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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Clark and Lihan Olympic Update Spring 2012



OK race fans, we’re in for a big one. Team GO SAIL has been wicked busy the last few months what with this whole preparing for the Olympics gig we got going on, and we have totally dropped the ball on our blog. Oops. But, we are making up for it with one really really awesome email update, right here, right now! It’s Sunday- grab a coffee and enjoy the ride.

Your 2012 US Olympic Sailing Team and staff.
 Photo: Sebastian Slayter/US Sailing Team
We must begin with the hugest of thank you’s to everyone that has joined us at the numerous fundraisers that we’ve held over the past few months. After securing our Olympic bid, we kicked off our fundraising at the New York Yacht Club/ Sailing Foundation of New York Golden Spinnaker Gala in January. This event was quite special because it was the first time the whole 2012 Olympic sailing team had been in one place following the conclusion of our trials in Perth.  We are so grateful to Vineyard Vines for sponsoring the event and providing the beautiful custom scarves and ties that really showcased the individual athletes as a team. However, hands down, we had the biggest cheering section of any of the individual teams, so a particularly big thank you to the Shelter Island Yacht Club for showing us so much love!

During our February training block in Miami,  TGS was the guest of honor at the Lauderdale Yacht Club Olympian Reception. Sarah is particularly proud to be the first member of the club and product of its junior program to be going to the Olympics. Looking out over the sea of smiling faces of the Lauderdale family and feeling the tangible current of pride running throughout…. wow. Talk about inspiring. Thank you.

March saw us visiting Hanff’s Boatyard in Greenport, NY, where we had arguably one of the best St. Patty’s Days ever.  The event was supported by Costello Marine Contracting, Wooden Boatworks, Sail Greenport, Peter Braune Photography, Greenport Harbor Brewery, Macari Vineyard, Pindar Vineyard, Clovis Point Winery, Old Field Vineyard, Peconic Bay Winery, Surprise Sailing Charters, Cindy Roe-Artist, Landmark Foods and an incredible number of local individuals. We auctioned off a number of wonderful sailing adventure opportunities as well as some sweet memorabilia from our own campaign. It was so inspiring to not only feel the support from the community, but also to hold the event in such a bastion of marine history.

We returned twice more in April and May to New York City, first for an event hosted at the Gramercy Park home of the Maheras family where Team GO SAIL spread our Olympic message to a wider audience of wooden boat enthusiasts. From a wonderful display of black and white photographs of both Amanda’s and Sarah’s paths to the Olympic Games, to the Beetle Cat sugar cookie thank you’s, every detail of the evening was absolutely perfect.

Our final visit to the city before departing to Europe was to the Top Hops Beer Shop in Manhattan, where Shelter Island Yacht Club rallied yet again in their support of TGS. Supporters enjoyed sampling beers from around the world, telling stories of sailing from around the world as well as sharing the continuing successes of our campaign.

Finally, Team GO SAIL would like to thank AlphaGraphics.  AphaGraphics is no longer the US Sailing Team's title sponsor but they deserve a heart felt thank you for all of the support they provided the team these past four years.  Thank you for believing in the US Sailing Team and helping to lead the way for the Team's new title sponsor: Sperry Top-Sider.  Sperry Top-Sider has already been working with the US Sailing Team and now, by becoming the title sponsor, they have truly established their commitment to sailing and the sea. 

A picture-perfect day off.

Photo Credit: Mariah Robinson
Ok, still with us? Awesome—now we’ll get back to the sailing! After two solid months of great training out of Miami Yacht Club in January and February, TGS packed up the boat and flew directly to the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center to spend two weeks pumping iron with the nation’s best. The majority of the US Olympic Sailing team was there for some portion of this block, but we were living, dining and lifting with a host of athletes competing in other sports. In between our two-a-day lifts, we hung out with cross-country runners, judoists, fencers, modern pentathletes, swimmers (we shared the weight room with Michael Phelps!), cyclists, and even a shooter. It was really cool to see how much we all had in common even though we are all competing in such different events. One day we took advantage of a day off to go check out some of the local scenery, hiking around some impressive rock formations appropriately called Garden of the Gods.

Still not dirty enough!
 Photo credit: WR/US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider
For the last four days of our time in Colorado, the whole US Olympic Sailing Team, the US Youth World Team and the US Development Team came together for our biannual fitness camp. At these camps, our fitness is tested, we have a variety of meetings going over everything from nutrition to logistics to sports psychology, and we usually have a few team bonding activities scheduled. This time, though, we were pushed far beyond our expectations when a pair of Navy Seals came to the Olympic Training Center for an unforgettable two days of training. Their time with us began harmlessly enough, with a presentation detailing what their lives are like, and what it means to really, really want something. Little did we know how vividly we would come to understand the struggles they have overcome. We spent the afternoon running around and lining up with precision, jumping in and out of a 40 degree lake, rolling around in the dust and mud, learning the commands for ‘chest-carry log’ and ‘shoulder-carry log’ and that you never ever drop to your knees after doing your pushups. It was a very, very clear demonstration of what it means to think you know your physical limits, and how those limits can be overcome with a healthy dose of mental toughness.

We had a few days off after Colorado, but then it was straight to Europe, where we began the process of assembling all our pieces (car, towbar, coachboat, sailboat, boxes of gear and sails, etc) to prepare for our first European World Cup of the 2012 season, the Princess Sofia Trophy held in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Big props to Amanda and our coach Udi Gal who drove all over England picking up bits and bobs before making the long trek through France and Spain to deliver everything to Palma, a small island in the Mediterranean a six hour ferry ride from Barcelona. Our car/GPS, affectionately nicknamed Chanel (last year’s was called Coco) tried to lead us astray a few times, but major disaster was averted and all arrived safe and sound.

Once we had the 470 put back together and the coachboat tricked out (Udi has developed an awesome new system for a quick pick up tow!) we set out our goals for the two weeks of training and racing ahead. We made some small targets such as reducing prep time to better sneak in gybes and altering how Sarah holds the spin sheets downwind, but our major goals were to solidify our starting pattern and to be competitive with our speed up and downwind in the light and choppy conditions. Ultimately, we achieved these process goals, but failed in our results goal of posting a top ten finish on the scoreboard.
Classic Palma. Photo Credit: Udi Gal

The regatta was plagued by light and lumpy conditions, but for the first time since we began sailing together, our speed was good enough to be in and stay in the front pack in these conditions. This time, however, our failure came in racing strategy and managing the much bigger fleet (53 boats vs the 20 that we will have at the Games). We suffered a few unfortunate bits of luck that didn’t help our overall scores, such as boats egregiously fouling at the windward mark and a race officer that seemed quite keen to see all 150 470s racing on the same upwind leg, but ultimately, these are things that happen. We have examined our mistakes and are confident that we have learned how not to make them again. Our consolation at a bad finishing position is that we now know that we have the tools to win, even in our disadvantaged condition. It’s just a matter of pulling everything together at the right time.

TGS went home for a week’s rest in between events before returning to Europe for the next stop on the World Cup tour, the Semaine Olympique Fran├žaise held in Hyeres, France, just east of Toulon on the southern coast. Hyeres has a reputation as one of the coldest, nastiest venues on the circuit, but for the last five years, the mistral—a chilling breeze that blows down off the mountains, generally in the 30-40 knot range—has been noticeably absent. But just as the sailors and coaches had begun to believe that Hyeres had lost its bite, 2012 rolls around. This year, we were in France for 14 days. We only experienced one day under 20 knots—epic! As TGS is one of the physically strongest, best-optimized teams on the course, we were psyched to get a whole event in our advantaged condition.

Team GO SAIL at the awards ceremony in Hyeres.

Photo: Will Ricketson/US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider
We were fortunate to have several days of BIG breeze to train before the event, and we used these days to really nail our confidence in our straight-line speed, but more importantly, in the transitions and maneuvers downwind. Yet again, our coach Udi proved how valuable his many years of 470 experience are, and by the time the regatta started, we were prepped and ready to come out of the gates fighting. Throughout the week, we proved that we are one of the fastest (if not the fastest!) women’s teams in the world. We secured the silver medal in the last few lengths of the medal race, and have left the event with a huge confidence boost in the last few events before the Olympics in August.

Finally, we are pleased to announce our newest corporate sponsor, ALMACO. We will be carrying their logos on our sails through the Games, and we invite you to check out their website at

Again, though we have already come so far, we can’t keep moving forward without your support. It is only with your help that we are able to train and work to bring home the medal at the end of this road. If you can, please consider a tax-deductible donation to the Team Go Sail Foundation. We have set up an easy PayPal check out at our website,

Train Hard and Dream Big,

Amanda and Sarah

 P.S.  A special shout out to our mothers today! Dana and Ellen to powerful women who inspire us every day!! Thank you we love you!!!!


Click Here to make a donation to Team GO SAIL. We use PayPal.

Team GO SAIL would like to thank the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider and all of the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider sponsors: Title Sponsor Sperry Top-Sider, Gold level partners Rolex Watch USA and Atlantis WeatherGear, Silver partners LaserPerformance, Harken, Team McLube and Trinity Yachts, and Bronze partners New England Ropes, Group Experiential Learning, and Bow Down Training.

Team GO SAIL is also supported by ALMACO The Shelter Island Yacht Club, The New York Yacht Club, The Lauderdale Yacht Club, The Sailing Foundation of New York and the Southport Sailing Foundation's Clever Pig Sailing Team.

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