Interview with Shelter Island’s sailing Olympian Amanda Clark

Amanda Clark
REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Amanda Clark on the dock at Camp Quinipet on Shelter Island, where she lives with her husband Greg Nissen.

Former Shelter Island Reporter sailing columnist Jonathan Russo interviewed 29-year-old Shelter Islander Amanda Clark soon after she returned home last month from the the ISAF World Sailing Championships in Perth, Australia, where she qualified as an Olympic sailor for the third time; this year she will have been a competitor twice on the U.S. Olympic sailing team (2008 and now 2012) and initially was an alternate (2004).

Jonathan Russo: Amanda, I just want to say that everyone is just thrilled that you have won the competition to represent the United States for the upcoming 2012 Olympics in England this August. Can you tell us the top three things that earned you and your crew Sara Lihan this victory?

Amanda Clark: I think the most important was just not giving up even though this was a year of real challenges: I had to select a new teammate and simultaneously decide whether I wanted to continue because we had to start from scratch with the logistics of the whole campaign. We had to overcome coaching issues. And finally the whole financing effort was just incredibly hard because fund-raising has to take place in the winter and the economy is slow. Second on this list is my sailing partner, Sara Lihan, who is just amazing. Her support and belief in the whole effort and us was key. We really clicked as a team and the trust we developed put us over the top. Third, I would say the experience I gathered over the past three Olympic trials gave me the confidence to say, “I can do this.”

JR: Did the sailing conditions in Australia favor you?
AC: No, I think we did an exceptional job overcoming light air. The light wind was a real challenge because we trained for big breezes and in the end it wasn’t to be. I think we would have finished even higher if there’d been a more normal breeze. Then again, we didn’t have any gear failure or capsizes.

JR: Does the Olympic Committee support for you now become stronger?
AC: Yes, we get priority, but the funding is based on the previous year’s results so we will get some funding but it will be much less than last time. Olympic support is less than 15 percent of our campaign budget that is estimated at $180,000. The rest will come from donations small and large. I am very pleased and honored to say that a lot of East End sailors are supporting our campaign. All donations to Team GO SAIL are tax deductible.

JR: What’s up next? Where are you heading to?
AC: Miami for a month where the North American championship will be sailed over the MLK weekend. Then a week of training, then we compete in the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta, then another week and a half of training. We have two coaching opportunities, first with the men’s 470 coach and then with our women’s coach. Then we’re back up north for an important fundraiser at the New York Yacht Club on February 16. It’s for all the U.S. Olympic sailing teams. Proceeds are equally divided by the 10 classes and 3 Para-Olympic classes.

JR: After that, what is the countdown to England in August?
AC: After the NYYC event, we’re back in Miami, then to the Olympic Training center in Colorado Springs for some serious physical workouts. In mid-March, it’s back on the Island for a little over a week, then off to England to pick up the boats and equipment to take to Palma de Mallorca, Spain for a World Cup event. That runs through early April. Then it is back to Hyeres, France near Toulon to drop off all the gear. We get a brief respite at home before returning to France for two weeks of practice and racing. That brings us to May. I am home again, and then back to Barcelona, Spain for the 470 world championships. These will determine the remaining 5 countries to compete for the women’s 470 classes. From late May on, we’re back and forth from Shelter Island to England, where we train at the Olympic Venue in Weymouth.

JR: What kinds of conditions are expected in Weymouth?
AC: A little bit of everything. There could be cold strong winds with rain or a high could go through and there could be light winds. We’re ready for anything.

JR: Any words of advice for anyone considering an Olympic challenge?
AC: It’s all commitment, self-discipline and really enjoying what you do. Goal setting is also a huge part of it.

JR: Where can we follow your progress and help with the effort?
AC: It’s all at Team GO SAIL 2012. I designed the site myself and I hope it has everything — my blog, photos, videos, schedule, sponsors, budget. Hopefully it will be informative and entertaining.

JR: Thank you Amanda and good luck in England.
AC: I am overwhelmed by the support and congratulations from all the Islanders.


Dec. 17, 2011 Shelter Island sailor does it again: Clark makes it to 2012 Olympics

Aug. 12, 2011 Greatest Athlete No. 6: Sailing life a good one for Shelter Island’s Clark