VHS Freshman Sails For Team USA

By on April 28, 2019

How far can you go in a small boat from Verona? If you’re one very talented sailor in the Verona High School class of 2022, the answer is down the Eastern Seaboard, into the Gulf of Mexico or all the way to Europe.

Aidan Millar started sailing at the age of seven in an Optimist dinghy at Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club, in Beach Haven, N.J. His mom says he got interested in sailing because his father was a sailor and, before long Millar was, well, sailing along.

At age 10, he joined the Coastal Elite Racing Team (CERT), a competitive Optimist squad that sails in the spring and fall in Toms River, as well as in travel regattas. With CERT, Millar has competed in regattas in Annapolis, Hilton Head, Pensacola, Fort Lauderdale and New Orleans, among other coastal destinations. He continues to compete in his Optimist, which is the main boat used in youth sailing competitions. There are Optimist sailing events all over the world through the International Optimist Dinghy Association, including the 2019 World Championship, which will be held at the Antigua Yacht Club in July.

And if you are inclined to think that sailing is a breeze, think again. In the summer, Millar practices from Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then races on the weekend. Competing in a travel regatta means two or three days of eight-hour practices followed by the regatta competition itself, which can last four full days. In the off season, Millar, who also plays on VHS’s JV boys lacrosse team, sails in Toms River on the weekends.

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All of that practice has been amply rewarded. Millar has won Fleet Championship three years in a row and was Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club’s overall Club Champion last summer. He won first place at the Junior Olympics at Brant Beach, N.J. in 2018 as well.

Late last fall, Millar competed in the Optimist Midwinter Championship at the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans and his finish there was good enough to qualify him for his first international team: a Team USA race in the Netherlands. So while Verona was on spring break, Millar was in Braassemermeer, Holland for the 2019 Magic Marine Easter Regatta. Competing in the Optimist Overall Gold category, Millar finished 58th out of 70 racers. More than 200 sailors participated in all the regatta’s events.

And Millar was no sooner back from the Netherlands than he had to pack his bags again to go sail in Marina del Ray, Calif., where he is now competing in the United States Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA) team trials. Those races started on Saturday, April 27 and will run through Sunday, May 5. You can follow the results through the “Breaking News” tab on USODA’s website, or through its Facebook page.

During the summer and in his sailing with CERT, Millar is coached by Mike Dowd, who also a coach of the U.S. National Team. “Mike has been a huge asset in helping Aidan achieve his goals,” says Millar’s mother, Kristen Millar.

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One of Millar’s future goals is to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy after high school, and he seems to know what he needs to do to get there, which is to work on both his sailing technique and his mental game. “I can sometimes lose focus during the last race of long days,” he told the sailing website Colie Sails last fall during the Midwinter Championship. “I am going to work on staying sharp longer and if there is a postponement, relax a little bit so I don’t get tired, but be able to get it right back when racing resumes. Constantly being ready to sail at your best is hard to do over a long day or regatta.”

Photos courtesy Kristen Millar

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