Sunday, January 21, 2018
Outdoors

Clearwater's Paige Railey sets sail for second Olympic Games

CLEARWATER — Paige Railey, seated on a picnic table overlooking the water at Clearwater Community Sailing Center, watches as several elementary-age kids sail in after another sweltering summer day at sea. As they jump off their Optimist dinghies (think bathtub with a sail), Railey reflects on when she was their age and learning to sail.

"I was totally terrible," she said. "I failed my first 'Learn to Sail' program. I had to get special tutoring. I was just out having a good time. In my first regatta, I was just happy to get across the finish line. I was terrible for years and years."

Railey got better — much, much better.

By the time she was 19 in 2006, she was named the ISAF World Sailor of the Year. She has traveled around the world participating in elite championships. Her resume is filled with medals from some of the most prestigious regattas in the world.

What is missing is an Olympic medal. She was first eligible for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Despite being the top-ranked U.S. female sailor in the Laser Radial Class (single person dinghy), she failed to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team.

"The pressure got to me then and I caved in the first trials," Railey said. "I got my life jacket stuck in a line and I lost because of that."

Undeterred, Railey continued to train and qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London. That didn't go as planned, either. She finished eighth.

"I just under-performed," she said. "It was a location that wasn't suited for my sailing abilities. To this day I hate sailing there."

Her second shot at an Olympic medal begins in a few weeks. Today, Railey will leave Clearwater to begin the trip to Rio. Like many world champions, she will be considered a favorite. The fact that she remains one of the top female sailors in the world is a testament to her determination.

While riding on Gulf Boulevard with a group of cyclists in August 2014, she fell off her bike and landed directly on her face. She suffered a fractured spine, a concussion and lesions. There was also some nerve damage in her face and memory loss.

She said in the first four months after the accident she had dry heaves and slurred speech almost every day between 2-4 p.m.

"Just to get my brain to work like a normal person was exhausting," Railey said.

Doctors told her it would be six months before she could get back on the water. She was sailing again in six weeks. She raced with a pink protective helmet in her first few races back.

"That's how I got the nickname 'Pink Helmet Girl,' " Railey said. "I was at a major event and this young girl said, 'Oh my God, I'm doing so bad that even the girl in the pink helmet is beating me.' They said, 'That's Paige Railey.' "

Railey still suffers some memory loss, but physically she is back to peak condition. She recently returned from her final training sessions in Rio, a place that's very familiar. She calls Rio her favorite place in the world to sail.

Having experienced the Summer Games, Railey said she will not be overwhelmed by the hype that comes with the event. She learned a long time ago that pressure can be detrimental.

"I couldn't handle pressure," Railey said. "For the first five years, anytime I was under pressure I would choke. It wasn't until I lost my first world championships that I decided I was going to make a life change and not let pressure affect me.

"This Olympics I'm just relaxed. People keep asking me if I'm excited. I've done all the training I can do. If I don't have it now I'm not going to have it for the Games. I've done so much work (in Rio) that I'm as comfortable sailing there as I am in Clearwater."

Contact Rodney Page at [email protected]. Follow @RodneyHomeTeam.

Comments

Captainís Corner: Live baits outperforming artificials

Amberjack have been the hot topic in the area since their season opened Jan. 1. Anglers have been targeting wrecks and other large structures in depths of 80-120 feet for these tackle-testing monsters. Although amberjack are caught on a wide variety ...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/20/18

Captainís Corner: What to expect from fish coming out of the cold spell

Extreme cold has brought backcountry water temperatures down. As in years past, extreme dips have shocked many fish, especially snook, which take the biggest hit and become extremely lethargic and often near death. Luckily the cold wonít be long, and...
Published: 01/19/18

Captainís Corner: Divers, anglers going after amberjack

Over the past two weeks divers and anglers have been in search of amberjack. The season opened Jan. 1 and ends Jan. 27. The short season for gulf amberjack has pushed many divers and anglers to venture offshore, even in questionable weather. Donít fo...
Published: 01/18/18

Captainís Corner: Cold weather brings different but effective fishing styles

This past week has seen a variety of different fishing styles prove effective. Fishing for trout in deeper depressions with live shrimp has provided steady action. Rig as follows: Use a ?-ounce jighead, grab a shrimp from the well and pinch the tail ...
Published: 01/17/18

Captainís Corner: Devise a strategy before heading out into the cold

The quality of fishing this month depends on how many cold fronts are in our future. When the water creeps down below 60 degrees, many fish will slow their metabolism in order to survive. They require less food than in the warmer months, making some ...
Published: 01/16/18

Captainís Corner: Make sure the fly gets in front of a hungry fish

Back-to-back winter cold fronts not only confuse inshore fish but the fly fishers who pursue them. The most perfectly tied fly is not effective unless it is in front of a fish that is anxious to eat it. The best daytime tides, very low early and inco...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/14/18

Captainís Corner: Cold, windy days just fine for trout fishing

Trout have been my most productive target during the start of this new year. Winter cold fronts and cold water are making conditions difficult to target snook and reds. Strong winds from passing fronts make it hard to work the shallow-water flats. Th...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/13/18

Captainís Corner: Cold driving out kings, but there are alternatives

Mother Nature gives and she takes away. Nature gave us warm water and great king fishing until Dec. 31. She ushered in the new year with a severe cold front with high winds and rough seas that kept us in port every day. The cold air and overcast skie...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Captainís Corner: Techniques for catching (and cooking) tasty sheepshead

Cold water has fishing in sort of slow motion. Middle bay temperatures (Gandy area) are holding in the 54-56 degree range. During this time of year the stalking of large snook and redfish take a back seat to finesse fishing and trying to figure out w...
Published: 01/10/18
Captainís Corner: Colder weather calls for different approaches

Captainís Corner: Colder weather calls for different approaches

With colder weather the first big change is what bait to use. Before the cold fronts in the first week we were using greenbacks and catching a bunch of snook. With the cold weather that has hit us we are now shifting gears and using shrimp and throwi...
Published: 01/08/18
Updated: 01/09/18