For some sailors it's love at first tack; others require more nurturing. Cruising with her family as a little girl in England's famously dreary rain didn't inspire dreams of Olympic-sailing glory for Anna Tunnicliffe (29), who has long wrestled with seasickness. But a transatlantic migration to Ohio (age 12) allowed her to sail at North Cape Yacht Club, in La Salle, Michigan, where she quickly found success in dinghies and flat water. Junior sailing led to Old Dominion University (Class of '05), where she dominated college-sailing circles. Tunnicliffe beat Paige Railey at the 2007 U.S. Olympic Trials in a legendary Laser Radial regatta that hinged on the final race. She then captured a monumental gold in Qingdao before matriculating into the Women's Match Racing (WMR) class in late-2009. Together with teammates Molly Vandemoer and Debbie Capozzi, Tunnicliffe won the 2011 WMR Worlds and the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, besting top-ranked Sally Barkow.

"Anna, Molly, and Debbie appear to have a high level of trust between them, over and above their skills, commitment, and fitness. My strong suspicion is that this trust will help them immensely during stressful decision-making moments on the racecourse."—Dean Brenner, Chairman of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program

Anna Tunnicliffe

By David Schmidt/Alembic Media, LLC

Anna Tunnicliffe
Amory Ross/USSTAG photo

Editors Note: Congratulations to match racers Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandemoer, and Debbie Capozzi on their selection to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Olympic Games.
I caught up with Tunnicliffe in Plantation, Florida to get her pulse on fitness, team dynamics, and Olympic sailing. 

What role does fitness play in your sailing? 
Fitness makes a huge difference with our hiking and how we play the sails. Plus, fitness is one of the few things on a race course that you can absolutely control. If you're fit, it's one less factor that can work against you!

What's better training for sailing—cardio or CrossFit?
I'm the fittest I've ever been because of CrossFit. I love running, but I'm trying to gain weight, so I can't go on distance runs. But I go to CrossFit five or six times a week.

You've called the U.S. Olympic Trials the world's hardest regatta—can you elaborate? 
Both the 2007 Trials and this one came down to being one of the best sailors in the world. In the case of sailing against either Paige [Railey] or Sally [Barkow], you're going up against someone who is ranked in the top three in the world—it's never going to be easy. At the Trials—ultimately—someone goes home and someone continues on. You have to knock out one of the best; you're delighted to have won, but you also know that you just tore someone's heart out. The emotional side of the Trials makes it one of the hardest things to do. 

Was your move into WMR an evolution or a transition?
It was both. The main reason that I switched classes was the Elliott 6m—it's a physically demanding boat. I wouldn't have changed classes if it had been the Yngling—no way. The Elliott 6 m looked like a challenge, and I've always wanted to sail in the America's Cup, so what would be better training?

Can you tell me about your crew dynamic? 
It's top-secret—I can't really tell you...[laughs]. We broke down the roles—we each have a clearly defined role and we stick to it. Debbie does upwind big-picture and downwind tactics, Molly does upwind tactics and downwind she flies the kite, and I do boatspeed and both upwind and downwind tactics. We don't do each other's jobs. 

Are you guys super tight off the boat? Does this matter?
I don't think that you have to be, but the three of us are best friends. We love hanging out together, and we're constantly laughing and having a good time. There's nothing that I want more than to win a gold medal with them.

Can you tell me about your world championship-level Snipe sailing? 
We do so much match racing [that] Molly and I race Snipes together to keep in touch with fleet racing. We race against some genuinely nice people in that class. 

Have you thought about your post-Olympic plans? Could you see yourself sailing another quad? 

I haven't thought about it too much, but the new Olympic-class boats look interesting. Catamarans could be good practice for the America's Cup. We'll have to see! 

What do you love more-sailing or competition? 
love competition! But Ialso love being on the water-it's freeing out there. When I'm sailing, it's just me and Mother Nature. It's Heaven. 

What's it like to be a sailing icon? Is it a lot of responsibility to carry? 

It's not a lot to carry, but it is a responsibility. One of my goals is to help pave the way for younger women, and to show them that they don't have to feel limited because they're female sailors. I take pride in going out there and doing the best that I can to set a good example, and to hopefully make it easier for future generations.

You've won so many Rolex's—is it hard to figure out which one to wear?
I've won enough watches with my teammates that my teammates all have watches. 

What are your favorite Harken/McLube products? Are there any go-fast goodies that you never leave the dinghy park without? 
HARKEN: I like Harken's Carbo Ratchamatic® mainsheet block. It allows me to be very sensitive in the light winds when the ratchet is off, but it works perfectly in the bigger breeze when it's engaged. 
McLUBE: We carry a can of SailKote with us at all times to keep the spinnaker pole lubricated. It makes a big difference with our sail handling.

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