Shelter Island Olympic sailor finishes second in France World Cup regatta

COURTESY PHOTO | Sarah Lihan and Amanda Clark in a photo from their Team Go Sail Facebook page.

Shelter Island Olympian Amanda Clark and her crew, Sarah Lihan, placed second in the women’s 470 class at the International Sailing Federation’s world cup event in Hyeres, France this week, well behind the Netherlands team of Lisa Westerhof and her crew, Lobke Berkhout.

Most of the teams Ms. Clark and Ms. Lihan will face in the Olympics this summer were at the French event this week, according to race organizers.
Not only did the US team place second in the regatta this week, but Ms. Clark and Ms. Lihan were second in the medal race that included only the top 10 competitors from among the original 48-boat field.

US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Sperry Top-Sider athletes have been in good standing throughout the competition in Hyeres. American sailors held top-10 positions in the Women’s 470, Laser, Finn, Sonar, 2.4mR and Star classes.

Although the Clark-Lihan Team Go Sail hasn’t commented publicly on their finish in the overall competition, earlier this week they attributed the success they were having to the windy Mistral conditions, which they have trained for but haven’t had during the past year of competition, according to Ms. Lihan. The Mistral winds in Hyeres have been strong, shifty and gusty.

The American athletes got some good news Tuesday, learning that Sperry Top-Sider had stepped in as a sponsor, replacing Alpha Graphics, which is under new management and is stepping back from its long-term sponsorship of the U.S. sailing team. Sperry Top-Sider will be bringing 40 to 50 percent more money to the table, according to Dean Brenner, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Committee.

Mr. Brenner didn’t release specific figures on the contract but said in a Tuesday afternoon teleconference that there would be a significant increase in resources, including coaching, available to the U.S. Olympic sailors. Much of the benefit won’t be realized in 2013, until after this summer’s Olympics, he said.
But having the new sponsorship in place has “allowed our athletes to continue to focus on sailing,” Mr. Brenner said. He predicted that U.S. sailing teams would be very competitive in at least six classes, including the women’s 470.

After this week’s races in France, Ms. Clark and Ms. Lihan have two more international competitions before the summer Olympics. They’re due to compete in the Barcelona 470 World Championships beginning May 13 and the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth, England starting on June 4.

The pair plans to be in London for the Olympics opening ceremonies on July 27, before heading to coastal Weymouth for their Olympic competition, Ms. Clark said. When she competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, she didn’t get to participate in opening ceremonies and said it’s something she doesn’t want to miss as she has said this will be her final Olympic competition.

She told students during a talk she gave at the Shelter Island School this winter that her goal was to come home with a medal.