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Q&A: Shelter Island Native and Crew Are Sailing for Olympic Gold

Olympic qualifiers Amanda Clark and new-found sailing partner Sarah Lihan got to mingle with a local network of supporters at a weekend fundraiser in Greenport before heading off to Spain for a World Cup event.

Since January, after qualifying for the London Olympics at the World Sailing Championships in Perth, Australia, Shelter Island native Amanda Clark has been laser focused on training with her new partner, crewmate Sarah Lihan, going for the ultimate gold in August in the women’s 470 sailing class.

But Clark and Lihan got a short break from the intense training on the water at in Greenport for a successful fundraiser this past Saturday, where $38,000 was raised for the dynamic U.S. duo.

Growing up on Shelter Island amongst baymen, Clark, who will turn 30 on March 26, has spent much of her life on the water. She said she’d always dreamed of competing in the Olympics as a kid and saw the dream become a feasible reality as a teen in sail competitions. Her husband, Greg Nissen — the director of Shelter Island's — has been supportive of Amanda since the two met in 1996. Clark recruited 23-year-old Ft. Lauderdale native Lihan early last year, and the “mismatched” pair instantly took the sailing world by storm.

North Fork Patch got to chat with Clark and Lihan at the fundraiser before they headed to Palma de Mallorca, Spain to train for a World Cup event.

Patch: Amanda, you qualified for the Olympics in 2008 — is the energy and attitude surrounding your sport any different in 2012 than it was four years ago?

Clark: It’s better all around for sure — this is going to be a very exciting second Olympics. The whole U.S. team has a very positive focus and higher level of physical fitness. As I team, I think we’ll really move forward.

Lihan: Sailing is way more of a professional sport this year.

Patch: How so?

Lihan: As a competitor, you have to be more focused on the sport now — you just don’t have time for other social activities. You go to camp for six months just to get going. I don’t have a job or a significant other, so I’m lucky.

Patch: How did you find each other?

Clark: After nine years, my partner, Sarah Chin, decided to move on — so I had to find another Sarah (laughs). No, I was her coach way back when, and it’s just really hard to miss a 6-foot-one blonde walking around the boatyard …

Lihan: It’s the best thing that we are so mismatched in height — that’s what you want for on a boat like this.

Patch: With all the non-stop training, competing and traveling you two are in the midst of right now, what do you do to keep focused and somewhat sane?

Lihan: Well, I’m younger and I’m not married, so for me all this is really exciting. I’ve grown up half my life traveling. I have friends all over the world and it’s great to be able to see them. Though, when you’re on that plane two days before Christmas, you really do want to just be home.

Clark: It’s gotten to a point where I know I’m going to be meeting up with people I’ve known for years — and I’ve learned to travel very efficiently.

Patch: How does your husband handle this?

Clark: I wish he could travel with me more often, but we’ve known each other since 1996, and he understands the level of commitment this takes.

Patch: How confident are you that you will win the gold?

Clark: Oh, we will be bringing home the medal. Bringing Sarah and I together is the best thing for this country and ourselves. When you put two skippers in a boat, you learn no matter what, and every day is always better than the day before — we never stay in one spot.

And I have to say that our coach, Udi Gal from Israel, has been a huge influence, but he is only the tip of the iceberg of support we’ve had in place not only on the road but right here with this great network at home.

To purchase a picture of Saturday's fundraiser, go to www.braunephotography.com, or mail a tax deductible support check to:

Team Go Sail

Box 373

Shelter Island, NY 11964

Erin Schultz March 20, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Joan DiPaola said on Facebook: "Go get 'em!!!"
Warren Webster March 20, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Good luck, Amanda and Sarah! We'll be rooting for you...

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