Complete guide for new Optimist sailor's parents

Your son has started sailing an Optimist and you feel a bit lost on the subject? In this guide, we'll cover some of the key things you need to know to support your child as they start their sailing journey in the Optimist class.

Complete guide for new Optimist sailor's parents

Your son has started sailing an Optimist and you feel a bit lost on the subject? In this guide, we'll cover some of the key things you need to know to support your child as they start their sailing journey in the Optimist class.

What is an Optimist?

An Optimist is a small boat with one sail specifically designed for children, in fact, they can compete until the end of the year in which they turn 15 years old.

It is a very simple boat that is sailed by one kid, it is very safe and stable. In the world of sailing, an Optimist is relatively inexpensive to buy, easy to maintain, durable, and of good resale value.

The Optimist is an International Class and has fleets worldwide.

Parts of an Optimist

My son started sailing Optimist, what's next?

Sailing is an amazing sport that teaches children to be independent at a very early age, to be responsible, to work in a team, to handle frustration and to overcome their fears.

This is incredible, but as a parent you have to be prepared to wake up early on weekends and holidays, whether it is sunny or stormy, travel to regattas, and buy a boat. Yeap, that happens... but we will get into that later.

What we want to say here, is that sailing is much more than a sport, it is a lifestyle, and it will require some "sacrificies" on your part.

But if your child is not yet hooked on this sport, don't push it. This is a sport that often does not generate love at first sight, so it is good that sometimes your kid misses the activity if he/she is not completely enthusiastic. It is best to take it easy at first, especially if they are under eight years old.

However, at Sailing Answers we believe that consistency is key. With consistency your child will become more comfortable with the sport, the group of friends and the coach.

With perseverance your child will see how he improves, and that will often motivate him. It's all about balance.

And please, communicate to the coach! He knows your child on the water, so having good communication with him will help you both to know how to help your child.

How does a sailing school work?

The structure of sailing schools varies from country to country, and from club to club. Many schools have recreational sailing and a racing team. In general, sailing schools have different categories (e.g. USA: adventure sailing, Opti beginners, Opti intermediate, Green Fleet, Racing Team)

To race or not to race?

Some sailing clubs are only orientated to competition; others are only recreational, and many have both options. As a parent you might be afraid of regattas, may not entirely understand the logistic of a championship, or may be concerned by the idea of the pressure of competition in your child.

Yes, regattas are demanding, and your kid may feel really tired after a championship, but consistency will smooth this out. Also, the repeated practice of a sport brings competition within.

It might sound a bit frightening at first, but regattas are a fantastic way to put in practice all that was learned and to make lifetime friends. And this is the most important thing.

Yor son/daughter will be sharing this experience with a lot of other kids that are also passionate about sailing.

My child is afraid of competition, what can I do?

First of all, talk with the coach. The coach knows how your kid behaves in water and may have an answer.  The coach is your best ally when we speak about overcoming fears, frustrations and any kind of hindrances to-with the sport.

Second, talk with your kid; he might tell you the answer and can have a more realistic idea of what is happening when you combine what your child and the coach told you.


Be positive! Don't push it, but have a positive language and encourage your son to participate on championships. In competitions kids have lots of fun and gain a lot of experience and knowledge. So encourage him/she!
If anything of this seems to work, you could talk with the coach of the club and ask him if there is a possibility of your son just going to watch the races, so he gets used to it.

One thing you can do (and we highly suggest this) is ask the sailing director/head coach/president of the club what is the orientation and goal of the sailing program.

In Sailing Answers we believe that competition is great  because it has a great impact on self-esteem and character. Here are some benefits of racing:

  • strengthens self-esteem
  • generates independence
  • strengthens self-confidence
  • overcoming fears
  • learning from failure
  • respect the opponent and the authorities
  • discipline

What do I have to buy?

We will divide by categories things you have to invest in when your child starts to compete.

Appropriate clothing

Techincal clothes especially designed for sailing are a bit expensive, but that's for a reason, and the reason is that it has special technology that improves a lot the sailing experience.

Imagine doing a sport where you are always cold because you don't have the right clothes, you probably won't enjoy it. This is why it is very important to invest in this.

There are lots of brands (Gill, Magic Marine, Helly Hansen, Musto, Slam, Zhick, Thermoskin, Rooster, etc.) that have items for different weather conditions. Do a little research and ask the coach or to any person you know who has a little more experience in this field.

Sailing basics:

  • Neoprene
  • Long sleeve lycra
  • Lycra leggings
  • Wetsuit
  • Waterproof jacket (specially designed for dinghy!)
  • Dinghy sailing boots/shoes
  • Gloves
  • Lifejacket

You can buy clothes that have been used but are in good conditions.


Before you buy a boat, you have to keep in mind the age and level of your child (e.g. if its just starting, it is not necessary to buy a brand new Opti). Speak with the coach and he/she will suggest what is best in your case.

Things to keep in mind when buying a boat:

  • Year of construction of the Optimist
  • General condition of the boat (weight is important)
  • Documents of the boat and sails
  • Equipment included (quantity and quality): lines, sheet, bailer, buoyancy bags, good hiking straps, mast, boom, sprit, rudder, daggerboard, at least one sail (better if there are two - one for training and one for racing), trailer.
  • Is it for competition or for recreational sailing?

International Championships

Every country that is associated with the IODA (International Optimist Dinghy Assosiation) has vacancies to participate in different international championships. This varies from country to country. The following is a list of all the international championships organized by the IODA.

North American Championship

From June 15 to June 25. English Harbour, Antigua.

2023 Optimist North American Championship

South American Championship

From April 15 to April 22. Paracas, Peru.

2023 Optimist South American Championship

European Championship

From July 15 to July 25. Thessaloniki, Greece.

2023 Optimist European Championship - Greece

African Championship

From May 2 to May 9. Morocco.

IODA African Championship 2023

Asian Championship

From October 29 to November 5 2023. Abu Dhabi, UAE

Worlds Championship

From June 15 to June 25. Costa Brava, Spain

Optimist Word Championship 2023

Sites of interest

International Optimist Dinghy Assosiation (IODA)


World Sailing

The official website of World Sailing with information about sailors, international regattas, events, boat classes, member federations and rankings across fleet racing, match racing, para sailing and e-sailing.

US Sailing

US Sailing - The National Governing Body For the Sport of Sailing
As the National Governing Body for the sport of sailing, US Sailing’s mission is to provide leadership for the sport of sailing in the United States. We achieve this mission through a wide range of programs and events providing an equal level playing field for all sailors. We set the course, enablin…

Royal Yachting Association (RYA)

Home | RYA - Royal Yachting Association
Royal Yachting Association - UK National Governing Body. Providing training, publications and performance for all forms of British Boating.

💭 If you have more questions please contact us at :)
💌 If you found this information useful please share this article and subscribe!