Interview with USSTAG's Paige Railey
US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics’ Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) is kicking off 2010 with a bang: First, she won a gold medal in the Laser Radial at US SAILING’s 2010 Rolex Miami OCR last month, and then on Sunday, she won the Laser Radial Midwinters East for the second year in a row. US SAILING caught up with the Laser Radial star and college senior who is juggling time in the boat with time in the library. This year she is trying to find that perfect balance – and it all starts with a new, positive outlook.
US SAILING: How did it feel to win gold medals at both US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR and Midwinters East?
RAILEY: It’s cool to start the year off doing well. It makes me feel good that all the work that I put into training has paid off. I want to show people I’m here to give them a challenge for the rest of the year and the rest of the quad [leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games.]
US SAILING: How was it to sail on your home waters of Clearwater?
RAILEY: Actually, I don’t train here much anymore, so it was almost new to me. Usually when I am home, I am taking a break. The wind was coming in all different directions and was changing so much. It was really cold, which is uncharacteristic of Clearwater. It was crazy.
US SAILING: What were the secrets to your success this weekend?
RAILEY: I tried to stay patient with the wind and did a lot of fleet management stuff. Here at Midwinters, people are more prone to taking a hard corner on the right or left, so they’re more spread out on the course. I needed to keep everyone in check, and I think that helped. I didn’t take any risks and I focused on having good starts and sailing up the middle, while watching where everyone was on the course.
I’ve done a lot of training on my line-ups and speed work, so the way I sail my boat becomes second nature. [At Midwinters] I was more focused on looking hard for wind and other boats, while letting my body do the natural thing, which was sailing the boat fast. When you’ve done a lot of training and are comfortable with your boat-handling, you don’t even have to think about it.
US SAILING: What’s some good advice of other sailors who want to improve their skills?
RAILEY: Spend hours on the water - alone or with someone else or with a group – and you’ll start to feel comfortable and then it will become second nature. When you can start looking at the elements – the wind, waves and current – then you know you’re comfortable with your boat.
US SAILING: What’s next on your sailing schedule?
RAILEY: I invited the Laser Radial sailors on the US Sailing Development Team to Clearwater for a training camp with one of our coaches, Dennis Paaske. I want our youth team to get really good, and I would do anything to help them. It would be so cool for Erika Reineke to go to the [ISAF Volvo] Youth World Championship and bring the trophy home.
After that, I’ll head to Colorado Springs [for a USSTAG fitness training camp at the US Olympic Training Center] and then Palma, Spain for the Princess Sofia Regatta.
US SAILING: How are you balancing sailing and studying?
RAILEY: It’s been really hard. I’ve only had two days off in the two months. I am taking five classes and had exams last week and the week before, so I had to study 12 hours a day and couldn’t sail. It’s been a killer.
US SAILING: How do you think you’ve evolved as a sailor over the past several years?
RAILEY: I’m learning to make smarter decisions, and I’m learning my limits - physically and mentally. You always perform better when you’re fresh. I used to be stressed out and under a lot of pressure to stay on top and win. I was pushing myself, but I wasn’t having any fun -- and my results were hurting. This year, I am serious about winning, but I am much more relaxed and having fun being part of the team. I don’t let one bad race ruin my whole event. As my mom would say, “take a chill pill!” Life is too short to be stressed about everything.
US SAILING: How do you handle the pressure and stay relaxed?
RAILEY: Sometimes it helps to talk to someone in my family, to my boyfriend, Nick [Thompson of GBR], or to the coaches. I also started practicing Buddhism and meditating, which has helped a lot with my sailing. When you meditate, you learn to control your mind when you start to stress. The Buddhist motto is that you create your own suffering. If you want to be stressed, it’s your own self causing the problems.
It is easy to think negatively. If I think I am sailing badly that day, I am going to believe it. If you think negatively, it will happen. Once you lose your hope, you never believe in anything anymore. So when I start to get nervous, I take three big deep breaths and try to convert the negative energy into something positive and productive. Once I clear my mind and relax, I take the stress out of a race and I can just go for it.
Pictures from Midwinters (Credit: Luther Carpenter/ US SAILING): http://sailingteams.ussailing.org/Multimedia/2010LaserMidEast.htm
Final results from Midwinters: http://www.regattaprocessing.com/CLWYC/LMWE10/index.php
Sailgroove’s video coverage of Midwinters and interviews with Paige:
US SAILING’s 2010 Rolex Miami OCR event web site:
[Photo credit: Walter Cooper/ US SAILING]