By Aston Smith
After making the US National Team this year I got an invitation to sail in my first international opti regatta; the British Nationals in Pwllheli, Wales. Having never sailed that far north I was a little worried that I might need a dry-suit, so dad sent an email to Emma at Rooster HQ to get some advice. Emma suggested that, my combination of Thermaflex and Supertherm long johns, Thermaflex top and Aquafleece kit would be perfect for the job and that it could actually be quite warm in August. I think everyone should ask a local about the weather before coming because she was absolutely right.
We had a couple of training days before the regatta started which allowed me to get to know the 14 other kids on Team USA and to get a feel for the sailing conditions. The National Sailing Center is Wales is a pretty cool place. First time rigging indoors and beach launching my opti and with an undercover sail storage area set up it was nice not having to de-rig every day. The west coast really needs to catch up on this advanced technology.
It was a little overcast and chilly when I got there for my first training day, so I took full advantage of the indoor rigging space and layered up; I was ready for anything Northern Wales could throw at me. At the end of the first day of training, I felt like I was getting in the grove and was almost a little too warm in all my kit.
One thing I really like about my Rooster kit is that I have options for every weather condition. Every day, I checked the forecast, took a look outside and mixed and matched accordingly. If it was warm, I put on leggings, shorts and a rash top with my Aquafleece spray top in the coach boat just in case. When it was cold, I wore my Supertherm wetsuit with hot socks, Aquapro gloves and Aqufleece everything. If it was somewhere in-between, I would use my Thermaflex long john with or without the Thermaflex top. I knew I had the gear for any situation.
There were 121 boats in the Junior fleet and after 3 days of close racing in the qualifying series, I was really happy to have a 5-point lead over two super-fast Irish sailors. But before the final series started there was a lay day, and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take on some man-made monsters as Surf Snowdonia.
During summer the Southern Californian surf is usually small and inconsistent and when the waves are good (mostly in winter) the best surf spots get super crowded. However, there was no such problem here with an endless supply of head high waves every few minutes (even if I didn’t get the exact board I wanted). While I missed the seals and dolphins that I normally see while out surfing, I was happy that there was no chance of a great white sighting which happens a lot in California.
After the surf park and a few castles on the lay day, it was back to racing. The Gold fleet competition was intense, and I found myself chasing one of the Irish sailors while fending the other one off. I finally finished in a good enough position to come second overall. I learnt so much from just watching and racing against the other sailors, and made some great new friends which I hope to catch up with at regattas in the future.
The whole experience was fantastic, and I felt like I improved a lot. I can’t wait for the next International regatta. Thanks Rooster for all the support!