Q: Which Optimist builder is best?
A: Fundamentally, questions like this on a kids boat are one of the reasons we're so opposed to it being used. Kids 7-12 should be out having fun, learning about the sport and growing their skills. Instead, we force them to race a certain way, in a slow, complicated boat, with a coach always by their side. And then the manufacturers get to promote every little detail that makes their boat slightly better than others. If you have to get an Opti, McLaughlin and Zim make great boats. Pick one, order it and move on.
Q: Are optimists still popular?
A: Slowly people are realizing that it’s the wrong boat for kids. Optis force most kids through the grinder of 'racing is everything'. Parents and coaches force kids to sail the same boat, in hopes that they will be the next racing champion. And then they are surprised when 95% of kids drop out of the sport after being forced to sail a certain way. Each year that goes by, more people realize this is a terrible boat to teach kids on. But, for now, we're stuck with programs using them for their own reasons, certainly not for the kids.
Q: Is the Opti safe for my kid?
A: If the sailors is supported by a coach boat and trained professional coach at all times - yes. The issue with the Opti though is when it capsizes, it fills with water. At that point, generally, the young sailor can't 'self rescue' - as their boat is a bathtub filled to the brim with water. We just think this is not only questionable on a safety aspect, but also saps confidence for the young sailor. If you are part of a racing program that demands kids race and win, you'll be stuck with an Opti. Just make sure the coaching and support boats know what they are doing. If you are looking for a boat to build a lifelong passion for sailing, consider ANY other of the small sailboats we sell for youth.