Local Finn sailor Zach Railey has been named U.S. Sailing's sportsman of the year.
Railey, who won the silver medal at the Beijing Summer Olympics, was one of five sailors honored earlier this month. The 25-year-old Clearwater resident has also been nominated for the prestigious Rolex yachtsman of the year award.
The organization that governs amateur sailing in the United States also named Olympic gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe of Plantation as sportswoman of the year.
Other honorees included Paralympic gold medalists Nick Scandone of Fountain Valley, Calif., and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker of Marblehead, Mass., who received the team of the year award, and Paralympic bronze medalist John Ruf of Pewaukee, Wis., who received the paralympian of the year award.
Railey, who was one of the best youth sailors in the world, surprised many when he won the silver medal in Qingdao, China.
Heading into the Games, nobody expected Railey to be a contender, let alone a medalist. He was a relative newcomer to the class, having honed is sailing skills in the Laser class.
But Railey, trained hard both on and off the water heading into the Olympics and ended up sailing one of the best regattas in his career. Railey knew the wind off Qingdao would be light and inconsistent.
"The lighter the boat, the faster it goes, especially when there is not much wind," Railey told the St. Petersburg Times the day after he returned home from China. "So I really made a point of trying to get as lean as possible."
One year before he went to China, Railey weighed 220 pounds. But through a grueling fitness and nutrition regimen, he trimmed his 6-foot-4 frame to 200 before the Olympics.
"In the last couple of weeks, I got down to 190," he said. "I think it made all the difference in the world."
But Railey wasn't the only Floridian to land in the international spotlight.
Tunnicliffe, who won gold in Qingdao, earned her place in the history books as the first American female sailor in 20 years to receive such an honor. The last time an American woman accomplished such a feat was when St. Petersburg's Allison Jolly brought home the gold in 1988.
The women's Laser Radial competition came down to the last race when Tunnicliffe, who was ranked No. 1 heading into the Games, proved her ranking.
U.S. Sailing team coach Luther Carpenter said: "Anna is your dream athlete. She's a hard worker, in amazing shape, very open to coaching, completely driven and she sees a path clearly to winning."
Snipe News: The St. Petersburg Yacht Club hosted the Florida State Snipe Championship on Nov. 29 and 30. The St. Petersburg team of Gonzalo Crivello and Tim King took won the best-of-five series, followed by Hal Gilreath and Allan Capellin of Jacksonville.
Other top finishers included the following St. Petersburg crews in places third through ninth, respectively: Chris Klotz and Antoinette Klotz, Mitch Hall and Hillary Noble, Jamey Rabbitti and Steve Lang, Brian Linde and Kira Linde, Diane Fowler and Linda Cortez, Clint Arlington and Laurie Van Brocklin and Grover Griffin and Jacob Jones.
Disabled Regatta: The SPYC also hosted the America's Disabled Open Regatta on Nov. 3-16. Paul Calahan, Roger Cleworth and Brian Hayes of Cape Coral captured the Sonar Class Series title, winning five of eight races. Ricky Doerr, Hugh Freund and Elger Culver of Clifton, N.J. took second, followed by John Twomey, Brian Mahoney and Anthony Hagert of Ireland. Two teams from St. Petersburg — Jennifer French, Brad Kendall and Mike Hersey and J.P. Creignou, Diane Fowler and Steve Lang — finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
In the 2.4 Class, Henrik Dannesboe of Thun, Switzerland, took two firsts and five seconds to win the championship. He was followed by Ruf in second and Cameron Hall of St. Petersburg in third.
Information from www.ussailing.org was used in the report.