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Posted by on Jul 30, 2012 in Racing Sailboat, Sailboat Racing, Sailing, US |

Olympic Sailing: Paige Railey’s Day in Weymouth

The U.S. Laser Radial sailor chalks up two solid opening races, with a steady-as-she-goes attitude.

Gael Pawson, editor of our UK site, uk.boats.com, brings word on the sailing competition and US team at the 2012 Games…

Olympic Laser Radial sailor Paige Railey. Photo courtesy USSailing.

Olympic Laser Radial sailor Paige Railey. Photo courtesy USSailing.

It was a trying day for all the sailors today with shifty, gusty conditions throughout, but Paige Railey started her medal campaign with promise and returned ashore with a positive glint in her eye…

The 41-strong Laser Radial fleet is the largest of the women’s classes in Olympic sailing this year, and the fleet made an impressive sight when the first day of racing started in Weymouth Bay today.

The day belonged to Ireland’s Annalise Murphy, who posted an impressive start to the week with two straight firsts. Lying second at the end of the day, also very consistent, was Belgium’s Evi Van Acker with a third and a second. Third overall was pre-event favourite, Marit Bouwemeester from the Netherlands. But in what is probably the most promising-looking performance so far for Team USA, Paige Railey scored an eighth and a fifth, placing her fifth overall, just behind Finland’s Sari Multala.

We caught up with Paige, bundled up in a big jacket, straight off the water after a chilly day on the water that saw the breeze building to 16 knots. She was bright and smiley, obviously satisfied with a performance that showed good speed, consistency, and a refreshingly level-headed approach.

How was she feeling? “Great. You know, I just wanted to come out and have a consistent day. I know there’s a lot of nerves and emotions out there today, and I’m really happy with those two results.”

And so she should be… it was a promising display. Race one saw her fighting her way up the fleet after a poor start: “Right at the gun, I got a huge clump of weed stuck on my board, to the level that I had to stop and clear my board. I knew that I was behind already, so I just stayed in pretty much a tough lane and I worked as hard as I could because I knew if I was somewhat close to the top pack I could start picking boats off one by one. I think it’s all about minimizing your loss.”

It was a big fleet to fight back through. How did she do it? “I think you just take each moment as it comes. I just think, OK, what kind of shift am I in, what’s the situation? Then I just work from there. I’m not trying to do anything risky, because I believe the event can be lost on the first day.”

In the second race, again luck didn’t go completely her way: “Things were looking really good, and then a puff came in from the right, and there were some boats that I guess didn’t have good starts that tacked out and got into some good wind, and they went over the top of us.”

Again Paige is philosophical about the setback: “You can’t control every situation. I think when stuff like that happens you have to change your strategy and work with what happens. I didn’t get frazzled or anything. I just thought, OK, this is the situation–  now what do I have to do to position myself correctly for the next shift?”

It looked like hard work out there. “It was tricky. It’s not exactly what we’ve been training in, and it’s not exactly what we’ve been racing in for the last few years, so there was a lot of thinking. Then it started getting quite physical, because it wasn’t really the vang-sheeting, and it wasn’t exactly block to block —  it was sort of in the middle, so it was definitely difficult racing out there.”

What impresses you most is how relaxed Paige seems: “You know, we’ve been spending a lot of time here. We’ve set the situation up to be as normal as always, so we’re just keeping everything in the same routine; we’re doing exactly what we’ve always done for the last few years. All the stuff around the Olympics — we’re very good at turning that off.”

She laughs as she says, “You know what I learned from the Navy Seals is just ‘one foot in front of the another,’ and that’s what I’m doing out there.”

If she keeps it up, she’ll certainly be in with a medal shout by the end of the regatta.

For more on the US Sailing Team’s efforts, see the team’s daily results page.

- Gael Pawson

Editors’ Note: Gael will be providing special reports on the US Sailing Team throughout the events in Weymouth. For previous posts, see below.