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Conversations within the sport of sailing - Genny Tulloch

It is often said how sailing is unique as a sport, where the opportunity is readiliy available to compete against the very best in the sport. Occassionally we get the chance to chat with them too.

Genny Tulloch
(April 20, 2009) For the 2012 Olympics, there will be a new event: Women’s Match Racing. Among those leading the charge for the Americans is Genny Tulloch, currently the top ranked member of the US SAILING Team Alphagraphics. Here Genny provides Scuttlebutt with an update:

  • Have you committed to an Olympic campaign?

  • Yes, definitely trying for the 2012 Olympics. Timing is pretty perfect for me, I'm 24 now, did a brief campaign in 470s after graduating (from college in 2005), I was with Morning Light (documentary), and then spent a brief time last year in the Yngling to help Sally Barkow’s team train for the 2008 Olympics. I feel I've matured a lot in my sailing and my understanding of the sport on all levels, and am also happy with the bigger boat experience that I've been involved with in the last couple years (and that I'm continuing to be involved with) - something which a lot of people miss if they go straight from college to an Olympic campaign.

  • Why match racing and not one of the other women events?

  • I'm choosing match racing for a lot of reasons. First, I like the mental aspect and skill involved in the sport. You have to think about many of the factors of a typical fleet race and combine match racing tactics in as well, so it's pretty mentally involved, and I like that. I learned to team race in college and was on one of the best team racing teams in the nation (Harvard won the Fowle Trophy for best college sailing team 5 yrs in a row), so I learned the discipline really well, and really enjoyed it. I am able to apply a lot of the team racing skills to match racing, so have learned and picked up the sport really quickly. Second, I actually like the fact that all the match racing sailing is in keelboats, as I've branched out into keelboat sailing more in the last couple of years, compared to only dinghy sailing growing up and in college. Yet the Eliot 6m (boat to be used in 2012 Olympics) looks like it might be a great mix of the two, a very responsive little keelboat that practically sails like a dinghy.

  • How do you see training for the match race event differing from the other women’s events?

  • Match racing is a very different discipline than the other Olympic events. With supplied boats and sails with set tuning, we won't need to spend a lot of trial testing different sail combinations, boat equipment, or other speed advantages that would help get that extra edge in a fleet race. We do need to go fast and handle the boats well, but in the end it will be the match racing maneuvers and tactics that will win the gold medal. So we'll do many events and practices in all kinds of boats, fine-tuning the match racing aspect, and then will spend time in the Eliot 6m working on boat-specific speed and boat-handling.

  • You were the 2004 Quantum Female Sailor of the Year in college. What helped you achieve that honor?

  • Genny Tulloch
    I grew up in the youth scene - first optis, then 420s and Laser Radials and 29ers. I did the whole circuit - from Texas circuit events to Opti Nationals and Team Trials and Europeans, Youth Champs, Ida Lewis, and Leiter, Bemis, and qualified for the Youth Worlds in the Laser Radial and the 420. I think it was important to do as many big events as possible in youth sailing, get into the mindset of sailing against great people from the rest of the country or the rest of the world. I think this helps prepare you for the level of competition you're going to get in college.

    But college sailing is incredible. You practice and race so much in that four years of sailing - just starts and mark roundings and boat handling over and over again. I also had a really great team of sailors to race against every day, as well as excellent coaches, so I could really make the most of the time on the water spent college sailing. But I think my preparation prior to college also helped me get a leg up - I was runner up for that award my freshman year and actually won it my sophomore year, so I then spent my junior year doing more co-ed sailing and team racing and getting ready for an Olympic Campaign. (Editor note: Jenny graduated from Harvard in three years).

  • For the elite youth sailors who anticipate campaigning for the Olympics, do you believe that college sailing is an important step, or should they begin campaigning during their college years?

  • Good question. I do think college sailing is a really important step, but I don't necessarily think it should be instead of campaigning. I think a mixture of the two is really good: lots of college sailing, with Olympic sailing in the summer and some specific regattas throughout the year (Genny sailed 470’s during her junior year). Your college team might not be happy with you for taking off in favor of a different event (I remember my team being really mad at me for just that), but sometimes you have to do what's best for you and your future in sailing. But college sailing is really the one thing that we have in the U.S. that the other countries don't do as well as we do, so you have to use it to your full advantage.

  • How are U.S. women sailors positioned for this Olympic match race event?

  • I think we're in a great spot going into this Olympic event. We have two past world champions in Sally Barkow and Liz Baylis, both of whom are still involved on the circuit. We have rules guru and match racing specialist Dave Perry coaching us at many events and training clinics, and we have plenty of U.S. events to use to keep pushing our skill level. As all the other nations step up their Olympic Match Racing preparations I believe we will be able to match them or better.

  • Is there anything going on in the U.S. that will help the U.S. women improve in this segment of the sport?

  • We have a lot of Grade 3s out there already, but every day more are being added to the schedule. There's an event at New York Yacht Club next month that my teammate Chafee Emory has been working on, that should be really good for training. The concept is that it’s more about the training and the coaching, with a 2-day clinic followed by three days of racing, and the four coaches who coach the clinic stay for the event and continue to coach. The format is being looked at by a lot of other clubs for them to host events in the same way as well.

  • You have been on a roll in 2009. Can you bring us up to date?

  • We finished fourth at the Miami OCR event in January, and as we were the top U.S. team, we qualified for the top spot on the US Sailing Team Alphagraphics. Since then I've competed in the Sundance Cup (Fort Worth, TX) as a tactician for Kristen Lane, where we finished 2nd but were again the top U.S. team. Also took part in the USSTAG physical training camp (in San Diego, CA) and helped Dave Perry train for the ISAF Nations Cup. Mostly though had some time off before getting into the major regatta season, which is going to be pretty full on now until December, with all my match racing, as well as competing in a Melges 24 training for the Worlds in October, and taking on the Transpac Race again.

  • How do you feel you were portrayed in the Morning Light documentary, and is that who you are?

  • Morning Light
    Interesting question. It's hard, because I don't think you could get across in one movie who one person is, much less who 15 people are, so it's hard to say that how I was portrayed is exactly 'who I am'. But at the same time, it portrays me as a girl in sailing, who's able to hang with the guys, who's competitive and likes to go out and rip, and who likes to have fun and play some other sports on the side. All of that is definitely part of who I am. They made a big deal of me getting hurt, but it was my fault, and yes I was definitely sad to miss that big training session and have to be left on shore. I do still like to snowboard though (I just spent some of my weeks off at Lake Tahoe, CA), but at the same time they pinned that on me like I was the only one who'd gone to the mountains on a break from training. Definitely not, I was just the only one who got hurt doing it.

  • Do you have a website, Facebook, Twitter, etc?

  • I'm working with a company to get my website out soon: It will be I'm on Facebook too. Have to be, the guy who invented it was my year at Harvard!!

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