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On the Olympic Campaign Trail with Amanda Clark, Women's 470

(February 22, 2011) -- Olympian Amanda Clark recently announced that her long-time Women’s 470 partner and good friend Sarah Chin had retired from Olympic competition. Joining Amanda in the Women’s 470 will be Sarah Lihan, who had a strong campaign in the Olympic Laser Radial class. From a US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics training camp in Miami, Fla., Amanda shared details on the new campaign and the team’s plans.
USSTAG: Over the past ten years, you and Sarah Chin achieved a great amount of success at the highest level of sailing, including representing the USA at the 2008 Olympic Games in Qingdao, China. What will you remember most about that time together? Amanda Clark and Sarah Mergenthaler Win Trial by Rick Roberts

Amanda Clark: It is still hard to believe that I am continuing on without Sarah Chin. She was such an important part of the campaign and team. The Olympics and sharing the dream of competing and striving for a medal with Sarah is something I will remember always. All of the training leading up to the games, the road trips in Europe, the adventures in Chinese Customs and Immigration, and so many other stories. It was an honor to represent the USA with Sarah as my teammate.

USSTAG: Olympic sailing requires an incredible amount of commitment. Tell us about the time you put into training, both on land and in the boat.

Amanda Clark: It does for sure! This year Sarah Chin and I already had a packed schedule for on-the-water and traveling, but we were careful to add in some time off, using our experience to ward off burnout. Now the plan has changed a little, still conscious of burnout, Sarah Lihan and I have set out a heavily front-loaded schedule to get us up to speed before our first regatta together in the beginning of April (Princess Sofia Regatta, Palma, Spain).

We will remain in Europe for a month afterward to pick up an extra regatta (470 Spring Cup, France), then we will compete at the end of the month in the French Olympic Sailing Week in Hyeres, France. In the first half of May we will sail stateside with a U.S.-based training camp and then head over to Weymouth, England to practice out of the Olympic venue in preparation for Sail for Gold. 

It is also important to thank our supporters at this time and the US Sailing Team AphaGraphics. None of this training would be possible if  we did not receive incredible support for our campaign.

USSTAG: Speaking of training, you and your new partner Sarah Lihan are in Miami for a US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG) 470 training camp this week. What is the adjustment process for you two and how do you approach it?

Amanda Clark: So far we are coming together as a team extremely fast. I am encouraged by how fast Sarah is learning the 470! Every day we set out boat handling goals for ourselves, but keep the bigger picture of racing and fleet observation as a priority. We also spend a few moments watching other teams that are going fast upwind and downwind to help give us a couple options with technique. Since the USSTAG has been working together to train, it has formed an all-around stronger team, something that we are currently benefitting from right now, for sure.

USSTAG: Let’s talk about Sarah Lihan and how you see yourselves complimenting each other in the 470. Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan

Amanda Clark: It is always good to put two skippers in the boat together. We are alike in more ways then I realized. When I first started sailing with Sarah Lihan, I knew right away that our styles of sailing were very similar. From the first day we sailed together I felt as though we were ready to race. It is also fun to watch as Sarah learns the 470...especially sailing downwind! I've caught Sarah with a massive grin on her face more than once as we catch a big wave to surf. Sarah asks excellent questions and already she is making her role active and engaging.

USSTAG: In addition to a new partner, you have a new coach, Zack Leonard, Yale University’s head sailing coach who just joined US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. Have you worked with him before?

Amanda Clark: I have not actually work with Zack before but Sarah Lihan has. Zack was Sarah's college coach at Yale so it will be an added benefit that they have a positive working relationship that I can fit into. Sarah credits so much of her sailing success and experience to working with Zack.

USSTAG: What’s next for you and Sarah and what goals have you set?

Amanda Clark: Well, we have another month of practice and physical training before we head to Europe on the 23rd of March. We have yet to have a practice in over 25 knots, so that is on the list.  Otherwise, I’m focused on helping Sarah to feel confident in moving around the boat, and moving forward with our new style of sailing the boat. We have a lot to learn together in a short amount of time, but there is also something motivating about having just a little more pressure again!