The Wunderkind

For most sailors, just competing in the Olympic Games is a dream come true, but for Anna Tunnicliffe, 27, getting to the Games was only the start. The real dream was winning a gold medal, a lofty goal Anna set for herself at the tender age of 12 after immigrating to the U.S. from England with her parents. Anna’s gold in the Laser Radial class in the 2008 Olympic Games at Qingdao, China, was the first U.S. women’s Olympic sailing gold medal in 20 years. This achievement won her the 2008 US Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the year award. She followed up in 2009 by winning the coveted ISAF Rolex Yachtswoman of the year award, presented in November in Pusan, Korea. While Anna has proven herself to be a serious player in the Laser Radial class, she has recently been spending time honing her match-racing skills and announced in Pusan that she will be competing in the next Olympic trials in this new Olympic event.

What was your motivation to switch from Radials to match racing?

It’s something new. I love Laser sailing, but I also really enjoy match racing. It’s a totally different game. In match racing, everyone pretty much knows the plays, its just who can execute them better…who can plan ahead the best and pull off the needed move.

Do you find match racing to be more engaging than singlehanded fleet racing?

The format is much faster paced. In fleet racing you get into a pattern where it’s a physical contest [to see] who can get to the top [of the course] best, and then it comes down to technique downwind. Match racing is a bunch of small sprints. Each race is a physical workout, but also a mental workout. You have to constantly think about what your competitor is going to do and have counter moves prepared.

Do you have aspirations to get into big-boat racing? The America’s Cup? Offshore racing?

I would love to do big-boat sailing, especially the AC. I know I have a lot to learn, but I’m keen on getting there. As far as offshore racing, well, I’m not that crazy yet…ask me again in a few years.

What was the hardest regatta of your life?

The [2008] Olympic Trials. The sailing was tough, but the mental stress awful. I think it was the only regatta in my life that I have not fully enjoyed. It was so long, and the whole time I was racing…one of the top Radial sailors in the world…any mistake and I was bound to lose a race. It was very stressful.

What are your biggest sailing goals today?

My biggest goals are to win at least one more gold medal in the Olympics, to skipper an AC boat, and to become a top-ranked match racer on the open circuit.

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