Connecticut College Magazine · Spring 2012

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Skipper Amanda Clark '05, left, and her crew, Sarah Lihan, will sail for the U.S. in the 2012 London Olympics. Photo by Mick Anderson/US Sailing.

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London Calling

London Calling
Bob Willis '09, who sailed for the Camels, will compete in London in the windsurfer class. Photo by Mick Anderson/US Sailing

by Franz Ritt


Of the 16 Americans sailors who will compete in the 2012 Olympics, two are Connecticut College alumni.

Amanda Clark '05 and Bob Willis '09 were both underdogs during their qualification campaigns for the London Games. As Olympic sailing events allow each country just one entry per class of boat, qualifying means having to beat every other American contender.

Clark finished 12th in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the International 470 class, so-called because the boat is 470 centimeters long. She first qualified for the U.S. Sailing Team at age 15; in 2001 she won the Women's Singlehanded Championship while racing for the College, where she majored in studio art.

She heads to London with a new crew, Sarah Lihan. Since they began racing together last year, their results have steadily improved, besting their closest American competition in the final Olympic qualifier in Perth, Australia, in December. They are sixth in the world 470 rankings.

“This time I actually feel quite good about saying we're in the hunt for the medals,” Clark says. “This is my 11th year of Olympic campaigning and I feel like I've learned more in the last year than I have in all that time combined.”

The rest of the road to the Olympics is just that: the road. Clark and Lihan will be traveling, training and racing until they arrive in Weymouth, England, where sailing events will be held.

“Just under 200 days to the Games,” Clark said in January. “We're going to be on the road 145 of them.”
Willis, who sailed for the College, took a leave of absence as a sophomore to compete for the 2008 Olympics in the RS:X windsurfer class. After missing qualification for Beijing, he completed his economics degree and returned to training, finally beating longtime rival Ben Barger at the 2011 Miami Olympic Class Regatta. He hasn't looked back since.

“That was the first time I had beaten Ben at a big event,” Willis says. “I had faith in myself, but until then he was consistently beating me. It was huge confidence boost.”

Willis arrived at Perth with a significant lead on Barger in the qualification standings and turned in a solid performance to punch his ticket for his first Olympics.

“It felt really good to be at a lower level and work hard enough to see myself progress up the pecking order,” says Willis, who will race almost non-stop until he gets to Weymouth in May, when he'll start training in earnest.

A Program with a Pedigree
Clark and Willis join a family of elite sailing alumni. Adam Werblow '88, who qualified for the U.S. Sailing Team in the Flying Dutchman class, is head coach of one of the most competitive college teams in the country, St. Mary's College of Maryland, a program he's led to 15 national championships and scores of All-Americans.

Meg Gaillard Myles '95 represented the U.S. at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the Europe class, as did Carol Cronin '86, who competed in the Yngling class.

Two Camels share the venerable Johnstone name. Jeff Johnstone '82 is president of J/Boats, one of the top racing sailboat manufacturers in the world. His cousin, Peter Johnstone '88, was an All-American in college and has been a major part of numerous boatbuilding ventures, including Johnstone One Design, Sunfish Laser and Gunboat.


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