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Ask a Pro: Stu Bithell and Zach Railey

By Dan O’Connor

While amateur sailors revel in the opportunity to sail with the pros, I look forward to the yearly event for the opportunity to ask the versed racers what they like about the BVI, and what makes them great at what they do. Last year, I caught up with decorated veteran Ed Baird and 29-year-old Olympic medalist Anna Tunnicliffe, who explained that the Pro Am Regatta afforded them a break from a busy schedule and training to enjoy what they do best. This year, I caught up with US Olympics racer Zach Railey and Great Briton Olympic rival Stu Bithell. Although they will compete against each other in the upcoming Olympics, they put their team flags away to work together at the Pro Am.

Was this your first time sailing in the BVI?

ZR: No I have been to the BVI over 7 times—and I can’t wait to be back soon. This is my fifth Pro Am and I hope to be here next year for my fifth.

SB: This was the third time i have been fortunate to visit the BVI, The first time was for the BVI Spring regatta, the second two have both been at the bitter end for the pro am. 

Aside from the obvious wealth of tranquil and steady trade winds, what makes the BVI an attractive destination for racing?

ZR: It’s just really beautiful, the people are fantastic, and it’s not that long or hard of a trip from the States.

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SB: Have you ever been to England in November?

The Pro Am Regatta provides a unique opportunity for amateurs to mingle with pros in a learning environment. What do you think was the most valuable lesson you were able to share with your AM crews?

ZR: Just keeping things simple. Everyone thinks sailing is such a complicated sport but the basics are what make you successful.

SB: It’s never too late to pick up a sport, particularly sailing, and get to a competitive level.  

What do you think has made you particularly successful as a sailor? What makes you fast?

ZR: I am really dedicated so I like to think anything I get involved in I will do well with because ill do the hard work. As far as speed just tons of time on the water and a natural feel for what the waves and wind will do.

SB: I believe what has made me so successful is the fact I genuinely love the sport and competition. I’m one of the few Olympic sailors in the GB squad who goes sailing when I get free time. I have sailed a variety of boats, all of which have added something. I’m not usually the fastest sailor, but I’m one of the most passionate.

What’s the single hardest thing about racing and why? Not having control over the conditions.

ZR: You can never 100 percent know what will happen.

SB: Consistency. No one race is the same. 

What’s next for you? What are you training for and how are you doing so?

ZR: I am in talks to do some larger team sailing so I would not be surprised to see me at some different larger class events this coming year.

SB: I will look forward to another Olympic cycle, not sure what boat yet, but the goal is to top London’s Silver medal. 

What are your ultimate career goals and what are you doing to achieve them?

ZR: Always has been to race the big 3 Olympics, Volvo Ocean Race and Americas Cup. Just take it one day at a time and keep working hard.

SB: Olympic Gold medal. Everything.

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