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Displaying items by tag: IODAI

#Oppy - Fiachra McDonnell of the National Yacht Club and the IDT France team won the Optimist French Nationals after a fantastic week of sailing against some of the best sailors in Europe.

Fellow NYC and IDT Team France sailor Clementine van Steenberge won best girl at the event in Carcans, Bordeaux that saw some 200 young sailors taking part.

Continuing Ireland’s winning ways, Afloat’s Sailor of the Month for April, Justin Lucas of the Royal Cork Yacht Club placed second, while his club-mate Harry Twomey finished fourth.

In addition there were four more top 20 places for Ireland at the event: James Dwyer Matthews (RCYC; 13th), Michael Crosbie (RCYC; 14th), Johnny Flynn (Howth YC; 18th) and Rocco Wright (HYC; 19th).

Jessica Riordan of the Royal St George and IDT France Team also finished a very strong seventh in the Silver Fleet.

Fifteen Irish sailors travelled to the French Nationals, seven of them as part of the Irish Development Team France (IDT France) and the rest independently.

The International Optimist Dinghy Association Ireland (IODAI) expressed its thanks to Yvonne Durcan for doing a sterling job as team parent for IDT France during the week, and to team coach Dara O’Shea for his efforts over the last few months to help Ireland’s young Oppy sailors to secure Ireland’s best ever results in France.

Published in Optimist

#Optimist - Wednesday 21 March is the closing date for registrations for the 2018 Irish Optimist trials.

The Royal St George and National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire will be the host venues for this year’s trials taking place from 5-8 April.

The purpose of the trials event is to select sailors to represent Ireland at international events in the summer of 2018. Team selection will be based on the results achieved at the trials and full compliance with such terms as IODAI may require.

Only sailors who are eligible and have me the qualification criteria for trials will be able to register.

The early entry fee is €120 per sailor. Late entries will be accepted at a fee of €200 per sailor no later than 10pm on Monday 26 March.

Published in Optimist

It may have had a breezy conclusion but last Monday and Tuesday were amazing days in Baltimore for the IODAI Optimist training week with sunshine, light winds and as this drone footage shows beautiful West Cork boating scenery.

 

Published in Optimist
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#optimist – The Optimist class will be team racing in the waters off Howth Yacht Club this weekend competing against each other to get a winner of the VP Trophy with races umpired by national & international race umpires writes Jill Somerville. This event is organised by IODAI & HYC together.

The Vice President's Trophy was inaugurated in 1986 and has been running on and off for the past 29 years. The trophy & event was created by Helen Mary Wilkes who at the time of inception was the Vice President of the world governing body for Optimists, IODA.

Helen-Mary and Robert Wilkes have been the driving force of Under-16 sailing globally. Their contribution to the global development of junior sailing has been immense and was recognized by ISAF a number of years ago when at the ISAF Council meeting in 2008, President of the International Sailing Federation, presented the ISAF President Development Award to Helen-Mary WILKES and Robert WILKES for their services to junior sailing.

Initially specializing in event organisation, Helen-Mary Wilkes became Vice-president of IODA in 1985, President from 1989-1998, Vice-President of Honour from 1998-2005. Helen-Mary & Robert Wilkes have been involved with the Optimist class for over 35 years and here in Ireland the IODAI class benefited considerable from Helen-Mary's vast experience.

She developed the VP Team Racing event which is a club event for Optimist sailors with at least one sailor of each gender on the team. Teams are made up of 4 sailors from the one club and for the 2015 event there are 8 teams entered. A schedule of 28 round robin races have been drawn up with each of the teams due to sail against every other team and then the option of a semifinals & finals weather & time dependent. Key clubs in the Optimist scene such as HYC, RCYC and R.StGYC and the IODAI world's team will all fight it out on Sat 13th in waters off HYC. There will be good viewing from Aqua restaurant or the pier in Howth. The wining club team will head to the Optimist European Team Racing Championships in Aug in Ledro Italy. Race Officers Neil Murphy & Richard Kissane will be hoping for a little more wind than is currently forecasted to get through the heavy race schedule and we hope to have a winner declared late on Saturday afternoon. IODAI wishes good luck & fair sailing to all in the event.

Published in Optimist

#optimisttraining – IODAI, the International Optimist Dinghy Association of Ireland has over 160 signed up for its Spring training week (15th February – Friday 20th February) which is open to all IODAI members and will be held in Baltimore Sailing Club writes the IODAI's Aidan Staunton.

As Afloat reported previously last October the village of Baltimore will be taken over by approximately 160 sailors and their families for the week of February mid-term. Coaches have all been booked and typically they are a mix of the top Irish and international coaches; from Greece, Portugal, Sweden and Poland,

Training will be provided daily for sailors from Regatta fleet level (must be able to sail a triangle)- to those who are competing internationally. We particularly would like to encourage sailors who have not attended an event outside their own club in the past, to consider coming to Baltimore, which is a non-competitive, fun week intended to build enthusiasm for sailing and to allow sailors from around the country to get to know each other. The Baltimore event is considered to be one of the top International clinics in Europe and ends with a one day regatta on the last day.

It is very much a family-oriented event, with a programme of activities for children too young to sail (Fitbones), and events also organised for adults, such as the 'How to Rig an Oppi' class for novice parents!

The event is organised by IODAI which is comprised of volunteers, mainly parents of sailors, who organise the Optimist events calendar. Because everyone is a volunteer, Baltimore is an 'all hands on deck' week, with parents encouraged to lend a hand with the work that goes into making it such a special event. Helping out with sailors lunches, doing slip duty, rescue on the water, and helping at the social activities, means that all parents will get to know each other just as well as the sailors do.

An IODAI forum takes place during the Baltimore week where all parents are invited to express their views or seek information on the running of the Optimist class.

Published in Optimist

#OppiEuros2014 – This weekend sees a truly international sailing event taking shape in Dun Laoghaire, with the Optimist European Open Championship attracting 250 young sailors from 44 nations (32 European, 12 others). They will take to the waters of Dublin Bay in a little boat which is one of the key strands in the fabric of world sailing. W M Nixon takes a look at the Opty back-story, and outlines the front runners in the Euros and the home team.

Once upon a time, there was an American magazine called The Saturday Evening Post, which lived up to its name by arriving in millions of households across America in the last postal delivery of each week. It provided a focus for family life with its homely mixture of entertaining, informative and educational articles. And as it was the most widely circulated weekly in America, it had the resources to employ talented artists who each week evocatively illustrated the very best of American life with a strong family slant.

But it's a long time now since the demand for post and printed material were such that a publication of this quality could be a viable proposition. The Saturday Evening Post ceased to be a weekly in 1963, and for a while was reduced to a quarterly. These days, it is published six times a year as an exercise in nostalgia by The Saturday Evening Post Society. But while it may now only be a shadow of its former self, the weekly illustrations produced at its height by its team of artists have endured as highly-regarded works of art in themselves. And nothing more perfectly captured the essence of American home and small town life at its very best than the paintings of Norman Rockwell who, in a 50 year career with the magazine, created more than 300 of The Saturday Evening Post's distinctive covers. It was popular art at its very best.

Yet even an all-embracing magazine of this calibre could not cover every good news story going on in America during its glory years from 1920 to 1960, and there were some gems which escaped Rockwell's technically brilliant attention. So if there's ever a competition to create The Greatest Norman Rockwell Picture Never Painted, let us suggest that "Building The First Optimist Dinghy in Clearwater, Florida" should be right up there for consideration. Indeed, as the International Optimist Dinghy Association is such a thriving, prosperous and global body, I'd suggest they commission it themselves, as doing so would create a neat story in itself.

"Neat" is the word which most often comes up in talk of the Optimist, and of course in America it carries wider connotations than the simpler European notion of tidiness. At just 8ft long, the little sailing pram is neat but deceptively simple, and the people who brought it into being in Florida in August 1947 were quiet geniuses who did much good work mostly by stealth, but knew when to beat a drum when it suited their cause.

It started with a recently returned World War II veteran, Major Clifford A McKay, noting that while his son Clifford Jnr aged 12 much enjoyed the landbound wheeled soapbox races for young people organized by the Clearwater Optimist Club (one of those classically American community groups like the Rotarians and the Lions), the boy's most strongly developing interest was sailing as a crew in the local Snipe dinghy class.

Back in 1947, even in Florida there wasn't the money to splash about on any sport in which your child showed an interest, so the Major got fired up with the notion of creating the cheapest possible sailing boat – a floating soapbox - that could get the local young people afloat in their own boats. His own interest in boats was purely for fishing, but he proved he could turn his inventive mind to anything, and he outlined his requirements to the local boatbuilder Clark Mills, who happened to be going through a quiet late summer period at his workshop.

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Clark Mills (1915-2001), designer and builder of the first Optimist

 

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The first drawings for the Optimist – it was to be built with two sheets of 8 x 4 plywood

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This framework was the mould on which the first Optimists were built by Clark Mills

Within a fortnight, Mills - the quintessential all-American can-do character – had created a bright red 8ft sailing pram, the dimensions dictated by the fact that it was to be made from two sheets of 8ft x 4ft ply, the rig dictated by the utter simplicity of a sprit setup, as they'd hoped to make the sail from a square bedsheet.

The bedsheet was the first notion to be scrapped – the local sailmaker and his wife were soon producing economy sails. But as for the basic design, it was a winner from the start. Yet even in his wildest dreams, young Clifford Mackay Jnr could never have thought, as he sailed that first able little prototype out on Clearwater Bay, that he was sailing a boat which would go on to become a cornerstone of global sailing.

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Young Clifford McKay with one of the first Optimists at Clearwater Bay, Florida in 1947

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The fleet is racing....thanks to sponsorship from neighbourhood businesses in 1947, the Clearwater Optimist fleet was soon in action

Local needs came first. The class took off in Clearwater when Major McKay and his committee secured sponsorship from neighbourhood firms for the building of 28 boats. That it was all happening outside the stuffy constraints of established sailing became evident when the local paper reported an early series. It simply mentioned that the Optimist prams of the Clearwater Sun and WTAN Radio Station had tied on points. Blatant sponsorship and advertising were anathema to traditional yachting (even if Lipton and Jameson had boosted sakes of their tea and whiskey with sailing success), but the idea that the sponsor would be named but the helmsman ignored went way beyond the pale.

Be that as it may, it worked in getting the show on the road, and the Clark Mills Boat Works was soon churning out Optimists, while Major McKay was successfully promoting the idea throughout Florida. Reaching a wider public didn't dent the little boat's good image in any way - in fact, it enhanced it. Other builders were to find that building a competitive Optimist was in no way as easy as "Clarkie" Mills made it seem, and it was recalled that his Boat Works had produced some super-fast Snipes.

As for Mills himself, he had no doubt his interpretation of McKay's outline had produced something very special, and quipped: "I think I'm the best designer in the United States. I'm damned good. I've got the splinters and the backache to prove it....."

It might have been out of character for him to admit the profound satisfaction that the Optimist's success in opening up the world of boats had given him in his varied life from 1915 to 2001, but he couldn't suppress his love of sailing: "A boat, by God, it's just a gleamin' beautiful creation. And when you pull the sail up on a boat, you've got a little bit of somethin' God-given. Man, it goes bleetin' off like a bird wing, you know, and there's nothin' else like it."

There were other small boats becoming available which were broadly similer to the Optimist in concept, and in Ireland at Skerries local sailor Brian Malone, a naval architect with BIM (the Sea Fisheries Board) created a tiny children's sailing pram dinghy which he called the Measle, as every kid would have it sooner or later. But while the Measles had to be robustly built to cope with Irish conditions, by comparison the Optimists seemed light as a feather, and by the 1950s they were going international in an unexpected direction, having taken off big time in Scandinavia.

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Rapid international expansion began when the Optimist became widely accepted in Scandinavia in the 1950s. By 1967-68, Peter Warren of Denmark (left) was twice world champion, using an Elvstrom sail.

That such a stronghold of classic yacht design should adopt the utilitarian little American boat speaks volumes for the Optimist's versatility, and the fact that at only 8ft, moving the boats around was not a major logistical challenge. Nevertheless some countries held out against the Opties' easy appeal. But by the early 1960s even the traditional strongholds in the south of England were sharing the momentum, and a regatta in the Hamble River in 1962 set the seal on the Optimist's British success, with the first fibreglass boats also starting to appear.

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This regatta in the River Hamble in 1962 confirmed the Optimist's growing popularity in England

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A mighty long way from a creek in Florida – a major Optimist championship under way at St Moritz in Switzerland

Today, practically every sailing family in the world goes through its Optimist phase while there are kids under the age of 15 in the lineup, with the prime years with national and international aspirations being 13-15. Thus the most intense Optimist individual window is only two to three years. In some families, the involvement can be almost total, while in others it's just a case of having an Optimist or two about the place.

We were in this situation for about twelve years in all, and it ended on something of a high with the youngest son showing his entrepreneurial skills by becoming a part-time Opty dealer long before he'd a driving licence. This meant his parents had to drive him to other sailing centres where the class was developing, and then stay in the background while he struck a deal with some nervous parent anxious to provide a hot boat for their demanding child. Major Clifford McKay and Clarkie Mills – you've a lot to answer for........

Ireland has punched way above her weight in Optimist involvement, and the development of the international association has seen key players such as Robert and Helen-Mary Wilkes of Howth, and Curly Morris of Larne, making dedicated input in order to keep the Optimist class relevant to the needs of modern sailing, while Robert Wilkes took time out to record the history of the class in a gem of a book which has provided much of the material for our look at the early years.

Adaptation and innovation have been central to the Optimist's continuing success. Thus although the convenient size of the little boat has been a bonus in times past, even at just 8ft long it is now becoming so expensive to move about internationally that one of the attractions of the Europeans at Dun Laoghaire will be the provision of a large charter fleet already on site.

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A glimpse of the future – the charter boats which will be used at Dun Laoghaire by a significant number of young sailors

As for the site, Dun Laoghaire has enthusiastically woken up to the fact that it can provide the kind of club and accommodation package which topline modern events expect. The Royal St George Yacht Club is the host, while the Royal Marine and Kingston Hotels have combined forces to provide what is in effect an Olympic village.

If you want the ultimate measure of the Optimist's central role in sailing, it's worth noting that six of the female European Olympic dinghy medallists in London 2012 had participated in Optimist European Championships, the male "graduates" included triple Olympic medalist Iain Percy, and worldwide you'll find that top people in sailing in many different areas of the sport are more than happy to remember their Opty days - it's just part of what our sport is all about.

In the coming days, it's the defending girls' champion, Maria Turin of Slovenia, who'll be the main focus of attention, for if she succeeds, it will make it three in a row. As for the boys, Tytus Butowski of Poland is the defending champion.

So far, Ireland's best result came in 1992 when Laura Dillon of Howth was fourth, while in 2011 Peter McCann (Royal Cork) placed 5th. Like youth itself, there's something essentially ephemeral about top level Optimist racing, but for the year or three that's in it, Ireland's lineup for 2014 is: Sarah Cudmore (Royal Cork), Dara Donnelly (National YC), Gemma McDowell (Malahide YC), Grace O'Beirne (Royal St George YC), Clare Gorman (National YC), Harry Bell (Royal North of Ireland YC), Alex Buckley (Skerries SC), Michael Carroll (Kinsale YC), Loghlen Rickard (National YC), James McCann (RCYC), Alex O'Grady (Howth YC), Daniel Hopkins (HYC), Jamie McMahon (HYC) and Peter Fagan (SSC).

Published in W M Nixon

After 12 races in five days in varying conditions, Sean Donnelly of the National YC and English visitor Max Clapp of the Royal Southern YC wrapped up the senior and junior titles respectively in the Image Skincare Irish Optimist National Championships 2011 at Howth Yacht Club on Saturday (20th August).

Donnelly, who led the senior ranks since the third day, could only be troubled by Sophie Browne going into the last day but the Tralee girl’s yellow flag in the penultimate race effectively extinguished her challenge, despite Donnelly’s second worst result of the series (22nd) in the final race. As it was, he had five points to spare after discards while 3rd placed Adam Hyland (Royal St. George YC) was 20 points adrift of the runner-up Browne.

The 11th race in the series was won by Kinsale’s Cliodhna Ni Shuilleabhain while the honour of winning the final race went to Peter McCann (RCYC) whose challenge evaporated the previous day with his second yellow flag and an undiscardable 68 points. Seventh overall for the Cork sailor in the 67-boat fleet wasn’t bad considering that handicap.

Irish entries filled the first five places – Douglas Elmes (RCYC) and Sean Waddilove (Skerries SC) were 4th and 5th respectively – with the first visitor being Joseph Burns (Spinnaker SC) in sixth overall.

As if to underline his total dominance of the junior championship, Max Clapp won the 11th race – his sixth bullet – and finished the series with a 6th to take the title by a very comfortable 20 points from fellow Briton Milo Gill-Taylor (Spinnaker SC).

Another 20 points back in 3rd spot was the first Irish finisher, Howth Yacht Club’s Ewan McMahon who completed a steady string of results by winning the final race, his second bullet of the championship. He had six points to spare over Ronan Cournane (RCYC) who had an impressive second half of the series (two bullets & two seconds) after a very slow start.

Race Officer for the Championship was David Lovegrove and the sponsor was Image Skincare, a range of US-made cosmeceutical products distributed in Ireland by the Howth-based company Renaissance Products Ltd.

Published in Optimist

With the forecast for day two of the Image Skincare Optimist National Championships casting doubts over action afloat, the Howth YC Race Committee opted to run three races on the opening day instead of two, after which Adam Hyland of the Royal St.George YC and Ewan McMahon of the host club head the Senior and Junior fleets respectively.

Sailed in fresh 15-knot westerly/north-westerly winds, the Championship started its 12-race schedule with a double success for Cork’s Peter McCann in the Senior division but a 12th place in the third race dropped him to second overall. The more consistent Hyland, recording results of 4, 3, 1, moved to the top of the leader-board with a 6-point margin.

In joint third place after three races are British entry Joseph Burns of Spinnaker Sailing Club and the National YC’s Sean Donnelly on 20 points, just six points adrift of the second-placed McCann. Tralee’s Sophie Browne, Ireland’s representative at the forthcoming Worlds in New Zealand, did not have the best of days and is back in 12th spot in the 67-boat fleet.

In the Junior fleet, only one point separates leader Ewan McMahon of Howth from another Spinnaker SC entrant Milo Gill-Taylor, the latter winning the first two races and the local helm taking the third. Two second places to the visitor’s 4th puts McMahon a point to the good.

The new UK Junior Champion, Max Clapp of Royal Southern YC, lies in third spot and within striking distance of the other two. Three top-8 placings also puts Howth’s Isabelle Delamer into the frame at the head of the large 86-boat fleet.

The Championship has attracted 153 entries with another 46 participating in the ‘Regatta Fleet’ for the newer, less experienced Optimist sailors.

Published in Optimist

200 young Optimist sailors from over 15 Irish clubs (including 24 overseas entries from five other nations) will descend on Howth Yacht Club next week for the Image Skincare Optimist National Championships for a 12-race series over five days.

The bulk of the entries (150) will compete in the main fleet (junior and senior) with the balance in the ‘regatta fleet’ for less experienced sailors. Entries have been received from Britain (including new UK Junior Champion Max Clapp from Royal Southern YC), India, Norway, South Africa and the USA.

After four provincial championships, the Irish senior rankings are led by Tralee’s Sophie Browne who won the Connachts and Munsters and will represent Ireland at the Worlds in New Zealand later this year, having won the IODAI Trials during the Youth Nationals in Dublin Bay.

Adam Hyland (Royal St.George YC), who finished 11th in the recent German Nationals, and Robert Dickson (Howth) are second and third respectively in the rankings while Peter McCann of Royal Cork - 7th overall in the Europeans and a provincial winner too – is another contender.

Two firsts and a second in the provincial events puts Ronan Cournane of Royal Cork on top of the Junior rankings, ahead of Kate Lyttle (Royal St.George YC) and Howth’s Isabelle Delamer.

In the Regatta Fleet, Micheal O’Suilleabhain (Kinsale YC) and Peter Fagan (National YC) are among a small group of sailors who have featured in the top placings at the regional events.

An opening ceremony on Monday (15th) evening at 6.00pm involving all the competitors gets the Nationals underway, with the on-the-water schedule starting on Tuesday 16th with two races. The race management team is led by David Lovegrove, International Race Officer.

Published in Optimist

The International Optimist Dinghy Association in Ireland – or  IODAI represents the Optimist class in Ireland and internationally. IODAI is affiliated to the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) and The International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA). Click here for all the latest Optimist news.

To sail in IODAI events you need to become a member. You can join at Registration at any event but it’s often best to come prepared with a completed application form which you can download here.

The Optimist is, quite simply, the dinghy in which the young people of the world learn to sail.

Some definitions: "A flat-bottomed, hard-chine, pram-bow dinghy with a una sprit- sail" (The Observer's Book of Small Craft); "A bathtub that breeds the best sailors" (Observant sailor at the Club bar)
 

Specifications and benefits of the Optimist dinghy

2.31m (7'6.1/2") long, 1.13m (3'8") wide. Weight 35kg (77lbs).

Easily transported on top of any car, (where it will drip water over your shiny paint- work!)

Safe and simple enough for an 8-year old; exciting and technical enough for a 15-year old

Sailed in over 110 countries by over 150,000 young people, it is the only dinghy approved by the International Sailing Federation exclusively for sailors under 16 years of age.

Over half of the dinghy skippers at the last Olympic Games were former Optimist sailors.

The boat was designed by Clarke Mills in Florida in 1947. Optimists first came to Europe in 1954 when a fleet started in Denmark.

Most parents find that sailing gives young people a great sense of personal achievement. In addition the skills required to improve sailing performance both on and off the water; it helps young people develop a more organised approach to other non-sailing related activities.

How many Optimists are there in Ireland? More than 1,300 Optimists have been registered in Ireland (2008). At Optimist events in Ireland this year the fleet size varied between 120 at Regional events and 200 at our National Championships. International events can be much larger and at an Easter Regatta on Lake Garda in 2008 there was just short of 1000 boats.

How can i join a sailing club that sails Optimists? Contact the Irish Sailing Association where you can find out which sailing clubs are local to you. The junior or dinghy sailing coordinator in each club should be able to tell you if they have an active Optimist class in that club. Your interest could be the spark that ignites an Optimist interest there and IODAI will endeavour to support clubs who wish to start an Optimist fleet. Alternatively, if you contact the IODAI secretary directly, [email protected] you will be put in touch with an IODAI regional representative who will guide you towards a suitably active Optimist club. IODAI contact every sailing club from time to time to determine their level of interest in the Optimist class and to maintain an open invitation for any sailing club to seek assistance in the forming of an Optimist class at that club.

Which are the more prominent clubs racing Optimists in Ireland?

HYC Howth Co. Dublin

KYC Kinsale Co. Cork 

LDYC Dromineer, Co. Tipperary 

LRYC Athlone, Co. Westmeath 

MYC Malahide Co. Dublin  

NYC Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin 

RCYC Crosshaven, Co. Cork 

RNIYC Cultra, Hollywood, Co Down

RStGYC Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin  

SDC Sutton, Co. Dublin 

SSC Skerries, Co. Dublin

TBSC Fenit, Co. Kerry

WBTSC Wexford Co. Wexford

WHSC Dunmore East, Co. Waterford

Are Optimists suitable for girls? The Optimist provides superb one design racing where boys and girls can compete on equal terms. Yearly rankings often produce a 50:50 split between boys and girls.  In 2005, 2006 and 2007 the Irish National Championship was won by Diana Kissane, from Howth Yacht Club who set a record by winning the title in three successive years. 

Why is Optimist Sailing so popular in Ireland? The first Optimists arrived in Ireland in 1966. The class in Ireland developed relatively slowly until 1978 when a batch of 35 GRP boats was imported and Ireland first sent a team to the World Championships. In 1981 Howth Yacht Club hosted the Worlds and boats sold off in Ireland after the event gave the class a big lift.

 
The popularity of the Optimist in Ireland is explained by a number of factors including the simplicity of design, it is:
 
– Safe and simple enough for an 8-year old, Exciting and technical enough for a 15-year old
 
The Optimist is recommended by the Irish Sailing Association for junior training
 
There is a reasonable supply of new and second-hand boats

 

An energetic and proactive class association of volunteer parents (IODAI)

 

Unquantifiable support from the parents of all Optimist sailors

What age should a child start sailing Optimists? Some clubs do not provide beginner training under 9 or 10 years of age. However this is changing and you should check with your local club. See if any other experienced parent can suggest how a younger sailor might start. There are plenty who start earlier and eleven or twelve is not too late – even to get to the top in the fleet. Some considerations before beginning:

– Is your child a competent swimmer? (Competent means comfortable in the water when out of depth and capable of swimming say 25 meters in the sea water while dressed in normal clothing).

Is your child comfortable about the prospect of trying sailing? (The prospect of being alone in charge of a boat is often daunting to a young child and this introduction to the water is the most important step).

– Are there any older brothers, sisters or friends involved in sailing? This is often a great help.

– Is the child and are the parents prepared to make the commitment? There is a lot of time involved in junior sailing. Parents, remember, they can’t drive themselves to training or events and they need lots of help ashore especially in the early days.

My child has done some sailing courses at our local club, can they start sailing Optimists at events? Of course. The Optimist dinghy is a simple and safe; designed specifically for young sailors.  So, no matter what other boat they have used on their courses, they should be able to handle an Optimist.

When do they start racing? As a Junior Class we have knowledge of helping sailors make the transition from 'messing about in boats' to actual racing.  This is where our innovative Regatta Fleet comes in.

What is the Regatta Fleet? Regatta Fleet Racing is for beginners and unranked sailors – usually from age 8 upwards. The focus of the Regatta Fleet is on having fun. There is a Regatta Fleet element at most major Optimist events except 'The Trials' (for information on 'The Trials' see the New Parents and Sailors section of our FAQ’s on the website). 
The Regatta Fleet will could be your sailors first experience of racing. They can enter the Regatta Fleet once they have learnt to sail to windward and can negotiate a simple triangular course. A typical Regatta Fleet day is usually shorter that the main fleet. With some coaching in the morning, a break ashore for lunch and then some simple races in the afternoons, the aim is to make the introduction as easy as possible. It’s not taken too seriously and coaches are allowed to give advice during racing. If a sailor is towards the front, advice may not be necessary and the coaches will tend to concentrate on those near the back. And yes, there are prizes, and it often proves to be the most charming part of the prize giving ceremony where we see very young children collect their first sailing trophy. Regatta Fleet Racing at events gives the younger sailor the experience of doing circuit events without the pressures of racing way out to sea over long courses. There are often around 50 boats racing and it’s their first introduction to the wonderful circle of friends that sailing produces for all of us. While the Optimist calendar is a full one and parents/sailors may find the implication of a serious Optimist programme just a little bit daunting - the truth is that most young children (and parents!) find the experience lots of fun. The combination of the training, regional events, and regattas, gives young sailors lots of opportunity to make new friends from all over Ireland (and indeed abroad in the case of sailors attending international events). Lots of sailors make friendships on the Optimist circuit which endure well after the age limit has been passed.

And the parents?  You will meet literally dozens of new friends. All are not sailors. Some are; some aren’t. Like your children, you will form friendships that will endure long after your sailing hopefuls have progressed out of Oppies and are old enough to travel to sailing events without you. It’s not just all about the children!!  We need some fun as well.

(The above information courtesy of the International Optimist Dinghy Association of Ireland)

In March 2009, Afloat's Graham Smith wrote: "Officially, and not altogether surprisingly, the Optimist ranks as Ireland’s biggest one-design class with 275 boats registered with the IODAI. It remains the boat of choice for beginners in clubs across the country and it still encourages highly active racing fleets in 18 venues.

Numbers are up by over 12% on the previous year and with fleets at regional events averaging 100 and almost 160 at the Nationals in Tralee, there doesn’t seem to be any slowing up at all, although its popularity north of the border has apparently slipped in a number of locations.

In the Junior fleet, it was a memorable season from Seafra Guilfoyle of RCYC who won Easterns, Westerns and Northerns before taking the national title in a 90-strong junior fleet. Seafra was also the highest placed Irish helm in the British Nationals Junior fleet, finishing eighth overall out of 170 boats.

The senior division was more evenly balanced, with Colm O’Regan (KYC), Jamie Aplin (RStGYC) and Killian O’Keeffe (RCYC) winning the regionals (O’Keeffe winning two) before Cork’s Richard Harrington won the Irish Championships in Tralee ahead of 67 others to make the nationals a Cork double success. National Champion: Senior – Richard Harrington, Royal Cork YC; Junior – Seafra Guilfoyle, Royal Cork YC"

There is a space for Irish boating clubs and racing classes to use as their own bulletin board and forum for announcements and discussion. If you want to see a dedicated forum slot for your club or class, click here

Published in Classes & Assoc
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W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
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