Optimist Fleet Structure

A new sailor to the class will typically join a local club and start their sailing journey through a Learn to Sail (LTS) program at their local club.

Once a sailor is confident and happy to progress, they will move into a Learn to Race fleet and continue to learn sailing basics with a strong emphasis on enjoying the sailing experience.  Smaller clubs may not have a Learn to Race Fleet in which case they will move straight into the Green Fleet.

Green Fleet is the next step in a sailor’s journey where great emphasis is placed on sailing technique and understanding the sailing rules of the road.

Once sailors are ready to progress from Green Fleet (and your club will have guidelines/criteria to help you understand when this is) the primary path is for sailors to move to White fleet. 

White Fleet allows a smaller transition step between Green Fleet and Open Fleet with shorter race days and courses, a 20 knots wind limit, and only racing sailors of a similar ability.

Open fleet is the most competitive of the optimist fleets in New Zealand as most sailors have been racing for at least one year. Sailors from this fleet may have the desire to go on to make a NZIODA Travelling or Development Team.

Please Note:

(1) At any point throughout the season a sailor can swap between White Fleet or Open Fleet to sail at a regatta and are able to transition between them at will.

(2) A sailor can only be in an NZIODA Development Team if they have not travelled with an NZIODA team before. If a sailor has been chosen for a Travelling Team, they can choose to be part of a Development Team instead if they would prefer.  THEY CAN NOT BE IN BOTH.    

Green Fleet

Green fleet is where our junior sailors start their big-regatta experience.  All children start at different ages and progress at different levels.  The green fleet is not a learn to sail programme, rather it is structured to coach, encourage and most of all provide a soft introduction to regatta life, along with great fun and safe holiday experience.  Green Fleet will be using the ISAF Introductory Rules of Sailing and will have limited on water coaching to assist sailors’ to-build their confidence and boat handling skills.

Green Fleet Time on Water: Approx 2-3 Hours

Green Fleet Wind Limit:  15 knots

White Fleet

The White Fleet is intended to provide a full race experience for developing sailors without the physical demands of Open Fleet or the frustration of being scored “Did Not Finish”.

The White Fleet is where our junior sailors enjoy sailing but not in a stressful competitive environment. White fleet caters for those sailors who have transitioned out of Green Fleet but have chosen not to compete at Open level.

Open rules apply to this fleet. NOTE: If a sailor competes in White Fleet they will not be eligible to represent New Zealand at overseas regattas. However, these sailors may benefit from applying to participate in the Chinese Exchange Tour.

White Fleet Time on Water: Approx 4-5 Hours

White Fleet Wind Limit: 25+ knots

Open Fleet

The Open Fleet may be scheduled to sail more races and spend longer on the water than other divisions depending on regatta conditions and scheduling. The target wind conditions are approx. 4 knots to 25+ knots.

Boats that do not finish in the time limit can either be scored DNF or apply for a SRS. By entering the Open Fleet a sailor is accepting a challenge to test their skills not only against the best sailors at the event but also in the conditions, which may be variable and physically demanding.

Open Fleet Time on Water: Approx 4-5 Hours

Open Fleet Wind Limit: 25+ knots

When to change classes

Key Concepts

  • It is critically important for sailors to be learning at an accelerated rate from the ages of around 10/11 to the age of 17. This learning is reliant on the environment presented to the sailors being accurately challenging. Young people are naturally capable of adapting, they enjoy learning and experimenting. When young people are learning and growing their self esteem is high and they are happiest. Any periods of time at this stage where a sailor is in an environment that is not suitably challenging will lead them to be bored and possibly put them behind their peers. Both of these are key contributors to young people leaving sport.
  • Sailors will learn skills to a better level when their weight is on the smaller size. The boat reacts more quickly to wind and wave conditions causing the sailors to adjust more rapidly and learn better sailing skills. If the sailors are larger the boat does not react in the same way and hence they do not learn to the same refined level.

When to change classes

  • When the class is no longer challenging
  • When the sailor is over the optimum weight
  • If the sailor’s learning has been stunted
  • If the sailor is bored
  • If the sailor outgrows their peers in that class
Sailing Class Progression

As an international class that is robust, simple and stable we believe the Optimist is the perfect beginners boat. However we also believe that sailors develop through good coaching and the experience of sailing different classes. 

Each boat has its own characteristics and as a sailor you can learn different techniques from each. For example Optimist class is the accepted introduction to sailing class, it’s stable, forgiving and when sailors are starting out they can’t go to far wrong. However, if a sailor is looking to learn about sail controls then in New Zealand our very own P Class is great for young sailors to jump into and learn these skills. If you want to learn team work then the double-handed Flying Ant or RS Feva are great classes that overlap an Optimist sailors weight range.

We aim to encourage sailors to think about the Optimist Class as being a great learning class, having amazing fleets (think start line sizes and strategies for fleet management) while allowing older Optimist sailors the ability to grow and develop their technical skills in relation to gear selection, sail and spar set-up. In addition allowing them to ‘jump’ in and out of other classes of boat enhances these skills during their Optimist time too.

The following charts aim to provide information to assist sailors and their families looking to grow their skills (and have fun) in other classes of boat.

While it’s not an exact science we have tried to provide rough weight ranges to enable sailors to understand when they may start in a class while also providing a rough top end weight so you can start preparing for a better suited weight class without getting to frustrated when those lighter sailors are going faster.

We hope the information is helpful on your sailing journey.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Sailor_Weights_by_Boat_1.6.png

The following chart takes the class weights and averages them out to give you a rough guide as to which boats may be suitable for your sailor. Note that the blue shading shows the Optimist Class range for easy of visibility across all other classes.

Additional Pathway Information

Opti Age Explained

A skipper can only race Optimists until December 31st in the year they turn 15. On December 31st of that year, they are what’s called “aged out” of the Optimist Class and can no longer race the boat. In addition competitive sailors are rarely over 50 kgs.

For example: if you turn 12 on the 12th December youa re considered Opti age 12 for the year.

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