Optimist dinghy

From SpottingWorld, the Hub for the SpottingWorld network...
Current Specifications
File:Optimist dinghy.svg
Class Symbol
Crew 1
LOA 7 ft 9 in (2.36 m)
LWL 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)
Beam 3 ft 8 in (1.12 m)
Draft 5 in (130 mm)
2 ft 9 in (0.84 m)
Hull weight 77 lb (35 kg)
Mast height 7 ft 5 in (2.26 m)
Mainsail area 35 sq ft (3.3 m2)

The Optimist is a small, single-handed sailing dinghy intended for use by children up to the age of 15. Nowadays boats are usually made of fiber reinforced plastic, although wooden boats are still built.

It is one of the most popular sailing dinghies in the world, with over 130,000 boats officially registered with the class and many more built but never registered.[1]

The Optimist is recognized as an International Class by the International Sailing Federation.



The Optimist was designed in 1947 by American Clark Mills. The design was slightly modified and introduced to Europe by the Dane, Axel Damsgaard, and spread outwards across Europe from Scandinavia. The design was standardized in 1960 and became a strict one-design in 1995.[2]

The International Optimist is sailed in over 100 countries by over 160,000 skippers and it is the only yacht approved by the International Sailing Federation[3] exclusively for sailors under 16. At the Beijing Olympics, 85%[4] of medal winning skippers were former Optimist dinghy sailors. The Optimist is an International One Design class, with identical boats made of a durable GRP Hull, which means minimal maintenance, and may be purchased complete with sail and "dolly", a small trailer made specifically for the Optimist.



The single sail of the Optimist is sprit-rigged. Two battens stiffen the leech. It is secured evenly with ties along the luff to the mast and along the foot to the boom, pulled down tightly by a vang. The light, slim third spar, the sprit, extends through a loop at the peak of the sail; the bottom rests in the eye of a short cable or string which hangs along the front edge of the mast. Raising and lowering the sprit and adjusting the boom vang allow for adaptation of sail trim to a range of wind conditions. As well as this, huge adjustments can be made to sail shape, due to all of the ties running along the mast and boom.

A monograph-style "IO" insignia (after IODA - the International Optimist Dinghy Association) on the sail is a registered trade-mark and may only be used under licence from the International Optimist Association. Optimists also have a national sail number using the Olympic abbreviation of their country and a sequential numbers


The Optimist has a pram hull, originally formed primarily from five pieces of plywood. It was the biggest hull Clark Mills could make from two 4 ft by 8 ft sheets.[5] Just in front of a bulkhead, which partitions the boat nearly in half, is the daggerboard case. Right behind it on the centerline of the hull floor are attached a pulley and ratchet block. These anchor the sheet and its pulley on the boom directly above. At the bow resides a thwart to support the mast which passes through a hole in its centre to the mast step mounted on the centre line of the boat. The painter, a rope used for securing a boat like a mooring line, is usually tied around the mast step.

Buoyancy bags are installed inboard along each side in the front half of the boat and at the stern to add buoyancy in the event of capsizing. Two straps, known as Toe Straps, run lengthwise along the floor from bulkhead to stern. These and a tiller extension allow a sailor to hang off the side for weight distribution—commonly called "hiking out". This can be crucial to maintaining the boat in near horizontal disposition during heavy air, allowing greater speed through the water and more manouverability.

The vast majority of hulls today are made of glass-reinforced plastic, although it is still possible to make and buy wooden hulls. Several companies sell rotomoulded or polyethylene boats which are purported to be like Optimists but they are usually heavy and are useless for racing at any level. [6]


While younger lighter sailors begin in Optimists, competitive sailors usually weight between 35 and 55 kg. This wide range of weights which is not typical of most dinghies is made possible by different cuts of sail. Due to its inherent stability, unstayed rig and robust construction the Optimist is often sailed in up to 35 knots. [7]

Introductory sailboat

Optimists are used for beginners but most sailors continue to rce them up to 14 or 15 years of age.

. "The small boats train the champs". Very small children are sometimes "doubled up" but usually the boats are single-handers. In this mode children gain confidence and improved skills. Many sailing schools have a number of them and they are the first boat most beginners will sail. At many regattas there are two Optimist fleets: Green fleet and Open fleet, Green fleet is for children under 13 that are unexperienced in racing, the racing is designed to be fun and the courses are laid closer to shore and usually shorter than the Open fleet, once a child gets good placings in the Green Fleet then they are required to move up to Open fleet

The Optimist is the [1] biggest youth racing class in the world. As well as the annual world championship the class also has six continental championships, attended by a total of over 850 [2] sailors a year. Many of the top world Optimist sailors immediately become world-class Laser Radial or 4.7 sailors after they "age-out" but many also excel in double-handers such as the 420 and 29er.[3] Optimists provide real international competition because they are manufactured to the same specification by dozens of builders.

The first World Championships were held in Great Britain in 1962, and they have since been arranged annually. For the first 20 years, the class was dominated by sailors from the Scandinavian countries, with 13 world champions. In the 1990s Argentina was by far the dominant country but since the turn of the millennium there has been no single dominant country, with the 27 medallists coming from 16 countries on five continents.

Optimist Specifications & Construction:

  • Rig: Cat/Sprit
  • Hull: GRP, hard chine, flat bottom, fiber glass.
  • Foils: Foam/Epoxy
  • Spars: Aluminum
  • HikingStraps: any strong milateral.


In recent years over 4,000 [4] boats a year have been produced by around 30 builders worldwide. [5]



  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named optiworld-basics
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named optiworld-one-design
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named isaf-optimist
  4. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named optiworld-2008-olympics
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named douglas-usoda
  6. http://www.optiworld.org/technical.php
  7. http://www/optiworld.org/idealsize.pdf

External links


National Members

See list at [6]

br:Optimist ca:Optimist da:Optimistjolle de:Optimist (Bootsklasse) et:Optimist (jahiklass) el:Όπτιμιστ es:Optimist eo:Optimisto (velŝipo) fr:Optimist hr:Optimist (jedrilica) is:Optimist it:Optimist he:אופטימיסט (מפרשית) nl:Optimist (zeilboot) no:Optimist (jolle) pl:Optimist pt:Optimist sr:Оптимист (једрење) fi:Optimistijolla sv:Optimistjolle tr:Optimist (yelkenli)