3 LIers set sail for London Olympics
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Call them Ishmaels. Long Islanders Amanda Clark, Debbie Capozzi and Erik Storck, like Herman Melville's timeless narrator of "Moby Dick," long have been drawn to the sea, with the happy realization of any competitive sailor's quest -- participation in this summer's Olympics.
For the London Games, Clark, 30, will be racing in the two-person 470 class; Capozzi, 31, in the three-person women's match-race six-meter boat; and Storck, 27, in the two-man 49er dinghy. Three sea dogs whose preternatural gifts for traveling on water were evident right away.
When she was 2 weeks old, Clark was loaded into a laundry basket and put on the family's sailboat off their Shelter Island home, and has been jibbing and tacking ever since. By 4, she had taken the tiller for the first time. By 15, she had become the youngest female to qualify for the U.S. national sailing team. This will be her second Olympics after a 12th-place finish at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Capozzi, of Bayport, first sailed at a local yacht club when she was 7 or 8, she said, and her parents gifted her with her own boat -- a Sunfish -- when she was 10. "As a kid," she said, "it's what gave you your freedom, you know? You get your first bike, you feel like you're free, and you can only imagine when you get your first boat." She, too, is a veteran of the Beijing Olympics, where she finished seventh.
For Huntington native Storck, "cruising on the family sailboat" began before his memory kicked in and, by 7, he had begun sailing at the Centerport Yacht Club. At 8, his father built him his first boat. His years of seafaring have included competitions with and against brothers John and Ian and sister Kaity. "I think I was about 11," he said, "when I wrote down what my path was going to be" -- envisioning, without the specifics of time and place, this first Olympic berth. "I still have that piece of paper," he said.
These folks intimately know their crafts and the winds that propel them. "Look for the darker spots in the water," Capozzi said, "and you can know if the wind is coming from the right-hand side or the left-hand side, and if there's ultimately a wind shift."
Each dabbled in other sports -- Clark ran cross-country and track and swam competitively at Shelter Island High School; Capozzi played softball, tennis and basketball at Bayport-Blue Point; Storck, a graduate of St. Anthony's High School, skied. But sailing was their passion, through standout careers in college -- Clark at Connecticut College, Capozzi at Old Dominion, Storck at Dartmouth -- and beyond.
"Sailing," Capozzi said, "yes, you need to be good at it, but you have to surround yourself with the right people and have the right support. It was at Old Dominion that I knew I wanted to take this another step. We had a good team, good people to train against, a good facility, good boats, good coaches."
Former college teammate Anna Tunnicliffe of Plantation, Fla., who won a gold medal in the one-person Laser in Beijing, is in the boat with Capozzi this time. Trevor Moore of Pomfret, Vt., is working as the crew on Storck's Olympic boat because "Trevor and I have been sailing against each other since we were 10 years old," Storck said.
"He went to Hobart, and in 2007, he was college sailor of the year and I was runner-up. So, I said, 'Well, if I can't beat him, I'll get him to join me.' "
Clark is working with a new partner, Sarah Lihan, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., since her 2008 Olympic teammate Sarah Chin retired. But, in terms of the "Olympic experience," Clark said, she again expects it will "meet every possible imagination of what it should look like, all the images and hype."
An obsession worth pursuing.
LONG ISLAND'S OLYMPIC SAILORS
Hometown: Shelter Island
Olympic experience: 12th in 2008
Olympic discipline: Women's 470 (two-person dinghy)
Olympic competition dates: Aug. 3, 4, 5, 7, 8
Olympic experience: 7th in 2008
Olympic discipline: Women's match racing (Elliott 6m boat)
Olympic competition dates: July 29, 30, 31, Aug. 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Olympic experience: First Olympics
Olympic discipline: Men's 49er (two-person dinghy)
Olympic competition dates: July 30, 31, Aug. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8