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.
SW: And you did this in a Laser Radial? How much sailing do you do in the Radial these days
AT: Every now and then I get in and do some sailing with some friends. I haven’t been training in the Radial, but fortunately I still hike in the Elliott, so I remembered how to hike.
SW: As word has leaked out, what sort of reaction have you gotten from people?
AT: I haven’t heard a lot from people. When the news came out we were at our world championships in Sweden [where Tunnicliffe and her team of Debbie Capozzi and Molly Vandemoer finished second], and I only just got back to the U.S. a few days ago. I haven’t heard too much about it yet, but I’m pretty sure when the issue is released we’ll get the feedback. I’m hoping it’ll all be positive. But it’s good for the sport, it shows what the sport really involves.
SW: Did you get the sense from the folks at ESPN The Magazine that you should be prepared for some negative reactions?
AT: Not really from theme. I read a couple of articles on peoples’ views of when they did the photoshoot, the positives and negatives of it, what they were thinking. Someone’s always got something negative to say. There are always going to be critics out there. So really, it is what it is. I did it. I’m looking forward to it coming out, and if people are negative about it, then it’s kind of unfortunate. I’m sure some people will be positive about it, great, that’s the whole idea about it.
SW: For the sport, it’s great to see sailing alongside some more high profile sports. What about for you personally? How do you make this work for you?
AT: I haven’t really thought about it too much. I try to be a leader in the sport, especially for women in sailing. If this makes women more enthusiastic about going sailing, about getting in shape and pushing themselves to the limit, that’s part of my goal.
SW: And if makes some guys more enthusiastic about going sailing, that’s OK, too?
AT: That’s awesome, too. For me personally, leading into it, it made me get in really good shape.
SW: Are you saying that were not in really good shape? I think anyone who’s seen some of the workout photos you post on Facebook knows you’re always in tremendous shape.
AT: I was in good shape, but it made me really conscious about everything I ate for the month leading into it. Apart from that, am I looking for anything personal out of it? I don’t think so, it was a great opportunity, and you never know when those opportunities are going to come around--you have to take them when they come.
SW: What sort of reaction did you get from your peers at the ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championships?
AT: Nothing was really said at the worlds. I think the biggest thing we’ve heard is, well, the Brits did it in 2008. They painted everybody gold and wrapped them in a flag and did a naked photoshoot. So I’m not the first sailor to have done something like this. The entire British Olympic team did something similar. There were positive and negative comments about that whole thing. I haven’t heard too much from my peers that know about it. We haven’t made too big of a push about it from US SAILING. I guess when the issue comes out that’s when Dana will say, “Hey look!” I guess the 11th or something, we’ll find out everybody’s real reaction.
SW: Anyone who’s seen you sail, or follows you on Facebook, knows your commitment to your conditioning. What are three or four things that a young sailor can do to help him or herself on the boat?
AT: You have to be really strong in your core. Sit ups. Focusing on your ab muscles and your back muscles, and keeping them in balance. Make sure you’re doing sit ups, making sure you’re doing Supermans. You use your quads a lot for sailing, and the only way to train for hiking is by actually hiking. But to be able to get a powerful tack, to be able to jump across the boat [it’s really helpful to do] one-legged squats, squatting all the way down and standing up, and then switching legs. Building your balance and the strength you need to be powerful across the boat, jump into your straps, hike out, and get the boat flat again. That’s one exercise, especially in my CrossFit, I’ve been doing more and more and I’ve been getting stronger and stronger at it. And I think that’s a very useful tool.
SW: Many sailors look at sailing as an arm-dominated sport, but when you talk to a lot of top sailors they always focus on the core and the legs.
AT: It depends on the boat you’re sailing. If you’re sailing a big boat, it’s maybe not as much legs involved and more upper body. But when you talk to dinghy sailors, Olympic sailors, there’s a lot of hiking, a lot of jumping across the boat, a lot of explosive movements. Even in a big boat there’s a lot of explosive movements, it’s just maybe at a slower pace, not happening as often. You modify your training program to the type of boat that your sailing.
SW: Tell us about the CrossFit training. You’ve even competed in some CrossFit competitions. Is it good training for sailing? Or do you do it more because you enjoy the challenge?
AT: I personally think it’s fantastic training for sailing. It’s definitely not for everybody. If you do it, I recommend finding a very good trainer to do it with and really focusing on your technique. All that said, it’s an absolutely amazing workout. Since I’ve been doing it, since October, I’ve gotten so much stronger; I’ve changed my body completely.
In the last quad, I ran half marathons and ultimately focused on doing a half Ironman, and I used that as a distraction. This time my distraction is CrossFit and the CrossFit competitions that I do. I love the physical challenge of it, I love having the competition outside of sailing, something I can think about when I don’t want to think about sailing.
SW: That’s an interesting point. Sailing can be so mentally taxing. Sometimes it’s nice to have a sport that’s somewhat opposite of that, where it’s simply about how much you can push, how much you can suffer, and doesn’t have the same mental component that sailing does?
SW: The rumor is that this photo will run quite big in the magazine. Will this be something that gets framed and goes up on a wall in your house?
AT: I think I’ll probably put it on the wall. I’m pretty proud of it, for sure.