“We did it!” was the triumphant message from Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark on Facebook early Saturday morning Eastern Standard Time after she and her crew Sarah Lihan won a berth on the 2012 US Olympic sailing team in Perth, Australia on Saturday.
It will be the second Olympic medal quest for Clark, 29, who started sailing lessons at age 5 at the Shelter Island Yacht Club. She competed in Beijing in 2008 and has been ranked on the U.S. sailing team since 1998. She has represented the nation in 16 world championship events.
Clark-Lihan finished a week of sailing in 12th place in the women’s 470 category among 48 international competitors at the ISAF Sailing World Championships, a close three places ahead of her American competition for the Olympic team, Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving Farrar.
After a day off on Friday, Clark-Lihan beat Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar in both races Saturday, finishing 7th to Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar’s 16th in race nine of the week-long competition and 14th in race 10 to Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar’s 17th.
Going in to Saturday’s final two races of the regatta, the teams were in a literal dead heat. Having placed 8th to Clark-Lihan’s 11th in June’s first round of the Olympic trials in Weymouth, England, Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrrar were ranked number-one in the world and had a three-point lead when competition began for the 470-class on Monday.
It was a seesaw battle through the week, with Clark-Lihan doing well on Monday and Tuesday, including a third-place finish, but stumbling on Wednesday, losing two races — one with a 33rd-place finish — on Wednesday. That put them in 16th place, two spots behind Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar.
But they resumed their winning ways on Thursday, finishing 13th and 5th in races seven and eight to Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar’s 16th and 20th. That dropped Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar from 14th to 16th place in the standings on Wednesday.
“We executed our day as planned,” Ms. Clark commented on her Team GOSAIL Facebook page on Thursday, “and now have a small lead in the standings going into the last two scheduled races. Looking forward to an exciting day of racing tomorrow!”
Ms. Clark’s husband Greg Nissen, director of Shelter Island’s Camp Quinipet where he and Ms. Clark live, sent an email to supporters and donors Saturday morning announcing her success:
“I want to drop a quick note to let you know my wife, my amazing wife, Amanda Clark is headed to the Summer 2012 London Olympic Games to represent the USA in the Women’s 470 Sailboat Class — for a second time!” he wrote.
“We thought one Olympics was awesome in 2008, twice is just out of this world! Thanks to all of you who have been checking in, following along at teamgosail.org, praying, cheering etc. etc. for her. A huge shout out goes to her crew Sarah Lihan and a shout out to Sarah Chin for all her work and training as the team developed to the 2008 Games.[Ms. Chin, Ms. Clark’s former crew, dropped out last year; since then Ms. Clark and Ms. Lihan have had to play catch up as a team with Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar.]
“It is only Amanda and her single crew member on the boat — it goes without saying how critical a great crew is to have. Also, all those who have supported her ‘habit’ by contributing financially — Thank you! You have made it possible for a girl with a dream and drive to live it and win it for us all. She will be home for Christmas and then on to Miami for training in January. Check out www.teamgosail.org for more info, links to Facebook etc. etc. to follow along to the games!”
The winner of the US Olympic spot in the women’s 470 category was the team with the lowest combined overall placement in Perth and the previous Olympic trials in Weymouth, where the 2012 Olympic races will be sailed. Clark-Lihan finished in 11th place there, three places behind Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar.
The women’s 470 regatta in Perth was won by a Spanish boat followed by teams from Israel, Great Britain, New Zealand and Japan.
Clark-Lihan in 12th place were the top finishers of three American 470 teams, with Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar close behind at 15th and Cara Vavolotis and Lara Dallman Weiss in last place of the 48 boats.