Home News SAILING: Railey take...

SAILING: Railey takes silver in the Finn Class

Aug. 17, 2008, 5:53 p.m. (ET)

Sunday, August 18 - The final day of racing for the Finn class took Qingdao by storm, literally, as high winds and a rough sea state toppled a number of boats in other fleets who struggled to stay upright in the strong winds. American Zach Railey (Clearwater, FL) kept his head and earned a silver medal behind three-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie of Great Britain.

The final day of Olympic competition for the Finn class was a showdown between Ainslie and Railey who was the only rival who stood in the way of Ainslie's gold medal chances. Ainslie is known to possess a take no prisoners approach to any rival, especially his closest rival and he had Railey in his sights throughout the race. Ainslie has previous golds from 2004 and 2000, as well as a silver from 1996, and came on strong in the medal final, which counts double.

The British sailor covered Railey and led the whole way, while Railey was sixth in the 10-boat fleet, securing enough points to clutch his silver. Guillaume Florent of France finished fourth in the final to take the bronze

Railey's victory puts him in a very elite group of Finn class Olympic medalists in one of the most exciting and competitive Olympic boats racing today. In fact, International Olympic Committee Chairman Jacque Rogge was himself a Finn class Olympic sailor in 1972 and is known as a man of the sea. Railey, who at 24 has a solid shot at returning for the 2012 Olympics in England to pursue gold, went from being a dark horse to a medalist through preparation and determination.

"I did everything I possibly could mentally and physically to prepare for this Olympics and I did not let myself question my chances too much," Railey said. "I put myself exactly where I needed to be going into the racing and left nothing to chance." His preparation included losing 20 pounds in order to cope with the light air conditions which in the end paid off.

For the American team of Sally Barkow (Nashotah, WI), Carrie Howe (Grosse Point, MI) and Debbie Capozzi (Bayport, NY) in the Yngling class, their Olympic medal hopes were dashed when they came up in fourth place after the final race behind Greece. With the current and sea state a constant challenge in Qingdao, the American women made a slight miscalculation at the mark rounding and were fouled up - a devastating blow that cost them dearly. In the take no prisoners, high stakes game of Olympic sailing, they fought back and regained their position but in the end it was not enough to take the bronze medal. In the end, they placed seventh with Greece, Holland and Britain winning bronze, silver and gold.

In gale-like conditions, nearly every competitor in the lightweight 49er medal race capsized or pitch-poled (flipped over end to end) during the race creating some question as to the final results at press time. The Danish team, who broke their mast during the storm, had to borrow another competitors' mast which is the reason for the protest and delay in results. Gary Jobson, an NBC television commentator who was with a crew filming the 49er race said the conditions were borderline as boats from country after country flipped over.

"Starting in 20-knot winds and seas that seemed to hide the boats at times the fleet took off. The American team of Tim Wadlow (Beverly, MA) and Chris Rast (San Diego, CA) got a clean start and were sailing fast. About halfway up, they capsized and we did not see him again for a long time. Meanwhile, Spain's Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez were in a strong position to defend the gold-medal they won four years ago in Athens until they too capsized. Suddenly, the Spaniards found themselves swimming and struggling to right their boat. More boats followed suit: Australia, then Britain, then Austria. There was no end to it. The 49er was proving to be un-seaworthy for such harsh sailing conditions, and as fast as it had begun, the race evolved into a demolition derby. The Americans never did finish the race; neither did Austria."

While the medal races wrapped up today for these three fleets, American John Dane III, known to the world today as the oldest Olympian this year, is currently in fifth place. Medal contender Anna Tunnicliffe is now in second place after today's racing. Her medal race is tomorrow, Aug. 18, and Tunnicliffe said that "consistency has been with me all the way through this Olympics" and she is going to need to be consistent and then some to win it all tomorrow.


Laurie Fullerton is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This feature was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.