At the Helm: Three Cheers for Zach Railey

We had a mixed bag of results for Team USA yesterday. On one side of the ledger, both 470 teams had very good days, our 49er had a good day and they are still in the hunt, and our Star team had another fairly consistent day, although they are now mathematically eliminated from medal contention. Rob Crane in the Laser had his best day of the event. On the other side of the ledger, Zach Railey’s Games ended yesterday and we had a tough day in Radials.

Here is the link to Dana Paxton’s daily report, which tells you all you need to know.

The Finn fleet with Zach proudly flying the American flag. photo Daniel Forster/go4image.com

We have lots of racing left here, so I’m going to save any macro concepts until after the racing is done for all. But I am going to take a moment to talk about Zach Railey. Zach came here with legitimate medal hopes. He has worked hard, for years, and in my opinion, he was ready. But, for whatever reason, it just didn’t work out. He was ready, but his performance didn’t match his level of readiness. Why? I’m not sure yet, and we’ll think about that later.

But for now, I just want to say that I wish we had 10 more Zach Raileys around. Zach has become everything we want an athlete in this program to be. He works hard, he sails well, he is committed to his craft, and he is a valuable leader on our team. He is dedicated to the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider, and does everything we ask him to do, without ever complaining.

Over the last 8 years, we have asked our athletes to make a leap of faith and commit to a fundamental shift in culture and attitude on the US Sailing Team. We’ve asked them to be part of a team, rather than just an individual. And that’s a big ask, because it’s easier to say “leave me alone, I’ll do my own thing.” We’ve asked our sailors to train together, to share information with each other, and to be part of something that people, including sponsors and donors, can get excited about and support. And our sailors, the vast majority of them anyway, have gotten on board. But while we have many who are unquestionably committed to what we are doing, none was more committed than Zach. He’s been a model member of this team for years, and I think that is the primary reason why his teammates voted him Olympic Sailing Team Captain over a month ago.

I know Zach is disappointed in his results here. So am I, no denying that. But this result does not change in any way the amount of respect and admiration I have for this young man. My eight years as Olympic Chairman are done in a little more than two months, and there are some things I won’t miss. But one thing I will miss is having the opportunity to spend time with people like Zach Railey.

Zach, you have nothing to be ashamed of, and everything to be proud of. And I have no doubt you’ll be back. If you decide to go for it again in 2016, my only regret is that it won’t be me who gets to walk you down the boat ramp every day at the Games.

Three cheers for Zach Railey.

Dean Brenner, Team Leader

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