Learn to Sail, Learn to Compete, Learn to Succeed
The Optimist Story
the Clearwater, Florida Optimist Club kids couldn't run their model
racing cars because of the city's flat terrain, they asked Clark
Mills to design a sailing alternative. In 1947 he designed the
Optimist Pram, a flat-bottomed, hard-chine trainer/racer for kids
from ages 8 to 15. His inexpensive home-built plywood dinghy was
right on target and exploded in popularity. In 1958, Axel Damgaard
brought the trainer to Denmark, where it was modified and renamed
the International Optimist Dinghy. Today, over 400,000 junior
sailors in 95 countries have chosen the Optimist as their first
boat. The only International Sailing Federation-approved dinghy for
sailors under 16 years of age, no boat has brought more new sailors
into sailing than the Optimist.
Best "Learn-to-Sail" Boat
The Optimist is designed for kids. At 8 feet (2.4 meters), its
small size, flat bottom and spritsail makes it easy to handle and
safe to sail, even for the greenest 8-year-old. As sailors get
older, there are enough adjustments to make the boat challenging:
vang, outhaul, sprit halyard, sail ties. Still, the simple rig
allows these novice sailors to concentrate on what's most
important-understanding the mysteries of wind direction, puffs,
headers, shifts and waves. They also learn new techniques and
sailing styles to take full advantage of their changing body
weights and sizes.
The Backbone of the Opti's Success
Although sailing singlehandedly, the Opti sailor is supported by
many hands. The dedication of parents and siblings, from loading
the small bathtub onto the car, rigging sails, or remembering a
spray top, is undoubtedly the secret to this class's success.
Whether your sailor is racing in a small laid-back regatta, or a
super-competitive international event, the Opti lifestyle is a
great way for parents to spend quality time with their kids,
building shared memories that will last a lifetime.
Green, White, Blue, and Red Fleeters
The path of U.S. Optimist sailors begins in a fun, learn-to-sail
environment. Emphasis is on sailing and rigging basics,
sportsmanship, and building confidence, with plenty of fun mixed
in. The transition from "learn to sail", to "learn to race"
continues to stress this philosophy. Respect for the sport,
teammates and your competitors is paramount. Winning takes a back
seat to participation and developing sailing skills.
Green Fleeters: For all beginners (8 to 15). Racing is
combined with the emphasis on fun, not winning. All participants
get prizes. After a year in the Green Fleet, sailors are grouped
according to age and/or skill level.
White Fleeters: 10 years and
Blue Fleeters: 11 and 12 years old
Red Fleeters: 13 to 15 years old
The white, blue and red fleets race together. The fleets are scored
together, with the top three sailors winning awards. Separate
awards are given to the top three finishers in each fleet. For
example: The 1st place white fleeter may have finished 20th
overall, but awarded a 1st in the white fleet.
Opti sailors at the blue or red fleet level begin focusing on
national events and work toward qualifying for the National Team
and competing in international Optimist regattas. Over 60 percent
of all skippers in the 2004 Olympics learned to sail in the