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Tampa Bay Olympians begin raising aim for 2012

Zach Railey won silver in the Finn class at Qingdao, China. He will be among the Olympians appearing Monday on The Opray Winfrey Show.

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Zach Railey won silver in the Finn class at Qingdao, China. He will be among the Olympians appearing Monday on The Opray Winfrey Show.

Clearwater's Zach Railey went to the Olympic Games hoping to make it to the podium.

"I had one goal," the 24-year-old said. "I wanted to bring home a medal."

Railey, who started off sailing Optimist prams and worked his way up through the Laser class to the Finn, returned from China last week with a silver in hand.

"Now, my goal is to the make the team again in 2012," he said.

The Finn, the men's single-handed dinghy, is the oldest continuous class in Olympic sailing. Finn sailors tend to be big and strong, like the 6-foot-4 Railey, and capable of competing in both light and heavy air.

"Physical training was a big part of it," he said. "When the competition started, the air was light. But in the medal race, a storm rolled in and the wind kicked up to 18 knots."

Ben Barger, the other sailor from Tampa Bay in Qingdao, also got in top shape for the Beijing Games, but he failed to make the podium.

"I didn't have a good regatta," said Barger, 27, a windsurfer who trains like a triathlete. "I got off to a bad start and could never really recover."

Barger is strong and light, but you have to be to sail the RS:X windsurfer. Sailboards are widely considered to be the fastest sailing craft in the world. When a sailboard catches the wind and gets up on plane, it literally "flies" across the water.

"It was an awesome honor to represent my country, but I can't quit now," Barger said. "I learned a lot, and with one Olympics under my belt, I'll be back."

Ensigns News: Zeke Durica, President of Ensign Spars Inc. of Dunedin and Elizabeth Brincklow traveled to the highest yacht club in the United States, which is located in Dillon, Colo., to compete in the Region IV Regatta (July 31-Aug. 1) and the Dillon Open (Aug. 2-3).

The duo sailed their Ensign, a 22-foot full-keel one-design boat, to first place in both events. The Ensign, designed in 1962 by naval architect Carl Alberg, has a strong and loyal following, with more than 70 fleets spread across the country.

"This is not a sport boat, nor do we want it to be," Brincklow said. "This handles like a big boat."

In the summer of 2007, Durica built and delivered a new "Ensign Classic" to James Taylor, the legendary musician.

To learn more about Taylor's boat, go to www.ensignspars.com. For information on the class, go to www.ensignclass.com.

Junior News: Many of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club junior sailors headed off to compete in various events around the country during the summer.

Cam Hall, Mateo Vargas, Zack Marks, Caroline Wallace, and John Wallace went to several regattas in California, including the 2008 Laser Nationals.

Hayden Grant, working in New York as a sailing camp counselor, and Liam McCarthy raced in the Long Beach Island Yacht Racing Association in New Jersey. Grant, along with Nic and Donna Rudnicki, represented the SPYC at other regattas along the Jersey Shore.

In addition to attending sailing camps and clinics from California to the Carolinas, numerous SPYC juniors assisted with the Summer Learn to Sail program at the St. Petersburg Sailing Center.

Enrollment increased more than 20 percent over last year with more than 100 youngsters learning basic sailing and racing skills in an assortment of boats. The past summer season also marked the return of windsurfing to the program. The sport, which lost many enthusiasts to kite surfing, appears to be growing again in popularity.

Junior sailors have returned to school and weekly practices. The next big race is the 2008 Bruce Watters Green Fleet Regatta hosted by SPYC at the St. Petersburg Sailing Center on Saturday and Sunday.

Laser Nationals: Sailing in the heavy swells of the Pacific Ocean, sailors from the SPYC won two of the three classes at the U.S. Laser National Championship Regatta hosted by the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club on Aug. 8-10.

The Laser is the world's most popular racing sailboat. The regatta, which drew 180 competitors from seven nations, divided sailors into three weight categories.

Hall dominated the 4.7 class for the lightest sailors, winning six of eight races, repeating his 2007 championship performance.

Vargas sailed consistently, never finishing below eighth place, and won the radial class for middleweight sailors. This was the regatta's largest class, with 89 competitors.

Zack Marks, a member of the USF sailing team, finished 10th in the standard class for the heaviest sailors but was the fourth American sailor overall.

Over the past 18 months, SPYC coach Todd Fedyszyn has steered Hall, Vargas and Wallace to one North American Championship, three U.S. National Championships and one Canadian National Championship.

To learn more about the sailing program, go to www.spyc.org.

Tampa Bay Olympians begin raising aim for 2012 09/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 11:27am]
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