Hoping to convince any doubters that sailors are athletes, too, 2008 gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe goes sailing in the buff for ESPN the Magazine's annual The Body issue.
On Wednesday the world will see a side of Anna Tunnicliffe it hasn't seen before. Well, technically, the side (her right) has been seen plenty of times, but only a few have seen it like this, namely, unshrouded by clothes.
Tunnicliffe, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the Laser Radial and a favorite for the gold in Women’s Match Racing in the upcoming London Olympics, was one of 27 athletes chosen to participate in the fourth edition of ESPN the Magazine’s The Body issue. This annual issue has featured some of the world’s top athletes in the buff, often with the appropriate sporting equipment providing enough cover that the magazine doesn’t require with an R rating. You can see two more photos, here and here.
Tunnicliffe (technically, Tunnicliffe Funk, since she’s married to Laser sailor Brad Funk) is the first sailor to be included in the series. In this exclusive interview, the 29-year-old talks about the experience, starting with how she came to be involved with ESPN’s answer to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
Anna Tunnicliffe: To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. I think [U.S. Sailing Team communications director] Dana [Paxton] heard about it and was like, “Would you be interested in submitting your name?” I said, “OK sure, fat chance that sailing’s ever going to get selected.” They came back and said, [we’d] been keen on having her if she’s into it. I’m like, “Sure, let’s do it. Why not?”
Sailing World: So it doesn’t sound like there was much hesitation on your part when Dana suggested it?
AT: I think it’s a good opportunity to show that sailing’s not just booze cruising, that you have to be athletic. So it was a great opportunity to show the world that it is a physical sport.
SW: Were you familiar with this issue? It’s ESPN The Magazine’s answer to Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue. They cover the essential body parts to keep it family friendly, but it’s otherwise very revealing.
AT: I had seen a couple of pictures. I said, “Yeah, I’ll do it,” and then I started getting a bit nervous about it. But I just kept reminding myself that it’s good for the sport to show that you have to be fit and everything. In a way, it’s art. You work hard for a body, so why not show it off if it’s for a good cause.
SW: What about your family? Your husband and your parents?
AT: I definitely consulted with them beforehand. My mom was pretty keen on it. My dad and Brad were a little hesitant at first. We came to the conclusion that, why not go for it?
SW: Well, I was pretty surprised to see a sailor included in that list for sure. They usually focus on very high-profile athletes. You’re definitely in some elite company.
AT: I’m excited for it. I’m excited for it to come out, to see people’s reactions.
SW: That’s going to happen later this week, of course. The issue will be released online on July 11th with the magazine hitting newsstands on July 13th. What can you tell us about the photo shoot?
AT: We showed up at the [Lauderdale] Yacht Club, got the Laser rigged. Nobody knew what we were going out to go shoot for. It kind of took me by surprise how little everybody that was involved with the photoshoot knew what we were doing when we first got to the club. It was only me, Brad, and the photo editor that knew what was going on. And the photographer. But the photographer’s assistant didn’t know, and the people driving the safety boats didn’t know. On the tow out, it was broken to everybody what was actually going on. That made me a little nervous because all of the sudden everybody knew I was going to be sailing around with no clothes on. Whereas before they just thought it was a photoshoot. We got out there ,and I had my Olympic sail up from . I just sailed around and the photographers were very professional and very good at what they did. They just directed me through the kind of shot that they wanted. We did two short sessions; it was kind of a colder day, but it was windy and wavy. We got it done quite quickly.
SW: What sort of input did you have in terms of choosing the composition of the photo?
AT: When they first started talking about it, they were trying to figure out where we could do the photoshoot and I said, “Well, do you want to do it actually sailing?” And they, “Well, what do you do?” So we sent some actual hiking pictures. So they knew the position I was going to be in, and we just had to find the best way for the boat to look like it was going fast and hiked in the right position with the waves and everything. We eventually figured out that reaching in front of the camera was the way the shoot was going to go, and that’s how they got the picture.
SW: Most of the photos for this issue are done in a fairly controlled environment. This is clearly not the case for your photo. Was it a struggle to get everything right?
AT: The photographer was really good. He’s done a lot of surfing photos so he’s really good with the waves and the water. I think he got his shot rather quickly. We did two sessions, and I think he ended up taking a photo from the first session. I think he liked what he got. There’s only so much you can do once you’re sailing. It was easy, and he was pretty keen on what he was shooting.
SW: So you tow out, and then at some point you have to strip down and start sailing the boat. What were your nerves like when you had to get naked and go sailing?
AT: I just said, “Forget it, this is what I’m doing. I signed up for this and just do it." When it finally came time to do it, I wasn’t that nervous, I just got on with it. You wear so much clothing normally in sailing, it was a totally different experience wearing absolutely nothing. It’s not something I would do every weekend, but it was definitely a totally different experience sailing around with no clothes on.