The Optimist is a small, single-handed sailing dinghy sailed by children up to the age of 15. It was designed in 1947 by Clark Mills of Florida to be home built from a single sheet of plywood, 2”dowel for the spars and a bed sheet for the sail, it spread quickly across Europe and the design was standardized in 1960 and became a strict one-design in 1995.
It is one of the most popular sailing dinghies in the world, with over 150,000 boats officially registered with the class and many more built but never registered. It is sailed in over 120 countries and it is the only single hander approved by the International Sailing Federation exclusively for sailors under 16. At the Beijing Olympics, 85% of medal winning skippers were former Optimist dinghy sailors.
The Optimist was first introduced in Australia in the 1970s at Sandy Bay Sailing Club, Tasmania where KA1 still lives. It took 30 odd years to register the first 300 boats, but since 2007 the fleet has quadrupled and today there is some 1800 boats registered nationally and sailing in every state.
The Optimist is recognized as a strict One Design International Class by the International Sailing Federation.