They have “medals on their mind,” according to their blog. That is Team Go Sail, the East End’s own, Amanda Clark-Nissen of Shelter Island and her partner in the World Sailing Championships, Sarah Lihan. They won the Olympic Trials and they are heading to London this summer, to bring home the gold. This is Team Go Sail’s fourth Olympics. They sailed for gold in June in England and then in Perth, Australia in the World Championships. In the first event they tied the system and won the tie breaker. Team Go Sail went to France on April 13 and racing starts there on April 22.
The recent World Cup events in Spain and France, Clark-Nissen tells me, “are practice, they have no bearing on the Olympics. We already won the Trials and made the United States Sailing Team.” There are 16 members of the U.S. team and 10 events in sailing.
Clark-Nissen, 29, grew up on Shelter Island where she says “I’ve pretty much been sailing all my life.” She is the youngest of three children, she has a brother and sister and at the tender age of five, “followed my family onto the boats.” Her first boat was an Optimist dinghy, until she was 15, and then she sailed in national and international regattas. Experiences she remembers as shared opportunities to meet many people. Learning to sail and grow, if you will, go hand in hand.
Lihan, 23, her Team Go Sail partner, hails from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Clark-Nissen knew her as another competitor. “She is extremely skilled as a sailor and tactician,” Clark-Nissen says of Lihan. To be as good as they are on the water, takes “time and commitment and Team Go Sail has that foundation.”
The community has been and continues to be nothing but supportive of these, hopefully, soon-to-be Summer Olympic champions. On St. Patrick’s Day, there was a fundraiser for Team Go Sail at Hanff’s Boatyard in Greenport. The Shelter Island Yacht Club along with Clark-Nissen’s parents have been behind Team Go Sail from the get-go. “The Community has reached out in wonderful and generous ways,” Clark-Nissen says. The 33rd Anniversary 10K on Shelter Island on June 16, is dedicated to Team Go Sail. Speaking of supportive, Clark-Nissen’s husband, Greg Nissen, who runs Camp Quinipet on Shelter Island, “has seen me through all of this,” Clark-Nissen says, “we both knew full well what we were getting into. My day is longer than an average nine to five job. I don’t have a lot of down time.” Nissen will join his sailing wife in France, where it is French Olympic Sailing Week.
Clark-Nissen is very introspective and wise for her years. “Emotion changes from day to day. Some days it is business as usual. We are working so hard. Then I slow down and think how amazing it is,” she told me. She loves to work with kids and share her sailing experiences. “Kids love to watch the sailing videos.” She asks the young kids how many can drive a car. No hands raised. When she asks “How many of you sail?” All hands go up. There is a message, Clark-Nissen is saying. “You learn about life from sailing. You learn to budget, you learn responsibility and you learn how to travel. Most of all you learn that if you work hard (at what you love), you can have such satisfaction in your life. Sailing is special. It brings a whole new range of skills, like spatial awareness, how the breeze changes, navigating the boat, the physics of sailing. Seeing the world from a different perspective.”
Clark-Nissen is a child of local waters. Her grandfather and father taught her to respect the bays and how to relish the sea’s bounty. She is a clammer as well as a sailor. ‘I taught Sarah (Lihan) how to clam with her feet this past summer.” Team Go Sail has “a good chance of winning,” she says. “As a team we have incredible potential. Every day we are making progress. Other teams can’t say that.” Team Go Sail is ranked sixth in the world. These women are a force to be reckoned with!
Emotions can run high. Clark-Nissen tells me that, “Once we’re on the water, it is peaceful.” More than she expected. “I am ready to race on that level.” And we are ready to cheer Team Go Sail all the way to Olympic gold. “The beauty of sailing is I can do it for the rest of my life. Sailing is a sport of experience.”
The countdown has begun on Team Go Sail’s website. 103 days, 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 51 seconds, as of a little while ago. August 2-10, on Weymouth, England’s waters, three hours from London. Nissen-Clark and Lihan, sailing their dream.
Check out their website and support this tenacious duo. www.teamgosail.org