Onne van der Wal photo

Optimizing Your Opti

Mainsheet System
The standard Optimist is rigged with a 3:1 mainsheet system. In lighter air, a trigger snap shackle can be attached to the end of the mainsheet and disconnected under load. This will change a 3:1 system to a 2:1 system, reducing friction.

Opti Care – McLaughlin Boat Works
1. Fix anything broken or unsafe: hull to deck delamination, maststep screw, deck collar.
2. Replace leaking airbags. Get real bailers.
3. Update running rigging and hiking straps.
4. Shim daggerboard so it works smoothly with no play side-to-side.
5. Clean and polish bottom.

Make improvements: longer airbag straps (for bigger airbags), roll on aggressive nonskid, change spring for Harken rubber boot and Ratchamatic®. Check appendage alignment to see if mast step or gudgeons need moving.

Scott Norman—
Harken Southeast/Caribbean Sales

US Optimist coach Scott Norman and Kenneth Anderson formed the US National Team in 1995, with a goal of raising the performance of US Optimist sailors at an international level. Today, graduates of this program are among the world’s best—Amanda Clark (470), Paige and Zach Railey (Laser Radial and Finn), and Stu McNay (470) are all members of the 2012 US Sailing Team. Scott currently coaches team FAST with kids from eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Class Trends
Coach Scott Norman feels the Opti will become an even stricter one-design with everything standardized except sails. Recently, Optimist rudder blade measurements were tightened from a box-type to a standardized rule. In the future, Norman thinks spars will also be standardized. Currently, there are four mast options, three geared for racing and one built for club sailing.

With the development of the 29er and resurgence of board sailing and kite boarding, Opti sailors might choose to move up to “fast” at 12 or 13 rather than 15. This is very positive for the overall growth of junior sailing programs.

Optimist Fever


Learn to Sail, Learn to Compete, Learn to Succeed

The Optimist Story
Optimist ClubMajor Clifford McKay, founder of the Clearwater Beach Rotary Club, went to his local Optimist club with an idea for a low cost, child-sized boat. The club then approached boatbuilder Clark Mills about the idea. In 1947, Mills created the Optimist Pram, a flat-bottomed, hard-chine, inexpensive trainer/racer for kids ages 8 to 15. The home-built plywood dinghy immediately exploded in popularity. Then, in 1958, Axel Damgaard brought the trainer to Denmark, where it was modified and renamed the International Optimist Dinghy. Over 400,000 junior sailors in 120 countries have chosen the Optimist as their first boat. This is one of two boats approved by World Sailing for sailors under 16.

Best "Learn-to-Sail" Boat
At 2.4 meters (8 feet), its small size, flat bottom and spritsail makes it easy to handle and safe, even for the greenest 8-year-old. As sailors get older, there are enough adjustments to make the boat challenging with the vang, outhaul, sprit halyard and sail ties. Still, the simple rig allows these novice sailors to concentrate on 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 sizes.

Family Involvement Supports Opti's Success
The Opti sailor is supported by many hands. The dedication of parents and siblings is undoubtedly the secret to this class's success. Whether the sailor is racing in a small laid-back regatta or a super-competitive international event, the Opti lifestyle is a great way for families to spend quality time together.

Strong Coaching is the Key to Learning
A well-developed network of coaches aim parents and children in the right direction as to the ins and outs of sailing along with providing clarity before heading out on the water. Successful coaches can also share networking leads, offer leadership and safety skills, and support teamwork and respect. Check out a guide to finding a good coach here

Green, White, Blue, and Red Fleeters 

The path for Opti sailors begins in a fun, learn-to-sail environment. Emphasis is on sailing and rigging basics, sportsmanship, building confidence and fun. The transition from "learn to sail" to "learn to race" continues to stress this philosophy. Developing respect for the sport, teammates, competitors and the equipment is most important along with understanding safety and self-sufficiency which takes precedence over winning.

Green Fleeters: Beginners under age 15
White Fleeters:    Ages 10 and under
Blue Fleeters: Ages 11 - 12
Red Fleeters:    Ages 13 - 15

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.

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.



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