By Darci Miller | March 12, 2016, 1:03 p.m. (ET)


In the dog-eat-dog race that is Finn sailing in the United States, it was Caleb Paine that came out on top.

After a nail-biting, winner-take-all battle at the Finn European Championship, Paine has punched his ticket to Rio.

Paine earned his Olympic berth by virtue of his standing as the top U.S. boat after two major international events. At the first event, the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami in January, Paine found himself a mere one point behind two-time Olympian and Olympic silver medalist Zach Railey after the two finished in sixth and fifth place, respectively. That meant it would all come down to who beat who at the Finn Europeans. After an extremely close competition that saw several lead changes between the two, Paine went into the final race knowing that he would have to beat Railey by at least 10 places to qualify for the Olympic team. He went on to finish seventh in that race, securing 24th overall to Railey’s 29th.

“It came down to the wire, and [tough] competition makes everything exciting,” Paine told US Sailing. “This is huge. I don’t think a lot of people understand how years of sailing can end in six days. Fortunately, I get to continue on. It’s an emotional time, and it’s something seriously special.”

Paine began his Finn career as Railey’s training partner prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games, and the two have spent much of the last six years challenging each other. Paine is still young compared to most of his top competitors, but in the last few years he has proven himself to be among the best of the world. He won the ISAF World Cup Series in 2012 and earned bronze at the 2014 ISAF World Cup Final. He took gold at the 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami before placing seventh at the 2014 Finn Gold Cup. At the 2015 Finn Gold Cup, he was the top U.S. finisher in 12th place. He’s currently ranked No. 7 in the world and has been the top-ranked American Finn sailor since 2012.

The U.S. Olympic Sailing Team is now up to eight members, as the Paine joins Paige Railey (Laser Radial), Paris Henken and Helena Scutt (49erFX), Thomas Barrows and Joe Morris (49er), and Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee (Nacra 17). The next sailors will have the opportunity to qualify in the Laser and RS:X classes on March 26-April 2.