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Perth 2011 - US Paige Railey and US Zach Railey - Two of us

by Shauna McGee Kinney on 2 Dec 2011
Paige Railey (USA) US Sailing ©
The US is hoping to see two Raileys single-handed at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Raileys are brother and sister and are among the top US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics sailors at Perth2011.

Paige Railey is one of the world’s top Laser Radial sailors and her brother, Zach Railey, is a 2008 Silver Medalist and world-class sailor in the Finn. Their Olympic fate will be determined at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships.

The family story goes back a few years. In 2007, both Paige and Zach were qualifying for the US Olympic team. This event ended up shockingly bittersweet when Zach was chosen to represent the US in the Finn, but Paige relinquished the Laser Radial position to Anna Tunnicliffe after an error on the course. Paige recalls the feelings and the lessons she learned during those Olympic trials,

‘I was really young - very inexperienced. I was one of the best sailors in the world and I was ranked number one. Going into the trials, I wasn’t ready to deal with all the pressures that were being placed upon me. I didn’t know how to deal with [pressure] properly. Unfortunately, I went to the trials and I didn’t have the best event of my life. I ended up flipping over during the regatta and I lost the trials on that. Instead of letting [the loss] get me down and let it ruin my sailing, I took it as a huge learning lesson. It was a huge step back and it was really sad that I didn’t qualify. But, I think you always live and learn - and just keep moving forward.’

Paige explains more about how losing was a turning point. ‘I will never forget my dad saying to me, ‘Paige this loss is either going to ruin your sailing or it is going to be the best thing that ever happened to it.’ I took that to heart. I look back now and think losing those trials was the best thing that ever have happened to my sailing, because it made me reevaluate the way I was viewing my sailing and the way I was approaching it. If I compare now to then, I have done a complete 180 with how I sail. I’ve gone back to the basics and I sail just because I love it. I don’t sail for any other reason.’

What makes Paige Railey and Zach Raily such good sailors and why do they love sailing so much? In fact, how did a family end up with two world class sailors? The amazing fact is these two siblings come from a family of non-sailors. Paige and Zach’s love of sailing may have been luck as Paige recalls ‘Zach was eight years old when my mom was looking for a day camp for all three of us.’ Paige and her twin sister Brooke are three years younger than Zach.

Paige quips, ‘My dentist recommended that we go down and learn how to sail. That’s exactly how it started.’

Older brother Zach Railey fell in love with sailing. Shortly after finishing the learn to sail program he was invited to join the racing team. Paige, her twin-sister Brooke, mom and dad would go to Zach’s events. For years, Zach would take his sisters out for a sail on his Opti. Between the ages of five and seven, Brooke and Paige would sit at the front of his boat and he’d sail them in after a day of racing. Paige and Brooke fell in love with sailing at that moment.

Being a young sailor can be difficult, Paige explains ‘I didn’t really go to high school. I went to school to do classes, but I didn’t have a life like a normal teenager would have. I competed at my first Youth Worlds when I was 15. I actually started training and going over to Europe when I was 16 years old. When the quad came about I was 17 years old. I started training really hard then, waking up at 4:30 in the morning and going to the gym before school. When I got done with school, I came home, went sailing then I would be up until 11:30 at night doing school work.’

As Paige approached the Olympic level she goes back to that fateful event in 2007. She admits ‘At trials in 2007, I felt I had made so many sacrifices. I gave up my high school life. I didn’t go to college. I traveled around the world all the time and I didn’t have a home-life. Everything was based on [the Olympic trials] for me. I had to win that event. Honestly, during that time I fell out of love with sailing. It was exhausting. I was young. I was tired. It was a lot for me. Being number one in the world was a lot of pressure.’

During that time, Paige and Zach were giving up school-time and a social life to sail. Paige’s twin sister Brooke made the other-decision to leave sailing at 16 and put her efforts into school. Brooke wanted to have regular high school and college life. Her decision was well rewarded, she is now a very successful, real estate and commercial insurance agent with All Lines Group in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Finally, the whole family will be together at the Perth 2011 Regatta. Paige and Zach’s sister, mom and dad arrive in just a few days and the whole family is proud to be together for this major event.

The Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships start 3 December 2011 in Fremantle – Western Australia. This year, Paige is sailing amongst a number of experienced women. Her biggest international competition for the 2011 Laser Radial World Title will be Evi Van Acker (BEL), Annalise Murphy (IRL), Marit Bouwmeester (NED), Xu Lijia (CHN), Krystal Weir (AUS) and Sari Multala (FIN).

Paige Railey (USA) Gold medalist, Laser Radial  ©  Marc Turner /RYA
Paige Railey (USA) Gold medalist, Laser Radial © Marc Turner /RYA
Perth 2011 website
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