Editors Note: Congratulations to Zach on his 9th place finish at the ISAF Worlds. Zach will represent the US in the Finn class at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Zach is also on the shortlist to receive US Sailing's Rolex Yachtsman & Yachtswoman of the Year Award.
I caught up with Railey to get his pulse on the Finn class, his superstitions, his future goals, and what it's like to share his Olympic dreams with his sister, USSTAG Laser Radial representative Paige Railey.
Can you tell me about your training program?
Physical fitness has become a major part of any Olympic campaign. My training week consists of five days on the water, between two and four hours, Monday through Friday. Then, I do four cardio sessions. Two of these are on rowing machines; the other two focus on running and agility drills. And I also lift weights six times a week.
Am I correct that you didn't sail in college?
No, I didn't. I was too big for the 420 or the FJ—I was 6'3" and 185-190 pounds. So I made the decision to go to the University of Miami. It's a great school and the US SAILING Center Miami is right there, so this gave me the opportunity to train full-time and work towards the Olympics while I was in school.
Is it intimidating to race against four-time Olympic medalist Ben Ainslie in the Finn class?
"Intimidating" isn't the right word—"motivating" is better. A lot of people would be discouraged to race against Ben, but it encourages me to sail harder. The primary reason that I wanted to do an Olympic campaign was because I wanted to race against the best sailors in the world.
I've heard that you're superstitious—any truth there?
I'm as superstitious as you can get! I have three things: I always wear my University of Miami hat when I race; I have a song that I've been listening to for years before I go out sailing—nobody knows what it is, not even my family—and the last thing is the shaving. I'll shave the night before a regatta, but then I don't shave during the event, unless I qualify for the medal race—then, I'll shave the night before.
How do you apply your game face?
I use visualization practices to go through an entire race and visualize what I want to do that day. I visualize myself having a good start and executing the important things. Then, I listen to that one song right before I launch, and my coach and I check out conditions. The biggest thing is the visualization.
Do you and Paige ever inadvertently cast shadows on each other's careers?
It's been so easy for Paige and I because of our bond as brother and sister, and because we help each other as athletes. Our goal was always to go to the Olympics together and win medals for the United States.
What advice would you give Paige going into the 2012 Olympics?
Enjoy the experience! You want to be able to say "I went to the Olympics, it was something that I worked my entire life for and it was one of the most amazing experiences that I'll ever have."
Can you tell me about your coach, Kenneth Andreasen?
Kenneth started coaching me in the Optimist when I was ten years old—he's been with me for 17 years. He's been an instrumental part of my success. We've got an incredible relationship; he's a one-of-a-kind coach. It's not always rosy—it's a serious coach/sailor relationship. But I trust Kenneth with every decision that he makes.
What Harken/McLube products do you rely on for every medal race?
HARKEN: My entire boat is Harken. Everything. I've been using the T2 blocks for the traveler, cunningham and outhaul, and off the boom for switching from 1:1 to 2:1 sheeting downwind. They work great; the lines feel light and run smoothly. That's the great thing about Harken—you can trust that they've tested their equipment on the big-boat scene, around the world and in the Olympics.
McLUBE: I use McLube Hullkote Speed Polish on the bottom of my boat. One of the biggest helps that we've had as far as our adjustments with our equipment is OneDrop—that stuff is amazing! If you have an application for it, you should absolutely have a tube of the OneDrop. I put my trust in the Harken and McLube products—I have for a long time.