Gold Medalist ponders a comeback
Published on January 22nd, 2018
The sparkling athletic career of American Anna Tunnicliffe Tobias, which includes a gold medal in the singlehanded Laser Radial class, a world match racing championship, an appearance au naturel in ESPN the Magazine’s The Body Issue and a transition to an elite-level Crossfit career, bears the hallmarks of someone in full control of her destiny.
But if the next phase is to be successful, Tunnicliffe Tobias (Pittsburgh, Pa.) must come to grips with having someone else at the helm, at least on the race course. After a five-year layoff, she is contemplating a return to Olympic-level sailing, but not as a skipper.
This week, she will test out a new partnership by crewing for 2016 Olympian Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) in the 49erFX class in 2018 World Cup Series Miami, the second of four events that comprise an annual circuit of Olympic sailing for elite and professional sailors.
“The transition, it’s harder going to the front of the boat,” says Tunnicliffe Tobias. “I haven’t really ever crewed in a permanent position before so that’s a little different, but what’s fun about the FX is that there’s so much going on at the front. You kind of forget that you’re not driving.
“There are times when it feels odd, like we’ll be in close quarters and I want to do something. But you know, I trust [Paris], she’s very good at what she does. Coming into it, being able to trust her right away is a pretty good feeling.”
The 49erFX class is one of 10 sailing disciplines that will compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Regatta, and an event in which Henken and Helena Scutt (Kirkland, Wash.) finished 10th at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games—an impressive Olympic debut. But Scutt is now sailing in the coed Nacra 17 class with Bora Gulari, which leaves the 49erFX class without a clear favorite for the lone U.S. berth.
Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.), US Sailing’s 2014 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) have been the most active U.S. team in the early part of this Olympic cycle, earning a bronze at last year’s test event for the 2018 Hempel Sailing World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, this coming summer.
With two younger teams also competing in Miami, this coming week should serve to clarify the pecking order amongst the four teams as well as where the U.S. group stands relative to the rest of the world, Tunnicliffe Tobias, a veteran of numerous Olympic campaigns, knows the importance of not looking too far ahead.
“I think our main goal for the week is to kind of get comfortable racing with each other,” she says. “We’ve got nine days in the boat coming into the regatta, so obviously still have got a huge learning curve to climb and to get more comfortable with boat handling. Then from that, get our heads out so we can race smart. So, we’re gonna go have fun and try to let results take care of themselves.”
Racing is scheduled on January 23-28, with the format for each Olympic event to have an opening series with the top ten advancing to the medal competition. Live Medal Races on Saturday and Sunday, January 27 and 28, will bring the week to a close before the series heads to Hyères, France in April.
Sunday (Jan 28) Medal Races – 470, Finn, Laser, Laser Radial
The World Cup Series is an annual circuit of Olympic sailing for elite and professional sailors, and a key touchpoint for fans and media to connect to the sport of sailing and develop support for athletes on their road to Tokyo 2020 and beyond. Over 2,000 of the world’s leading sailors, representing 75 nations, have competed in the World Cup Series since its inception in 2008.
2017/2018 World Cup Series
October 17-22, 2017 – World Cup Series #1 – Gamagori, Japan
January 21-28, 2018 – World Cup Series #2 – Miami, USA
April 22-29, 2018 – World Cup Series #3 – Hyères, France
June 3-10, 2018 – World Cup Series Final – Marseille, France
Source: Stuart Streuli, World Sailing