Getting Started

Getting Started in the Optimist Fleet is an exciting time for many as it can be the starting point for a lifetime of enjoyment in the sport of sailing. It is a critical time to proceed at the sailors speed of learning with the focus on enjoyment. The Optimist is an incredibly stable and robust boat in a variety of conditions so perfect for the gradual development of sailors confidence and skills. 

Designed for learning

  • If your child does Waterwise then they will learn to sail in an optimist
  • Over 350 children in New Zealand sail them in clubs around the country 
  • Optimists are sailed in over 120 countries around the world.
  • The Optimist is the biggest one design dinghy class in the world.
  • Your local sailing club has them
  • Most Olympic sailors first learnt to sail in an Optimist  

When should I start sailing? 

As children mature differently so some will be happier to start earlier than others. Typically, many will start around 8 or 9 years old but if your child is confident around water and keen to have a go then take them to your local sailing club and talk to them about getting into a Learn to Sail course. From there the coaches and club members can assist and support you to understand more. As with other sports it’s a great way to make new friends and learning with some mates makes it even more fun! 

Check out the list of clubs around the country here.

How long can I sail an Optimist?  

Initially the focus is on confidence and boat handling but as the sailors confidence and skills grow the class offers opportunities for fleet racing. When ready some ‘Learn to Race’ skills are acquired.  Green fleet racing in sheltered waters can be enjoyed as a simple introduction to the open racing fleets and inter-club competition. The class moves through white fleet and onto the more competitive open fleet. Here sailors can enter national regattas and are ranked for representing New Zealand in international competitions. You can sail an Optimist competitively until 31 December of the year you turn 15 as this an international youth class which is regulated by the International Optimist Dingy Association (IODA). Competitive sailors in this class are rarely over 50kg.

For more information on understand Optimist Age more detail can be found here.

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