Caleb Paine: Dreams Do Come True
Published on August 31st, 2016
In 2012, the American team failed to medal for the first time since the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Eager to return to the Olympic podium, the US Sailing Team got its wish when 25-year old Caleb Paine collected a bronze medal in the Finn. Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck catches up with Caleb…
When did you start sailing the Finn?
I was 18 years old when I first got into a Finn. That was 2009 in Newport Harbor, and Scott Mason was nice enough to let me go for a spin. I have been hooked ever since.
Are you the poster boy for how to approach an Olympic campaign, which is to start early and be fully focused in your class?
I believe the level of Olympic Sailing has gotten so high the only way to succeed is by doing it full time. It takes many hours in the boat to master your class and then learning your competition is vital as well. There is no replacement for time in your Olympic Class boat.
After 2012, the US program was overhauled. How did this impact your program?
The team did a great thing by bringing in seasoned American sailors to coach the up and coming young team. Being that the team is so young, having experienced veterans of the sport gave many of the young athletes a shortcut to the correct path.
I already had a hard work ethic and dedication to perfecting my abilities in the boat, but where I benefited was having the most experienced coach on the team assigned to me. Luther Carpenter has now coached sailors to 5 medals in 4 different classes. I don’t know if there is any other coach in the world with a record like that.
You didn’t start your campaign with huge backing. How did your situation work and what were the sacrifices?
My parents Doug and Connie Paine sold one of their cars to buy my first Finn. Then they pulled out a loan and bought me a cheap little car to drive around Europe. I would sleep in the back of it competing in events. I still live with my parents, but none of this would have been possible if not for the support of two of my sponsors.
Bill Kreysler found me in 2010, and after a 15 minute conversation, I gained a great friend and mentor. The other would be Chis Frackiewicz, who bought me my Olympic masts and boat. Without these generous men, I never would have reached the podium. I am forever grateful for them believing in me when I was a nobody.
Tell us about how you got reinstated from the DSQ. Was it a distraction?
I heard there was an OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Service) boat filming at that start. Due to the way OBS works, the footage isn’t released until 8:30 that night, well after my protest hearing, and then the footage was only available to the right holders such as the BBC and NBC.
The following morning, a Lightning sailor from the Pan Am Games emailed US Sailing team leader Josh Adams a clip of that start he screen recorded using Quicktime from the BBC. That was my reserve day, and I then used that footage to reopen the hearing that evening. I was granted a reopening and then had to come in the following day after racing to go on and win the protest.
It would have been nice to have a reserve day not dealing with a protest and sailing without knowing I had to go into the protest room for the third day in a row.
You won the Medal Race wire to wire, but on the final run you were seen shouting to eventual gold medalist Giles Scott (GBR). What was that about?
Well, I was 95% sure what the course was but just wanted to be extra careful.
Going into the Games, you were considered a threat but not among the favorites to medal. What was it that allowed you to excel when others did not?
The Olympic Games is the largest sporting event in the world. There is just so much going on that I can see how you can lose track of the task at hand. But I have been dreaming of competing at the Olympic Games since I was a kid. I was going to do my very best and my blind hope got me through the tough times.
You’ve been at this for seven years and you medaled at your first Games. Will you be back for another try?
At this point I am just taking things one step at a time. I am enjoying being home in San Diego, rebuilding my little Avon inflatable, and revisiting every Mexican restaurant in town.
Caleb posted this commentary on his Facebook page:
It has now been a week since I have been home from the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. After some time to reflect the Olympics are truly like no other sporting event. Over 200 countries all coming together to compete is truly like nothing I have ever experienced. The feelings and complexity the Games gave me is one of the reasons it is so special.
I would first off like to thank all my teammates who made this experience so special. The friendships and bonds with my fellow teammates will stay with me forever. From Joe and Pedro on the front line of the Opening Ceremony walk, to sharing tears with Briana after the Medal Race. These are the moments we worked for and they will truly stay with me forever.
Friends and family got me to the Olympic Games. With my parents Doug and Connie Paine sacrificing so much I only dream I can someday be as kind and generous. Jana Odou who helped give a crazy teenager the tools he needed to find his calling of competing on the world stage. All contributions big and small got me to this point and I thank you.
Bill Kreysler is someone who believed in a kid with a dream. Even now I am blown away by the generosity this man showed me when I was a nobody. His guidance and support gave me the tools I crucially needed to reach the top of the Finn Class. Chris Frackiewicz also played a huge role in getting me the tools I needed to compete. All of the equipment I used at the Games has ties to Chris’s generosity.
I’d like to thank Mission Bay Yacht Club, Southwestern Yacht Club, New York Yacht Club, Sailing Foundation of NY, St. Francis Yacht Club and all other USA Yacht Clubs supporting the US Sailing Team. These clubs helped me sharpen my skills in the sport of sailing with countless regattas and coaching aid. The greatest resource these clubs poses are its members. They are the life blood of these organizations and the soul reason for sailing being such an amazing community all over the world.
The belief Sperry, Sunbrella, and Harken have in the team made it possible for Team USA to have a great showing in Rio.
Last but not least the US Sailing Team Staff. Will is the hardest working and best media rep on the Olympic Sailing Circuit, arguably the Olympics. Able to turn any bad day of sailing into a promising future outcome (which he perfected when dealing with me :P). Meredith who is a logistical wizard, has singlehandedly shipped twelve different Olympic and Paralympic Classes all over the world. David Dellenbaugh who played a vital role in overturning a protest that put me in the running for a medal. Martha, Kate, Amory, Trey, Dr. P, Chris all essential to the team’s showing in Rio de Janeiro and thank you! Josh Adams and Charlie McKee whose strategy and plan got the US Team in more than half the medal races sailed at the games. But the largest influence and friend I have gained would be Luther Carpenter. His knowledge and guidance is the only reason the US Sailing Team came away with a medal in the Finn. His belief in me when the going got tough not only strengthened our partnership but unlocked abilities I didn’t know I had.
The Olympics is something I wish everyone could experience. Making it there is the greatest challenge I have ever come across. The things you learn about yourself along the way are lessons I will have for a lifetime. The people I have met and the places I have been shaped me into the man I am today. If you are a young athlete reading this and have aspirations about going to the Games don’t think twice, DO IT. It will be the hardest thing you will ever do. You will feel lower than you ever have before, but the heights you will reach once you stand on the podium will make you look down in awe.