Hull Weight: 35kg
The Optimist (or Opti, as most people call it, or ‘bath-tub’ as some uneducated people call it) is a single-handed sailing dinghy for children. Generally, kids have to be 8 or 9 years old to cope with sailing by themselves and light 15 year olds can still sail an Optimist competitively. Taller, heavier children will be better off in one of the larger dinghy classes once they get past the basics of Learn to Sail. The Optimist is sailed in more than 100 countries, with more than 200,000 registered boats.
An Optimist has a flat bottom, is quite wide compared to its length, and has a short mast with a sprit-sail. These features make it stable and forgiving, which is great for new sailors. While they don’t look sleek, they sail surprisingly well and they reward sailors who put the effort into discovering what makes a sailboat go fast. For example, getting the sail and boat trim correct while going upwind - sit too far back and the bow goes up, the transom sinks into the water, and the boat goes miserably slowly; sit too far forward and they turn into mini-barges, again slow. Optimists are at their quickest compared to the P Class when kiting downwind in light airs.
Optimists can be built out of plastic, plywood, or fibreglass. Generally, the plywood boats are ‘home-built’ boats. These boats last well and are reasonably easy to maintain and repair when damaged. However, most wooden boats will not be as quick as a good quality, professionally built, fibreglass boat. Many kids start off learning in wooden boat and then move to a fibreglass boat once they get hooked on racing. Plastic boats are mostly used by clubs, specifically for learning to sail, as these boats are nearly indestructible. They are also noticeably slower than a good wooden boat or a fibreglass one.
At Hamilton Yacht Club, we run two fleets of Optimists. A green (OptiGreen) fleet for those new to racing and an open fleet for the more experienced sailors. First year sailors usually sail in the OptiGreen fleet for at least six months and they can get support from coaches during their races. Last year, some of our keen Optimist sailors made the transition to P Class and Starling and we did not manage to convince enough of the OptiGreen fleet and “Learn to Sail” kids to take up the challenge of regular racing, so the fleet was too small to have an official club champion. The club is very keen to rebuild the Optimist fleet this season.
Hamilton Yacht Club organises a Learn-to-Sail course each year and the Optimist is the preferred class for this course. (See the Training and Learn to Sail section near the front of the handbook.)
For more information, check out the links below or contact the Hamilton Yacht Club secretary and he will put you in touch with a member to help.