Caleb Paine Earns Finn US Olympic Team Selection
Published on March 12th, 2016
Barcelona, Spain (March 12, 2016) – The Rio 2016 Selection Series in the Finn class (Men’s Heavyweight Dinghy) came to a memorable conclusion today at the Finn European Championship (March 7-12) as Caleb Paine (San Diego, Calif.) came from behind to win his first career U.S. Olympic Sailing Team berth.
Beijing 2008 silver medalist Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) narrowly missed selection after coming out of retirement in late 2015, and mounting an impressive comeback campaign.
“It came down to the wire, and [tough] competition makes everything exciting,” said Paine after returning to shore. “This is huge,” continued the Sailing World Cup Series Champion, who has been the top-ranked American Finn sailor since 2012. “I don’t think a lot of people understand how years of sailing can end in six days. Fortunately, I get to continue on. It’s an emotional time, and it’s something seriously special.”
Paine entered the Finn Europeans, the second of two U.S. Olympic Team selection regattas, trailing Railey in the series by one point after the two finished 6th and 5th overall, respectively, at Sailing World Cup Miami in January.
After a close battle in Barcelona, which saw the series lead pass back and forth between the two athletes multiple times, Paine found himself facing a final race in which he had to beat Railey by ten places or more in order to win selection. In an impressive performance, Paine rounded the first mark in 2nd in the 90-boat fleet, and eventually finished 7th. This was enough to secure Paine’s selection over Railey, a venerable two-time Olympian, who was deep early in the race and never recovered.
Paine said he had two options heading into the final race. “I basically had to force Zach to be [over the start line early], or beat him by ten points in the race. It was a bit challenging at the beginning, as we had some match racing happening on the line for positioning,” said the San Diego native. “I was able to get away from him enough to [sail] my own race, and hit the right side, which paid [off].”
Railey said his tactical decisions in the race were based off of his extensive pre-regatta training in Barcelona. “I played the percentages, but this is how it works sometimes,” said Railey. “It just didn’t go my way.”
Even though Paine secured an early lead, he was unable to relax, as the large, world-class fleet and steadily-dying breeze presented an increasingly difficult defensive challenge for the leading pack of boats. “I knew the race was far from over, but fortunately [Railey] was stuck on the left side of the course. I just tried to keep boats between him and myself , and sail the best race I could.”
Paine began his Finn dinghy career in the period preceding the London 2012 Olympic Games as Railey’s training partner, and the two athletes have challenged each other for much of the past six years. “One of the main reasons I’m as competitive as I am now is because of Zach’s talent and abilities. He pushed me to where I am,” said Paine. “He’s one of the fiercest competitors you’ll find on any racecourse, and I have a lot of respect for what he’s accomplished. My training with Zach started me on the right path, and I’m thankful for that. I’ll always be grateful for his early mentorship.”
Paine said that the pressure of the regatta had not prevented him from reflecting on his own journey so far. “Last night I was struggling to get some sleep,” said Paine. “I was thinking about all the things that have happened in the past, from situations on the race course, to all sorts of different things. I think that helped me today.”
As is the case with the seven other athletes already named to the Rio 2016 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team, the focus for Paine now returns to his original target, which is performing well in Rio.
“I want to win a gold medal,” said Paine. “Fortunately, this [selection series] has been challenging, and has opened my eyes to aspects that I need to improve on leading into the Games. Today is just a small piece of the bigger picture, which is to win gold.”
Caleb Paine Qualifies for Rio 2016“This is huge. I don’t think a lot of people understand how six years of sailing can end in six days. Fortunately, I get to continue on. It’s an emotional time, and it’s something seriously special.”
Caleb Paine Olympic Campaign reacts on shore after winning Rio 2016 U.S Olympic Team Selection.
Posted by US Sailing Team Sperry on Saturday, March 12, 2016
Report by Will Ricketson, Olympic Communications Manager, US Sailing.