psyched about that.'
McNay and Biehl teamed up in 2005 with the goal of winning an Olympic Medal for the United States. They completed the first part of their dream in 2008 by representing the USA at the Olympics in the Men’s 470 class, the doublehanded dinghy. The pair finished a respectable 13th and then rededicated themselves winning a medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. Since 2008, they stood atop the podium on the International Sailing Federation World Cup’s Sail Melbourne for the past three years earning a gold (’11) and two silver (’10, ’09) medals. The team finished 11th at the Weymouth and Perth Int'l Regatta, Weymouth, UK (London 2012 Olympic Test Event). McNay is a member of Beverly Yacht Club and Biehl is a member of San Diego Yacht Club. They are currently ranked number five in the world.
Farrah Hall finished 51st in the 63-boat Women’s RS:X class. 'This event, the Olympic Team wasn’t foremost in the mind,' said Hall after the regatta. 'My focus was small goals in every race and I’m happy with this event.'
During Farrah Hall’s junior year at St. Mary’s College, the windsurfing club and sailing team were visited by Mike Gebhardt, a famous American windsurfer and two-time Olympic medalist. It was during the visit that she learned that windsurfing was an Olympic sport, and that she had the potential to get to a new level through racing. That summer, Hall began racing locally on an old Mistral Olympic-class sailboard purchased at a local swap meet. It wasn’t until after graduation in 2003 that she began to think about a Olympic campaign. Her campaign officially launched in May, 2005 when ISAF switched the Olympic class from Mistral to the Neil Pryde RS:X. Since then, Hall has trained around the World, often spending months at a time in Europe for training. Known for her incredible work ethic and physical fitness, Hall is a dedicated competitor. A member of St. Francis Yacht Club, Hall is currently ranked number 60 in the world.
Selection at the ISAF Sailing World Championships Athletes will take place in the Star, Women’s 470, Laser, 49er and Men’s RS:X classes. Star competition is scheduled for December 11-17; while the remaining fleet racing classes are scheduled for December 12-18.
Women’s Match Racing Olympic Team selection does not take place at the ISAF Sailing World Championships. The two events used to select the US Olympic Team representatives are the US Olympic Team Qualifying Regattas, held in October, 2011 and May, 2012.
The USSTAG athletes combined their overall score from this regatta with their result from the 2011 Skandia Sail for Gold, however not all USSTAG athletes are competing for an Olympic team spot. The top-performing eligible athlete(s) in each Olympic fleet racing class is selected to join the US Olympic Team to compete at the 2012 Olympic Games, scheduled for set for July 27- August 12, 2012 in Weymouth/Portland, England.
To read the press release announcing the selection procedures, please click here. To read the details of the selection procedures, please click here.
US Sailing Team website