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World Sailor of the Year ready to take on Perth

by Shauna McGee Kinney on 27 Nov 2011
Anna Tunnicliffe and Team Maclaren - Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship © Rolex/Daniel Forster
Recently crowned 2011 World Sailor of the Year, US Match Racing Skipper Anna Tunnicliffe and her United States Sailing Team AlphaGraphics crewmates that make up Team Maclaren (Debbie Capozzi, Molly Vandemoer and Liz Lewin (alternate) ) are all fired up for the competition at Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships.

Anna and her team are not new to international travel, championships and competition. She was born in Doncaster, England, which is pretty much right in the middle of the UK, and lived there until she was twelve years old when her dad got transferred to Ohio in the US.

She reassures us, 'I am fully American. I talk a little British at times and have roots there, obviously. But I am very patriotic towards my American flag and my American country and my American team mates.'

Anna’s built up her sailing career and her team over the years. US Sailing Team AlphaGrapics (USSTAG) Team Maclaren has all been sailing together for a very long time.

Debbie Capozzi sailed with Anna in college and after college Debbie went into different boats. They reconnected for this campaign. Molly Vandemoer went to school in Hawaii during those years, but sailed in the same college competitions. Liz Lewin is the fourth person (alternate) and also went to school with Anna and Debbie. Liz has been part of the team from the beginning.

Going back about three years, Anna, Debbie and Molly sailed a few match racing events together. Based on their early success, they decided to team up for an Olympic campaign on the Elliot 6m.

Anna has had an incredibly successful journey to the top of women’s sailing. In addition to a 2008 Gold Medal on the Women’s Laser Radial in Beijing, she’s twice been the Rolex ISAF Woman Sailor of the year in 2009 and again earlier this month.

Anna graciously reminds us, 'Although the ISAF Rolex Sailors of the Year Award was awarded to me -- it was more of a team award. As a team, we accomplished the award. Getting the award was a very fulfilling moment for all us.'

She continued, 'It showed all the hard work we have put in so far.'

The trip to the top has been amazing and may have been shaped by Anna’s early lesson in how to deal with defeat.

She was in her junior year in college and hoping to win the Quantum Sailor of the Year award. This is awarded to the top female sailor in college sailing. All year long, Anna had won most of her events and the award came down to nationals.

Anna probably had to finish in the top fourth or fifth place. She was in a five-way tie for third place and lost the tie. Her competitor got third by calculation and the difference was about 100th of a point.

Anna recalls, 'It was such a devastating moment. I can’t believe this just happened. Everything, all year, and I lose it by 100th of a point. It took a lot to get over, but I learnt a lot about defeat and getting up and moving on.'

'The defeat was more of a shock. I didn’t think I couldn’t lose the award,' she continues. The loss was probably caused when her boat capsized and the crew got trapped under the boat. The team probably lost two boat positions, because they took a little bit of time to breathe and relax once we got the boat upright.

In Anna’s hindsight, she observes, 'One or two of those boats would have got us in third place overall verses seventh place overall or eighth place, whatever we ended up. It was one of those well in this race if we had just passed one more boat it would have been a totally different story. But it happens. I am thankful that it happens, because it has taught me a lot about losing and getting up and moving on.'

Anna is fit and busy. When she’s not moving up the rankings, she’s keeping fit. Anna’s hobbies outside of sailing include CrossFit – a fitness regimen that combines multiple sports including gymnastics, gym routines, running, rowing and even wrestling. When Anna finally comes to a rest, she admits enjoying a good book or watching the NCIS episodes she missed while traveling.

She also encourages youth sailors to look at moving into Match Racing as part of their sailing development.

Anna’s wisdom, 'I think match racing is a useful tool to do even if you don’t want to follow it full time. What you learn in match racing is the one on one boat tactics that you can then take to a fleet race.'

She explains further, 'Where you would lee-bow a boat in a match race, you might then take that same situation and use it in a pack of boats in a fleet race.'

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'The small course, one-on-one boat tactics that you learn in match racing help you grow as a sailor, help you see the bigger picture tactically, boat-to-boat or in a fleet race. It is a very, very useful tool and it teaches you boat control. It makes you understand how your boat works a lot more.'

Anna had some final words for sailors thinking about international campaigns. Sponsorship is important. And, being consistent at developing sponsorship is the key to keeping a campaign going and working to the top of sailing.

As a US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics representative, she emphasizes, 'We are very fortunate to have found some major sponsors; our Team sponsors include Team Maclaren, Laser Performance and 11th Hour Racing. With additional support from Trinity Yachts, Carmeuse Natural Chemicals, Chicago Match Race Centre and Sperry Top Siders.'

'My advice to anybody that wants to do a campaign or anything like would be to keep following your dreams. [At the same time] keep asking for sponsors and eventually the sponsor will fall into your lap. You can’t do it without sponsors so I owe a big thank you to all of our sponsors.'

Anna, Debbie, Molly and Liz are busy training at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club in Perth and making the most of brisk wind and flat water.

Be sure to watch for the USSTAG Team Maclaren in the Women’s Match Racing events at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships from 3 Dec to 16 Dec.

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