Getting Started

Getting Started

Getting Started in the Optimist Fleet is an exciting time as for many it is the starting point for a lifetime enjoyment of the sport of sailing.  We hope to provide you with further information to assist with the following:

Optimists are designed for kids.

  • They can handle them without danger, fear or back-strain.
  • Single-handed is best, they didn’t learn to ride a bike on a tandem.
  • Over 250,000 kids in more than 120 countries cannot be wrong.
  • The only junior class in Australia offering international competition and travel.
  • The Optimist is not only the biggest dinghy class in the world, it is the fastest growing.
  • The only single-hander dinghy recognised by the ISAF, the world organising body for sailing, exclusively for under 16s.
  • 85% of Olympic medalists at the last Olympics were Optimist sailors.
  • Builders on five continents, promoting competition and cost savings.
  • Your local sailing club has them – and if it doesn’t, it will.

At what age should I start sailing an Opti? 

Kids should start sailing as soon as they are confident near water, usually it’s around 8 or 9 but there are six year olds sailing Opti's in Australia.

  • Sailing is fun: a great social life, now and for the rest of your days
  • Sailing is for all: tall? short? fat? thin? girl? boy? green with pink spots? – sailing is for you
  • Sailing builds self-reliance, physical strength, quick thinking and a love of the environment
  • Sailing doesn’t cost a fortune – we’ll talk about that later

What are the first steps?

Many Optimist sailors begin with the Tackers Learn to Sail program or similar programs that are offered at yacht clubs around Victoria. After Tackers, there are different options offered at different clubs, but they can include some of the following:

  • Continued coaching
  • Start sailing in yacht club races
  • VIODA coaching camps and winter coaching
  • Rent-to-buy boat schemes

How long can I sail an Optimist?  

A skipper can only race Optimists until December 31 in the year they turn 15. On December 31 of that year, they are what’s called ‘aged out’ of the Optimist Class and can no longer race the boat, unless the regatta they are competing commenced on or before the 31st of December.

What is VIODA and why should I join?  

VIODA is an acronym for the Victorian International Optimist Dinghy Association. This is the state body that governs Optimist racing in Victoria. VIODA is a parent volunteer committee who support the juniors in getting the most out of this wonderful life experience. VIODA supports Optimist sailors of all levels.

The aims of VIODA are:

  • Promote the Optimist dinghy to yacht clubs, kids and parents considering the Optimist as the boat to train young people
  • Arrange training and development opportunities for sailors
  • Host an all inclusive fun filled and well managed State Championships
  • Liaise with the international and state Optimist organizations.

What will it cost?

$2,500 buys a very good first boat (pre-owned) – and you can expect the value to drop $300 when you sell. Trade up every other year or so and reckon on adding around $400 a year to your investment. When you sell your last Optimist you have the price of a second-hand International Class dinghy like a Laser or 420 – and the path to a lifetime of sailing. If you want to buy new, beginners’ GRP boats start around $3,000. Add a good lifejacket, appropriate clothing and a kid and see your little one grow up, quickly! Check the noticeboard at your local club, families that have 'aged-out' or outgrown their Opti usually try to keep them within the club to build numbers, otherwise there's a number of new Optimist suppliers:

Where can I get a boat?  

Optimist Suppliers

OziOpti –
Far East –
Binks Marine -

Where can I get sailing gear?

Anchor Marine, Sandringham -
Rooster Sailing -
Sport Phillip Marine, Mornington -
Sundance Marine, Sandringham -

How do I know that IODA has endorsed the manufacturer of my boat?  

DO NOT BUY A BOAT WITHOUT ITS MEASUREMENT BOOK, you wouldn't buy a car with rego papers. Each boat manufactured by an IODA endorsed manufacturer will have a plate attached to or a moulded number on the bow or mast thwart (the piece of fibreglass at the front of the boat that mast is mounted into) bearing the IODA insignia and an eleven figure alphanumeric code. The boat will also have an ISAF sticker on the mast thwart that proves that the builders fee has been paid and corresponds with the number in a booklet entitled “International Optimist Dinghy Association Registration & Measurement Book” with the unique number of your boat. It is most important that you keep this book in a safe place and are able to produce it at national event if you choose to take your boat with you. You will also need this book when it comes time to sell your Optimist.

How do I get my boat registered with AIODA and why is it important?

It is important to have your boat registered in the name of the current owner by the registrar of the national association AIODA for you to compete at State and National events, In your Registration & Measurement Book there is a page provided for your name and address details on the reverse side of the page detailing the registration numbers of your boat. Fill in your details. Send the booklet and a cheque for $50 for new boats and $25 for change of ownership made out to AIODA and addressed to the current AIODA registrar (Alternatively, you may make a deposit into the AIODA bank account).  Please also provide a stamped self addressed envelope to return your book once it has been endorsed by AIODA. This book belongs to the boat and should be kept in a safe place.Your book will be signed by the AIODA Registrar indicating that your boat is now registered with the national association under the name provided.  The current AIODA Registrar is: Emma Short, PO Box 1109, Stirling SA 5152. registrar [at]  For the registration form and more info see Sail Numbers.

How do I get my sail number registered with AIODA?

If your boat did not come with an AIODA registered sail number you will need to formally apply for one.

Sailing Rules:

Introductory Rule of Racing

Racing Rules of Sailing

Files available for download