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Published: Tuesday, 8/7/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

Tunnicliffe may exit Olympic sailing competition early

U.S. team lost first 2 races in best-of-five quarterfinal

The U.S. women's sailing team of Anna Tunnicliffe, right, Molly Vandemoer, left, and Debbie Capozzi center, lost their first two races in a best-of-five quarterfinal Tuesday. The U.S. women's sailing team of Anna Tunnicliffe, right, Molly Vandemoer, left, and Debbie Capozzi center, lost their first two races in a best-of-five quarterfinal Tuesday.

LONDON -- The American sailing team led by Perrysburg High graduate Anna Tunnicliffe moved to the brink of an early Olympic exit Tuesday after a surprising setback on the opening day of the women's match race quarterfinals.

The United States lost its first two races in a best-of-five quarterfinal against Finland, meaning the trio of Tunnicliffe, Debbie Capozzi, and Molly Vandemoer must win three straight duels today to keep alive their medal hopes.

Tunnicliffe, who was born in England before moving to Perrysburg when she was 12, won a gold medal in the Laser Radial event at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and is the reigning world sailor of the year. The 29-year-old skipper was widely considered the favorite in the first-year Olympic event that pits two three-member yachts in a series of one-on-one races around a two-lap course.

But after the U.S. team finished the preliminary rounds in fourth with an 8-3 record, its momentum washed away Tuesday in the waters of Weymouth, England. Tunnicliffe's yacht fell just short in both races, especially the opener.

"We went for a real gybe to then go for the finish, but they didn't do what I expected them to do so I stopped the gybe halfway through without telling the front of the boat and went to try and get them on starboard," Tunnicliffe said in a blog entry posted on her Web site. "We missed them and they got across the line ahead of us. It was frustrating because I tried too much, too hard. If we had just gone to the finish line there was a good chance we would have won the race."

Tunnicliffe, however, remained optimistic.

"We have been sailing well, and have been down in a series before," she said. "We knew coming into today's racing that it was going to be close and tight, and tomorrow will be the same."

Windsurfing made a spirited Games exit Tuesday, with Dorian Van Rijsselberge of the Netherlands collecting the men's gold medal he'd clinched days earlier and Marina Alabau of Spain winning the women's regatta.

Windsurfing got the heave-ho from the lineup for the 2016 Rio Olympics in a vote in May, replaced by kiteboarding. The International RS:X Class Association filed a legal challenge last week against the International Sailing Federation.

Van Rijsselberge won six of the first nine races. His lead was so big that he sat out the 10th race. Nick Dempsey of Britain took the silver and Poland's Przemyslaw Miarczynski got the bronze.

With the race close to shore, Dempsey hopped off his board and greeted friends and family watching from the Nothe Fort.

Alabau came into the medals race with a 14-point lead and preserved it by finishing first.

Tuuli Petaja of Finland jumped from third place overall to take the silver medal, thanks to a fourth-place finish in the medals race. Poland's Zofia Noceti-Klepacka jumped from fifth overall to take the bronze.

Meanwhile, the Australian 470 duo of Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page won both Race 9 and 10 to open a four-point lead over the British duo of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. The gold and silver medals will be decided between those two crews in Thursday's final race, which awards double points. The Aussies have 18 points and the British 22.

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