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World-class sailor charts course for USF

Paige Railey has mastered the sea but will have a lot to learn about college life.

By BOB PUTNAM
Published August 14, 2005


Various challenges face any freshman when he or she lands on a college campus. They run in to newness everywhere: a new place, new people, new rhythms.

They find sharp discontinuities between high school and college, a new intensity and volume of required work as well as stiff competition from classmates.

Now, try doing that and being the top-ranked sailor in the world.

That's the challenge facing Paige Railey, a recent Clearwater High graduate who has been sailing circles around her competition for years. This month, the International Sailing Federation listed the 18-year-old as the world's No. 1 women's sailor in the Laser Radial class after she won numerous regattas this summer.

Railey returns home this week. Soon, she will try to live like a normal student at the University of South Florida.

"It's going to be a transition because I've had a crazy couple of months," Railey said. "I haven't even registered for classes yet. My goal is to get a degree in sports business management."

But her real major is sailing.

Railey has charted a course she hopes will improve her chances to compete at the 2008 Olympics in Bejing.

She racked up a lot of frequent-flier miles this summer because the best competition is mostly in Europe. Her wanderings took her to Spain, Holland, Germany, Croatia, Sweden and South Korea in three months.

It was hardly a vacation.

Railey lived out of a suitcase, put her boat together and spent most of her time at sea.

"It's tough because I haven't seen my family or friends for months," Railey said. "I really didn't want to leave after I graduated (from Clearwater). I wanted to stay with my friends and go to parties, things like that. But they understood my situation."

To let everyone know her whereabouts, Railey's family put together a regularly updated Web site, www.paigerailey.com devoted to her accomplishments. The site features slide shows, articles and a newsletter written by Railey every two weeks.

Another reason for the site is to attract sponsorship. Railey receives limited funding as a team member of U.S. Sailing. Her parents also help pay for new or refitted boats, new sails and travel expenses.

It is a hefty price tag. Boats cost $4,200 and sails are $500. Railey goes through about one boat and four sails a year.

"We don't even like to look at cost," said Ann, whose husband owns a Nationwide Insurance agency on Missouri Avenue in Clearwater. "It can be mind-boggling sometimes."

Besides sailing, Railey also has to pay for school.

Women's sailing is a varsity sport at USF. Although NCAA rules prohibit scholarships for the sport, the school is accommodating Railey's schedule to allow her to practice for the Olympics.

She will spend her first semester living on campus and taking classes. While traveling, she will maintain her course work via the Internet.

"I couldn't ask for a better situation," Railey said. "USF was really the only school that would work with me and my schedule. They're going to give me time off when I have to go away to sail competitions and they're going to let me go from living on campus to internet schooling before coming back. It will help a lot with this new transition."

[Last modified August 14, 2005, 00:53:19]


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