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Olympics  Olympic Sailing  Laser Radial  Finn Class  Qingdao China  Anna Tunnicliffe  Zachery Railey  

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2 Members Medal in Beijing

By Terri Parrow Botsford - Published August 20, 2008 - Viewed 4164 times

BoatUS Member Anna Tunnicliffe Wins First Women's Sailing Gold Medal in 20 Years

QINGDAO, China - Laser Radial sailor Anna Tunnicliffe became the first woman in 20 years to sail to an Olympic gold medal. Tunnicliffe, of Plantation, FL, is a BoatUS Member. 

According to her sailing coach, Luther Carpenter: “Anna is your dream athlete. She’s a hard worker, in amazing shape, very open to coaching, completely driven and she sees a path clearly to winning.”

British-born Tunnicliffe was ahead on overall points in the Laser Radial class going into the final medal race on Tuesday. But the American 25-year-old needed a solid place to snatch the win. She was down as far as ninth out of 10 boats that qualified for the final.

With her second-place finish in the medal race - one place behind silver medalist Gintare Volungevicuite of Lithuania - Tunnicliffe also earned the United States' first sailing gold of the Beijing Games. China's Xu Lijia placed third in both the medal race and the overall standings.

Tunnicliffe was carrying a seven-point lead on her closest competition going into the medal race. Having never won a race in the eight-day series, Tunnicliffe sailed with consistency to win by the tightest of margins.

Tunnicliffe entered the 10-boat, light air medal race defending gold, but after turning back at the start for an individual recall she had potentially taken herself out of the running. She said she wasn’t positive whether she was over early or not, but she wanted to be safe. Her setback left her fighting to keep silver around the first lap, and by the bottom mark she had lost one boat and rounded in second to last. On that last upwind leg, she said, “I saw a puff on the left and said, ‘Well, here it goes.’ It was a risk, but it was a risk worth taking.”

Tunnicliffe shot up to third place at the next mark, putting her in gold and sending the crowd on land into frenzied cheers. She finished the race in second, her fans went ballistic and she had clinched the Olympic gold medal.

Luther Carpenter has coached sailors to three bronze medals but Tunnicliffe’s is his first gold. He said of the strategy, “The game plan was to stay out of the corners and not sail a drop. This felt good in the beginning but then Lithuania and New Zealand paid off by hitting corners. We asked how long this could continue odds-wise: It’s too unstable of a place to keep playing the sides that hard. It was tempting to go for an end start or hit a side, but you must give her credit she stayed disciplined. At the end she took a risk, she played with what she saw and she was right.”

U.S. Olympic Sailing Program High Performance Director Gary Bodie coached Tunnicliffe at her very first international event in the beginning of this quad. “Anna only finished in the high teens at that event, but you could see it then,” he said. Fast forward to May 2008 at the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Holland. After she won the first race, Bodie didn’t have to do much coaching at all. “I told her, ‘Anna, if you do that exact same thing again every race we’re going to win by a mile,’ and that’s what happened.”

Ranked number three in the world prior to the Olympics, Tunnicliffe has had a strong year so far: she finished second at the 2008 Miami Olympic Class Regatta, third at Sail Auckland and sixth at Worlds. In 2007, she placed fifth at Worlds, third at the North American Championships, and fourth in the Rolex Miami Olympic Class Regatta.

In his Olympics blog, veteran sailing commentator Gary Jobson said of Tunnicliffe:

Tunnicliffe's rise has been great fun to watch over the past several years.  Anna was born in England, but her family moved to the Midwest. She grew up sailing at the North Cape YC in Michigan. After graduating from high school, she enrolled at OldDominion University in Norfolk, VA. It was at ODU that she first broke into the national sailing scene.  In an interview I did with her in January 2007, she said, "Before college I wasn't anybody in sailing."

Now she is on the verge of being a very special someone.”

BoatUS Member Zach Railey Wins Silver at the Olympic Games

QINGDAO, China – Sailor Zach Railey won the silver medal in the Finn class Aug. 17 at the 2008 Olympic Games by finishing in fifth place in the final day’s medal race. Railey, of Clearwater, FL, is a BoatUS Member, having joined the Association in 1999.

Railey sailed a consistent regatta, never falling below second place since the beginning of the regatta. After the final race, he said, “I came here to stand on the podium. My goal was to get a medal. Now it’s a big relief and I’m proud to win a medal for the U.S. It feels amazing. All of that hard work was worth that moment [of winning] and I just wish it had lasted a little longer!”

Railey said about his thoughts going into today's race, “Eight to ten guys here could make it to the podium, and I knew I was one of those eight to ten guys.”

After he was awarded his silver medal with its jade inner ring, Railey gave his flowers to his mother. Wrapped in an American flag, he walked into the press conference. During the conference, gold medalist Ben Ainslie said of Railey’s performance, “Zach was consistent. He made life very difficult for me. So very well sailed.” Ainslie was  a heavy favorite to win in the Finn Class, with three prior Olympic gold medals.

Team Leader Dean Brenner was ecstatic for Railey’s achievement. Brenner greeted Railey at the dock with cheers and a huge hug. He said, “I’m extremely proud and happy for Zach, he worked hard for it.” Brenner said, “I’m most proud of the fact that we were in the hunt for three medals in all three of today’s medal races. I wish more had gone our way, but that’s sailboat racing in 25 knots of breeze.”

Veteran sailing commentator Gary Jobson said of Railey:

“Zach Railey was a hot Optimist dinghy sailor who excelled at an early age. He was known as a hothead for a time, but as the years passed he matured, and so did his drive to win an Olympic medal.

This kid worked as hard as anyone I've seen.

He grew to be 6'4" and 200 pounds, which meant he was too big for most dinghies. So he raced a Finn, a boat suited to large-framed sailors. At first, Zach was a tail ender.  But month after month, he worked on his technique and his conditioning, becoming single-minded about excelling.

This week at the Olympics, Zach Railey joined America's elite sailors who are medal-winners. He challenged four-time Olympic medalist Ben Ainslie all week long. In the end the veteran British sailor prevailed, and Railey, at 24, came close and most certainly will be back. At 31, Ainslie will have difficulty maintaining his dominance.” 


— These reports courtesy of US SAILING. For more visit sailingteams.ussailing.org/



Terri Parrow Botsford
VP BoatUS
Internet Operations

Blog Comments

There are 2 blog comments.

Comment by Terri Parrow Botsford | Posted on Wednesday, August 20, 2008 at 7:29:40 PM

Don't forget about John Dane III, another BoatUS Member who competed in the Olympics as well.  Read about him in "BoatUS Members Olympic Dream, 40 Years in the Making"

Comment by Hugh Mulzac | Posted on Friday, August 22, 2008 at 10:30:14 AM

This goes to show you how large BoatUS's membership base is! Good job to both Tunnicliffe & Railey!!!

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