>Springtime in France – an update from Amanda Clark & Sarah Lihan

>Spring is here and with it the Eurolymp regattas! Team GO SAIL has just completed our journey from Palma de Mallorca, Spain to La Seyne Sur Mer, on the southern coast of France near Toulon, where we will compete in our next event, the 470 Spring Cup, held from April 14-18.

But to back up, we’ve been quite busy since our last update—after completing our training in Miami with the USSTAG 470 Men, we had a blessed few days off before blasting out to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. There we joined some fifty odd USSTAG/USSDT sailors for a four day stint of fitness testing, gym training, and some good old team bonding.

Photo: Dana Paxton, US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics

The beep test, designed to test of one’s VO2 max, a metric of cardiovascular abilities, was significantly harder at 6,000 feet at the foot of Pike’s Peak, but we pushed through with some decent results. All year, though, the most dreaded task among the US Team is the ‘Pool Activity,’ capital P, capital A. Split into teams of mixed age, class, AlphaGraphics and Development Team, we set off to complete a grueling workout consisting of laps, pushups, squats, dips, and situps, all the while trying to retrieve various weights from the bottom of the pool to rack up extra points towards overall pool champion. TGS showed off their swimming background (both Amanda and Sarah were on the varsity swim team in high school) and proved a great asset to their team in the challenge.
From Colorado, TGS took a two day break before jetting off to Barcelona to begin sorting the logistical puzzle that was to define the first weeks of our European trip. After picking up our boat from a faraway warehouse in Barcelona, we loaded it on a trailer to be taken by some USSTAG teammates to Palma, where we would meet it a day later. Various bits and pieces were slated to arrive at the same time, from locations as far flung as Germany, America, England, and Australia, but as is often the case with the best laid plans, things went awry. Many emails and an expensive phone bill later, we only wound up losing one day on the water.

After several days of rigging and optimizing the boat, we launched The Little Red Corvette to much ceremony and champagne with 2008 470 men’s gold medalist Nathan Wilmot giving her the official blessing.


Photo: Romain Bonnaud US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics


Throughout training, we continued to work on boatspeed and handling, but Sarah finally got her first real taste of what international 470 racing feels like, with a few truly great results in practice racing, including a win on the second day!

Racing began with a bang, blowing thirty plus, an exciting start to any regatta, let alone our first event sailing together, never mind Sarah’s first 470 race! Looking out over the bay before launching, Sarah remarked, ‘Man, I’m sure glad I don’t have to hike anymore!!’ Pre-race we damaged the centerboard gaskets on the bottom of the boat, leading to lots and lots of water shooting up the centerboard trunk, unfortunately rooster tail-ing in the boat faster than it could get sucked out the back flaps. Though we had excellent speed and control for the first half of the day, the water won—by the end of racing, we were more sunken than floating… not so good for the scoreline! We did make the regatta highlight reel, though, check it out at http://bit.ly/PST11_Day1Highlights, we’re about two minutes in.

The rest of the event saw a myriad of conditions, ranging from zero knots and drifting to lumpy marginal trapezing to a sometimes steady, sometimes not so steady seabreeze. As a new team, we really couldn’t have asked for better practice, and seeing all conditions provides us with a clear picture of what our strengths and weaknesses truly are.

Straight line speed both up and downwind remain one of our strongest assets thus far. One of the most seamless transitions has been on the communication front—even though Sarah’s used to only talking to herself, she’s growing used to verbalizing the race course and team decisions are becoming quite strong. We are still working hard on transitions, which leads to better overall racing speed, and with help from our USSTAG coach Zack Leonard, we are confident that we are on the right track. We took a lot of time between races to work on our “homework” gathering information about the race course, and also to work on boat handling. This game is all about balancing repetition with spontaneity, since we are a new team together, it is important that we take advantage of time spent on the water even on race days.

We finished the event in 19th, a number that we feel reflects only the beginning of our potential together. Looking forward, we begin our next training session at the 470 Spring Cup Regatta in just a few days in La Seyne Sur Mer. We’ll be working big picture on gaining more international racing experience, but smaller focuses will be on starting, smoothing boathandling, continuing to improve communication, as well as capitalizing on the things that we feel are already quite strong.

Follow Spring Cup results live at http://www.sailracer.org/events/entries-v2a.asp?eventid=65280, or check us out of Facebook for daily updates at http://www.facebook.com/TeamGOSAIL.

Thank you for your support!

Amanda Clark & Sarah Lihan
Amanda and Sarah are campaigning for an Olympic berth in the Women’s 470

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