Yachting Art Magazine

VIDEO - The Optimist, the very first sailboat of many sailors... with surprising performances

You don't need foils to fly an Optimist ! The proof in video, on Yachting Art Magazine!

The Optimist (or 'opti', 'oppie', and 'bathtub')  is a small solo sailboat, designed in 1947 in Florida, for children's initiation to sailing. Usually built in composite or CP Epoxy, this dinghy is often the first sailboat on which one gets on, which gives rise to anthology regattas ! 

The Optimist is undoubtedly the most widely distributed sailing boat in the world, with nearly 150,000 units officially registered in their class around the world. This one-design yacht benefits from a class recognized by the International Sailing Federation (IVF).

The Optimist, designed in 1947 in Florida

It was in 1947 that the Optimist was imagined by the American naval architect Clark Mills, on the initiative of Major Clifford McKay who, inspired by a soapbox race, wanted to keep children busy on the water, to keep them from hanging around town: sailing rather than delinquency!

Taking up the concept imagined by Clifford McKay, Clark Mills therefore designed a small children's sailing boat with a very stable square hull, rigged as a catboat, equipped with a gaff sail and a sabre daggerboard, which can be built by an amateur, from a sheet of plywood! The plans were then offered to the Clearwater Yacht Club, which registered the patent.

The first Optimist flotilla was financed by local merchants and since then, the Optimist's popularity has never wavered.

Optimist reaches Europe via Scandinavia

Improved by Danish naval architect Axel Damgaard, the Optimist was introduced to Europe from Scandinavia, and was actively promoted by Olympic multi-medalist Paul Elvstrøm. In 1960, the Optimist design was modernised and the boat officially became a one-design class in 1995.

The Optimist is generally the first sailing boat on which 120,000 children in 120 countries all over the world have taken up sailing. At the London Olympics, 80% of the sailing competitors were former Optimist sailors!

The defects of its qualities

Packed with qualities, indetrônal in spite of the numerous attempts of certain shipyards, the Optimist has two major defects: the fact that it fills up with water much faster than you would like, and its non-folding rudder, which requires you to position it once you are on board, a not very simple operation for beginners. 


Optimist Technical Data Sheet

  • Technical data sheet
  • Length 2.34 m
  • Beam 1.20 m
  • Weight from 35 to 45 kg
  • Draught 7.8 cm
  • Mast height 2.35 m
  • Sail area 3.60 m².
  • Architect Clark Mills (1947)

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