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 ClubAfter 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.

Family Involvement—
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 younger
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 Opti.


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