Sailing an Optimist Abroad

Peter Fagan was a member of the ISA Squad 2012-2013. The Squad’s programme includes travel to the Palma December Optimist event, and most of the squad attend the Braassemermeer event.

Peter writes for IODAI about the experience of sailing abroad:

“I went to my first international event in 2011. We took the ferry to Holyhead and then onto Pwllhei by car. I was in the regatta racing fleet at the time. There were a good few other Irish sailors there and it was the first time I met sailors from all over the world. Seeing all the different sails with GBR, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Bermuda and many more countries was really amazing. I had never seen a sail that did not have IRL before! Regatta racing was really good fun and more like a junior fleet. It was a great stepping stone and unlike junior fleet we had our own coaches. There were some comedians who were also coaches who made us laugh a lot before and after sailing. They were very funny.

The next event was Braasermermeer in April 2012. We drove over with the O’Sullivans bringing all the boats and 2-ribs. Again we went to Holyhead and drove right across England with my Dad. We got an overnight ferry from Hull to Amsterdam and then it was a short drive to Braasermermeer where we met all the other members of the team who flew over that morning. Braasermermeer was a great event for me as I got to sail for the first time in a really big fleet with some very good sailors. There were about 17-Irish kids on the team and I was the most junior (almost!). It was great bing part of the team. We had a cruiser on the water and some of the parents would go out on it and give us hot chocolate and lunches or sandwiches between races. After the racing we took the cruiser on a canal back to the hotel where there was a really cool play area and bird park to play in. Braasermermeer is a small lake and it was also funny because when you looked on the fields, they were at a lower level around the lake! Holland… Braasermermeer was a really tough but fun event and my result is top secret but I learned loads.
Its an event well worth doing.

The next big event was to the UK nationals (again) in Pwllhei (again) this time in junior fleet. This time I went with the TCS group on the water and we made a family holiday out of it. The weather was not great and there was only 7-races. They are very strict with the rules there and I got 2-yellow flags on the first day, but no more after that (thankfully). I really enjoyed that event and got a good result and lots of experience. We stayed in the same place again but this time we shared a house with the Coyles and the Gormans were next door. The Rickards were also nearby and we had great fun in the evenings with BBQ and running around in the woods in the pitch dark scaring each other. We stayed at Talhenbont Hall which is haunted but we could not find the ghost. Mum and Dad thought that was better (not to find the ghost).

I applied for the ISA squad in September and was lucky to be accepted. One of the big items during the ISA training is going to Palma in December. This was the first time I was away without my parents on a team. This was a little scary at first but once I got there it was all fine. There were 2-team Mums who looked after us off the water and they were really nice and looked after us very well. It was nice feeling part of a team and we were all in it together. We did 3-days training and then the event. I don’t think they were as strict on the rules there! I learned most on this event and recognized how important it is to be responsible for all your own gear and to get your self organized. This is really important! I enjoyed this event a lot.

The next event was Braasermermeer this year. It was a lot earlier in April and it was really cold. When we arrived there was snow and ice and even going on the canals the cruiser had to go through ice. We came off the water after every race because it was so cold. I didn’t sail the best at this event but I learned a few things.

After the trials I got picked for the European team and we flew to Hungary 6-days before the event. It was so hot…. When I think of Braasermermeer (cold) and Lake Balaton (Hot)….. There were snakes in the lake also but apparently they dont bite. This was a very completive event and the conditions were difficult. There was mostly very little wind or the wind was very shifty/changeable. So you could be lucky to be in the right place and get a big lift or get the opposite….. We had a great team and when we were not sailing we had great fun either playing water polo or just messing about.

The last event I went to was recently in France. There were over 500-boats at this event. It was quite crazy. Our family went on holidays as my parents thought it would be nicer than going to the UK and again I was on the water with the TCS team. I stayed with my parents and they just dropped me down every day to the sailing club.
I had my own boat for this (which I prefer) and the conditions were sunny and light breeze… perfect. I met loads of new friends form as far away as New Zealand and I still keep in touch with them by Facebook . This was a really good and tough event and the weather was really nice (as were the ice creams and creps).

I think its a great experience to get to some overseas events as you get to meet kids from other countries and make new friends. I have learned that you have to get very organized and take good care of your boat!”

For other sailors who would like the opportunity to sail in Palma as part of the Irish Optimist Squad, the ISA application process closes Friday 19th September, details at


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