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Olympics 'Heck of a Wake-up Call' for U.S. Sailing

The last American skipper with a chance, couldn't fight back tears after her run at a second straight gold medal ended

Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012  |  Updated 12:48 PM PDT
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U.S. Sailing Action in London 2012

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Anna Tunnicliffe, Debbie Capozzi and Molly O'Bryan Vandemoer of the United States compete in the Women's Elliott 6m WMR Sailing on Day 3

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The United States won't win an Olympic sailing medal for the first time since the 1936 Berlin Games.

Anna Tunnicliffe, the last American skipper with a chance, couldn't fight back tears after her run at a second straight gold medal ended Wednesday.

U.S. Sailing officials on both sides of the Atlantic had blunt assessments and promised an extensive review of why the Americans were so uncompetitive in an Olympics in which they were expected to take three or four medals.

"This is not the distinction this team was going for," said Dean Brenner, the outgoing chairman of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program. "Listen, there's no hiding. There's no way to spin it. There's no way to suggest anything other than we didn't perform."

U.S. Sailing President Gary Jobson, who spent a week watching the games before returning to Annapolis, Md., was equally blunt, calling the failure to medal "a heck of a wake-up call."

"In essence, we weren't competitive in any class," Jobson told The Associated Press by phone.

"I was a little surprised, and, like all American sailors, disappointed," Jobson said. "The question for me is, what do we do about it? I can't predict how the review will go, but I can tell you it's going to be thorough. This isn't going to stand long-term."

The U.S. has won 59 Olympic sailing medals, the most of any nation, although its 19 gold medals trail Britain's 26.

Among America's sailing gold medalists are Lowell North, who founded North Sails; Buddy Melges, who co-skippered the winning sloop in the 1992 America's Cup; and Mark Reynolds, a San Diego sailmaker and four-time Olympian who won two golds and a silver in the venerable Star class. Another four-time Olympian and three-time medalist, Paul Foerster, capped his Olympic career with a gold in 2004.

Mr. America's Cup himself, Dennis Conner, won a bronze medal in 1976.

Reynolds nephew Graham Biehl raced in the men's 470 in London. Biehl and his partner Stu McNay ranked 14th overall – not enough to compete in the medal race.

Coronado's Molly O'Bryan Vandemoer, who raced with Tunnicliffe, won't reach the podium either. 

Her team was among the favorites in women's match racing but the crew lost to Finland in the quarterfinals on Wednesday and can't finish better than fifth.

"We sailed this whole regatta the best we could and it just wasn't meant to be," Tunnicliffe said.

The Americans fell behind 0-2 when the best-of-five quarterfinals began Tuesday. When they resumed Wednesday, the Americans beat Finland in the third flight to remain alive, but lost the fourth flight by two seconds.

The two crews had trained together.

"It works both ways, right?" Tunnicliffe said when asked if the Finnish crew knew the American tendencies too well. "We know them and they know us. Our ultimate goal was to come in here and go into the finals against each other and duke it out on the track. Unfortunately we met in the quarters instead of the finals. Someone has to go home out of the quarters, and it was us."

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