Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater man will sail for the gold in Summer Olympics

In the U.S. Olympic sailing trials, there are only two options. Win or go home. At Olympic trials last October in Newport Beach, Calif., Zach Railey won, realizing a dream he first had a dozen years ago. Now the 24-year-old Clearwater native is in Qingdao, China, making final preparations to compete in the Finn-class sailing race on Aug. 9.

Only the top American sailor in the Finn, a heavyweight single-man boat, gets an Olympic berth. Railey will face a field of 25 sailors from around the world, including 2004 gold medalist Ben Ainslie of England and current world champion Jonas Hoegh-Christensen of Denmark.

Railey said a dozen sailors have the mettle to win one of the three medals.

And he thinks he is one of them.

• • •

Railey's sailing career started at age 8.

His father, Dan, said he was sitting in the chair of the family dentist.

"What are the children doing for the summer?" dentist Pete Crawford asked Dan Railey.

Zach Railey was playing baseball and tennis. He was a good kid, but he had his run-ins with his mom and dad, Dan Railey said.

Crawford suggested the Raileys send their three children to sailing camp at the Clearwater Yacht Club.

Zach fell in love the first day.

"It was the attraction of being near the water that pulled me toward sailing," he said.

But his life changed in a golden flash on a track far from home.

In 1996, when Michael Johnson sprinted his way into history with those golden shoes, Railey stared in amazement along with millions of other TV viewers watching the Atlanta Olympics.

He called a meeting with his parents. He was only 12, but he announced his goal: the Olympic Games.

In setting his sights high and devoting his teenaged years to sailing, Railey said he missed out on movies with friends and homecoming dances.

"I was so concentrated on my sailing that I didn't have a lot of free time," he said.

Railey graduated from Clearwater High School and headed to the University of Miami. He continued sailing while in college, but not with the 'Canes. The collegiate boats were too small for Railey, who stands 6 feet 4 and weighed 215 pounds in college.

He graduated in May 2006 with a degree in sports administration and business management — tools Railey said have helped him raise the money necessary to continue his racing career.

His family, including sisters Paige and Brooke, have been there every step of the way.

Paige Railey, 21, also sails, rising quickly in the ranks of female Laser sailors. She qualified as the alternate for the Beijing Olympics. In 2006, the International Sailing Federation and Rolex named her women's World Sailor of the Year.

Her twin sister, Brooke, sailed in her childhood, but now serves as Railey's anchor, grounding him when necessary.

Zach Railey credits his mother, Ann, with much of his success.

"She does everything we have to have done behind the scenes before we go on the water," Railey said. "It's her full-time job."

Ann Railey said raising two world-class athletes is simply a matter of keeping organized, which can be hard when her children are on different continents competing.

Zach Railey said he spends a lot of time away from home, but his natural friendliness helps him along the way.

"It gets pretty lonely pretty quick," he said.

On the racing circuit, Railey passes time with his competitors, going out to dinner with them and comparing schedules.

And because of his demanding schedule, Railey, who is single, said he rarely dates.

But when he does get a chance to go home, Railey said he tries to be as normal as possible.

"Outside of all this Olympics stuff, yeah, I'm a normal guy," he laughed.

• • •

The Olympics will be anything but normal. Only a few seconds separate the winners from the losers. Sometimes, it's mere inches.

But Railey said his plan is to sail a focused, disciplined race.

"In sailing you have to be very consistent," he said. "You don't have to win every race to do well in the regatta."

Finn-class sailors are the biggest in the games. Light-wind courses like Qingdao favor boats that weigh less and make racing tough.

"It's a mental game for sure in light wind," said Railey, who has dropped about 20 pounds to prepare for the Olympics.

But Railey said he's more than ready. He follows a strict training regimen, starting with an hour of cardio exercise in the morning, three to five hours out on the water and ending with a two-hour session in the gym before bed.

When he gets back from China, Railey said he's going to take a few months off. He'll start with catching up with college friends in Miami.

Then, his sights will be focused on 2012 and another Olympic berth.

"My sister and I are definitely going again," he said.

But first, he plans to come home a winner.

Jackie Alexander can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4167.

Clearwater man will sail for the gold in Summer Olympics 07/26/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 1:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fox renewed O'Reilly contract despite knowing of allegations

    Nation

    NEW YORK (AP) — The Fox News Channel says the company knew a news analyst planned to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly when it renewed the popular personality's contract in February.

    Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly appears on the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel in April following reports that several women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. [Associated Press file]
  2. Conviction overturned 30 years later in neo-Nazi murder case

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A judge on Friday overturned the murder conviction of Dean McKee now that new evidence has raised doubt about McKee's guilt in a Tampa slaying that occurred nearly three decades ago when he was 16.

    In 1987, a St. Petersburg Times reporter interviewed Dean McKee for a story about young skinheads in Tampa. [Times | 1987]
  3. Experts have some theories on who's carrying out Seminole Heights killings

    Crime

    The words serial killer tend to conjure an image of a middle-aged white man, likely a loner. He stabs or chokes or strangles, murdering up close for the thrill, straight out of central casting.

    A memorial was set up where Anthony Naiboa, 20, was found shot to death in Seminole Heights. Some experts who have reviewed information in the case say that whoever is behind the three Seminole Heights killings may live in the area. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  4. Late fumble, field goal send Florida State to another loss

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher didn't have an explanation for the turning point in Saturday's 31-28 last-second loss to Louisville.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson gets past Florida State's Matthew Thomas to score in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tallahassee Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) FLSC102
  5. Funeral starts for soldier at center of Trump fight

    Military

    COOPER CITY, Fla. (AP) — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102