Amanda Clark
Mick Anderson/sailingpix.dk photo courtesy US Sailing

THE COACH
For Amanda Clark, (29), skipper of the U.S. Women's 470 team for the 2012 Olympics, geography and profession played important roles in her evolution. Growing up on Shelter Island, New York meant access to great conditions and fantastic support, but it also spelled limited competition. Clark started traveling to regattas at age 9, and, at age 15, she made national-level headlines when she became the youngest female member of the US Sailing Team, for whom she has raced since 1998.

In 2001, Clark transitioned from the Europe Dinghy to the two-person International 470, and in 2008 she placed twelfth in the Olympics. When you consider her involvement coaching—a profession that allows her to constantly observe racing—a big-picture image of a deeply committed and highly analytical sailor emerges.

"I've personally seen Amanda run two campaigns, with the common denominator being her great organizational skills and her extremely logical outlook"—Dean Brenner, Chairman of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program".

Amanda Clark

By David Schmidt/Alembic Media, LLC
6/19/2012

Amanda Clark
Amory Ross/USSTAG photo

Editors Note: Congratulations to the 470 duo of Amanda Clark and crew Sarah Lihan on their selection to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Olympic Games.

I caught up with Clark on Shelter Island to find out more abouther Olympic trajectory.

How did you get into sailing? Does your family sail?
My family joined the Shelter Island Yacht Club in 1980, and myparents had a wooden Herreshoff 12 ½ that was built in 1929. That's what I learned to sail on. I remember dragging my hand in the water—that's what really interested me—but I also liked steering.

My father and my grandfather were really influential in my knowledge of the water, and my knowledge of reading the wind, current and eddies. I use this knowledge everywhere I sail, and I use it to help other sailors when I'm coaching. 

Tell me about your work coaching.
I primarily worked for the Long Island Sound Optimist Team (LISOT) and the US Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA) and national and international teams. I've also done a ton of clinics on my own for people of a variety of ages. I love coaching adults—it's amazing to watch someone who's older have a wow-that-works moment!

What are your thoughts on the U.S. Olympic program?
I think we're on the right track, changing the trials format to an international series, and working to bring the U.S. team together has made for some great training. Hopefully we'll see the results at the Games. One thing that's for sure, all eyes are on US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. 

What's your opinion of the 470 and its future?
I love it. The 470 has challenged me for years, and I've truly become a versatile sailor. As for my capacity for doing boatwork, well, lets just say I no longer fear drilling holes in my boat! I'm glad that the 470 will remain in the Olympics; we're one of the only classes that can race in all conditions. This makes racing possible when other sailors are sitting on the beach.

The class turns 50 next year—how does this history impact your experience?
The 470's history is excellent because there are so many dinghies out there, but when you tell someone that you sail a 470, their eyes light up· · · many times they're remembering the good times they had when they raced in the class. 

How long have you been sailing with Sarah Lihan?
Just since February of 2011. Before that, she sailed Laser Radials.

That's not long—was your coaching instrumental? 
For sure. If it was Amanda Clark in 2001 training Sarah Lihan, it wouldn't have worked! 2001 marked my transition from singlehanded sailing; since then, I've learned a ton about how to compete on a team, instead of as an individual. On a 470, the crew is a huge part of the game and I respect that now more than ever!

What were your walk-away impressions from Perth?
 
We accomplished a major goal at Perth. Earlier this year, we could feel our potential as a team, but we had to be realistic. Fortunately, Sarah has adapted to crewing incredibly well, and she's making gains on teams who have years of experience. Now, we're ready to show the world that we can medal.

What will you focus on between now and August? 
We're going to work on building our boat-handling technique and Sarah's confidence as tactician upwind, and we're going to revisit my starts. We're developing Sarah's ability to call tactics upwind from the wire. This frees me to focus on boat speed and trim. It's exciting—we're going faster than ever and we're getting the lanes we want.

How about your post 2012 plans? 

As much as I love Olympic sailing, I want to spend more time with my husband. It's going to be a hard break—I've been on the US Sailing Team for half of my life! So now is my second chance to go to the Games, to really put the effort into winning a medal and to completing this chapter. I'm going to give 2012 all I've got. 

How are your favorite Harken/McLube products? Any go-fast goodies that you'd recommend? HARKEN: We've been upgrading our systems to include more of the new T2 blocks. I really like theway these attach to the boat via a spliced loop, rather than a shackle. Our other go-to blocks are the Small Boat 16 mm series.

McLUBE- We use SailKote as a dry lubricant to help our centerboard pivot freely in its case. The coverage lasts a long time and doesn't hold dirt or grim that could scratch our foil. Also, HullKote works really well!

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