by Airwaves writer Emma White
The optimist, originally designed by Clark Mills in 1947, became a registered One-Design boat in 1995; after a few modifications. It is roughly 8 feet long, precisely 3 feet and eight inches wide, and weighs approximately 77 pounds. Although, many describe this boat as a floating bathtub, it does not stop youth sailors from competing and having fun. Sailed internationally in more than 100 countries with approximately 200,000 sailors registered in optimists. Optimists are safe and are easy for kids to sail who want to hit the water and have some fun. Optimists are also sailed competitively. Whether it be state, national, or even international competitions, opti sailors enjoy the thrill of racing this boat. Sailors learn invaluable skills from high-level coaches, make life-long friends, and learn skills that increase independence through various clinics and regattas offered to them.
Optimist sailors range from the age of 10 to15 years old. They are eligible to compete in national and international events. These sailors represent the ‘red’, ‘white’, and ‘blue’ fleets. The divisions further separate the sailors by age. Sailors aged10 are placed into White fleet, followed by sailors aging between 11-12 who are in Blue fleet, and finally sailors aging between 13-15 who are in Red fleet. Although, the fleets divided the age group of 10-15, they all compete with one another on the starting line and in the race course. Results of regattas are delineated by “fleet” and the top female competitor is usually recognized. The use of fleets is just one way to identify each racer. Racing is available to sailors younger than 10 years of age and this group of sailors is referred to as “green fleet”. National and local events are organized for these eager, opti-enthusiasts as well, allowing them to get a head start on opti competition before they join the older sailors.
A wide age range of opti sailors also translates into a broad weight range of the junior sailors. A study of the 2011 Optimist Worlds (a competition among the most skilled opti sailors in the world) which was held in New Zealand, pinpoints the range and average weight of the top ten optimist sailors of the regatta. The average size of the finishers were 110 pounds, with a range of 30 pounds. This means that optis are for sailors of all sizes, and it also means, contrary to popular belief, optimists are not boats that sailors outgrow at the age 13.
Many of opti sailors have aspirations of competing at the Olympic level. In fact, nearly 50 percent of the United States Sailing Team are previous opti sailors. Optimists are provide a strong sailing foundation, fun and they are competitive.
– One hull
– One sail
$1– The sail is held up with a sprit and two battens
$1– Sail-ties connect the sail to the boom and mast
$1– To adjust sail shape, change the sprit, vang, and outhaul tension
– Use a rudder and centerboard
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