Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan qualify for London 2012

Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan - ISAF Sailing World Championships Perth 2011
American 470 dinghy sailors Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan achieved victory in their class at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Perth, Australia and are now sharing their experience and the excitement of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Dear Supporters,

Today we write from the time zone warp of Sydney International Airport where we will split off to return to our respective homes after completing the World Championships in Perth, Western Australia. This event served as the final competition in our Olympic selections, and as most of you know by now, we won! Before we get into the details of the event, we first want to thank everyone who supported us—we are nothing without the people behind us. To all of you who wrote, called, crossed your fingers, prayed, stayed up all night watching malfunctioning GPS trackers and broke your diets with late night snacking and over-caffeination, here’s to you. Your love and pride is tangible, even from the other side of the world.

We went into the Worlds with one goal in mind: to win the Trials. To achieve this, we had to reverse the points that we had given to our American competition, Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving-Farrar, at the first half of the Trials, which was the Sail for Gold regatta in Weymouth last June. There, they placed eighth and we finished 11th, thus here in Australia we needed to put two boats or more between us in order to seal our Olympic bid (with the Australian event being the tie breaker). Though they had beaten us at the first half of the Trials, we had finished ahead of them at every regatta since, leaving us confident that though it would be a close race, we were more than capable of reaching our goal.

Leading up to the Worlds, the talk was all about the legendary Fremantle Doctor, allegedly pumping in every day at 25-30 knots. Throughout the fall, we sought out the windiest training locations we could find in order to best prepare for what was meant to be a blowing-dogs-off-chains-windy Worlds. We prepared physically and mentally for anything, but optimized for big breeze. Of course, as a result of all this prep work, ‘it’s never like this!’ syndrome was in full effect throughout the two weeks of racing in Perth.

The most we raced in was 15-18 knots, but most races were around ten knots. As is always the case though, the day we left, the Doctor finally returned from his holiday, taking over for the Fremantle Dental Hygienist/Nurse/X-Ray Technician that we had experienced during the event. (Yes, the jokes did get old after a while.)

Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan - ISAF Sailing World Championships Perth 2011

Despite the unexpected conditions, we raced a solid series. We’ve certainly seen where our weaknesses lie, and have a good grasp of what we need work on looking forward, but we are most proud of our response to competition under stress. Though we built a significant lead over the first two days, a disastrous 33-27 scorecard on day three left us deep in the hole with only four races left to regain our advantage. Here we owe massive credit to our coach, Zachary Leonard, for screwing our heads back on when we were in danger of losing it all.

We came back after the layday with all guns blazing and didn’t lose another race to Erin and Isabelle. Even though we built back a 27 point lead in those final four races, the nature of the event left a lot of the overall positions up to the actions of other boats. The final race of the series, it actually didn’t matter so much that we beat them across the line as it did that we catch one of the other boats ahead of us.

Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan
They engaged us at the start but we were free and able to sail forward about halfway up the first beat. We continued to gain places throughout the race, but much of our fate was in the hands of other boats. Only in the last 700 meters of the race did we cross ahead of the French boat that was directly ahead of us in the standings, and thus secure our 12th place overall. Erin and Isabelle remained in 15th place, with the French and Japanese teams between us.

It’s only been 48 hours since we sealed the deal, and the time has been a whirlwind of container loading and interviews and packing ourselves up to head back to America. It’s a dream come true for Amanda, who can now marvel over the title of ‘two-time Olympian’ and for Sarah, who has qualified to compete in her first Games only nine months after she first stepped in a 470. We owe so much to our event coach Zack Leonard as well as Udi Gal and US Sailing Team Alphagraphics 470 Men’s coach Romain Bounnaud for all their help over the last few months’ training. We wouldn’t be where we are now without the backing of the US Sailing Team Alphagraphics and its supporting sponsors.

Together we form a powerful combination, but we are nothing without the incredible network of supporters that we have from the Shelter Island Yacht Club, the New York Yacht Club, The Sailing Foundation of New York, The Clever Pig Sailing Team and many more. It will be your enthusiasm and belief that will bring us to the podium next August—we are nothing without you.

Though we’ve already jumped a huge hurdle in winning the trials, we will need all the help we can get to see this mission through to the end. If you are interested in making a donation, please visit our website for a simple PayPal check out, or if you prefer to mail a check to the Team GO SAIL Foundation, please send it to Amanda Clark, P. O. Box 373 Shelter Island, NY 11964.

Medals on our mind,

Amanda and Sarah