Olympic Rivalry Heats Up in Newport

An exclusive interview with Anna Tunnicliffe, who defeated Paige Railey to win the Laser Radial Olympic Pre-Trials in Newport, R.I.


Daniel Forster/rolex

At the Laser Radial Olympic Pre-Trials in Newport, R.I., the competition boiled down to a match race between Anna Tunnicliffe and Paige Railey, two of the best female singlehanded dinghy sailors in the world. (Tunnicliffe is currently No. 1 on the ISAF World Rankings, having supplanted Railey earlier this month.)In the last race of the pre-trials-the winner of which would represent the United States at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil-Tunnicliffe and Railey faced a winner takes all scenario. Tunnicliffe controlled the start but trailed Railey at the windward mark. On the first downwind leg, as Tunnicliffle attempted a pass to windward, Railey luffed up to prevent being rolled. Tunnicliffe tried to keep clear, but her boom touched Railey’s boat…Protest!As it turns out, Tunnicliffe won the protest hearing and the regatta. Her victory in Newport, however, is just one encouraging step towards Beijing. Before she can qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team, she’ll have to face Railey again at the Miami OCR in January.Here is SW eNewsletter’s exclusive interview with Anna Tunnicliffe:When you know you have to beat another boat, at what point during the starting sequence do you start positioning yourself against them?It depends on the situation. On Sunday, the way it worked out was I had to win the first race, so I didn’t make it a point to match race Paige in the first race. I didn’t want go at her too hard. In the second race, I had to not let her win, so I started going after her at four minutes. I’ve sailed against her enough to know her starting strategy, know where she hangs out before the start. Still, it all depends on whether I need to get a good start, or whether I need to prevent her from getting a good start. Having sailed against Paige so much, do you have a fairly good idea of what her advantages are over you, and what yours are over her?She’s a very good starter. She’s very strong and confident. At the same time, I have more team and match-racing experience. So in the maneuvers, knowing how to attack, I have the advantage. But she has so much confidence starting in tight areas.Is it hard to remain friendly when you’re both competing for one Olympic berth?It’s only out on the water that you’re competing for one spot. And nobody has any friends on the water. But I’d like to think that you can separate the two. At the very least, I know that stuff that happens on my half stays on the water. That’s difficult question for me to answer.You won a protest against Paige for a windward-leeward scenario in the final race. Were you able to keep it civil in the protest room?I think we both kept our cool and told our sides of the story. I told what I thought happened, she told what she thought happened, and that was that.You were a track star before you dedicated yourself to sailing. Does that help you with the physical element of Laser sailing? I think so. I come from a fit family. My mom runs marathons, my brother does triathalons. Running definitely gave me the cardio advantage, but I don’t run anymore. It’s easy to get injured running, so I’ve been biking. You minored in music in college. Do you play an instrument?Yes, I play cello. These days, I just I play at home. I’m not in any orchestras or ensembles. But when I’m home I’ll pull it out. In college playing the cello helped take my mind off of sailing in tense times. I’d play it to distract my mind for a few hours. Now it’s more of a hobby. What else do you do to cool out when the sailing gets intense?I’m big into yoga. I try to go to yoga class four or five times a week. It helps me with my flexibility and balance.What’s next? I’m starting the Osprey Cup on Wednesday. Then all though November and December I’ll be training hard with a few foreigners- Evi Van Acker from Belgium, who is currently number two, Laura Baldwin (England), Tania (Elias Calles), who is number 9, from Mexico, and with my training partner from Canada. We’ve got the Worlds coming up in Portugal, then the next big regatta is the Miami OCR.


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