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Displaying items by tag: Optimist dinghy

"It's time to shake the dust off the wet suits, lifejackets and get the boats ready as the Optimist season begins."

That is the message from Monkstown Bay Sailing Club in Cork Harbour where the season for this dinghy, specially-built for the youngest sailors, begins this Sunday with training sessions that will run until the middle of June. The club introduced the Optimist to its ranks only in the past few years, encouraging more families to take an interest in sailing.

The Optimist is a small, single-handed sailing dinghy intended for use by children up to the age of 15. Nowadays boats are usually made of fibreglass, though those of earlier vintage were of wood, some of which are still sailed. It is one of the most popular sailing dinghies in the world. Over 130,000 boats are registered with the class. Many more were built but not registered. The class is recognised by the International Sailing Federation.

The boat was designed from an American soap-box derby 'car'!

Clark Mills, a boat builder and designer from Clearwater in Florida was the man who drew up the design in 1947, responding to a request from a local businessmen's association known as the 'Optimists.' They wanted a marine equivalent of the "soap-box" for children to sail and Clark dubbed it the "pram" dinghy.

"I think I'm the best designer in the United States," he said. "I'm damn good. I've got the splinters and the backache to prove it. I don't mind taking the blame for designing the pram, but I was just one of many, many people who got it rolling."

Twenty-six boats were built in the first year, mostly by Clark himself and, before building started in Europe in 1954, there were almost 1,500 Optimists in the USA.

His philosophy about a boat was: "It's just a gleaming beautiful creation.
When you pull the sail up on a boat, you've got a little bit of really something God-given. There's nothing else like it."

The MBSC optimist open sessions will run for nine weeks from this Sunday until June 19, excluding Easter Sunday. They are open to children between the ages of 7 and 13 years, are "fun focused" and have proven to be a gentle way for children to get involved in sailing.

Optimist league racing is underway on Saturdays at the RCYC in Crosshaven where Stephen O'Shaughnessy is Class Captain. There is strong parental involvement needed and encouraged in the sailing of Optimists. At Crosshaven during this league the less-experienced children who are learning to race are allowed to be coached and encouraged while racing by those parents who are manning the safety boats.


Oppy sailors competing off Kinsale. More Oppy trials photos from Bob Bateman

"The key objective is to show support where feasible without directly interfering with any race," according to the club. "The success or otherwise of this will be reviewed each month."

At the higher level of "oppi" sailing as it is colloquially known, training sessions for the national Optimist team began in Kinsale last weekend where fifty of the leading youngsters in the class competed for team places. Eight races were sailed over three days in mainly light airs with conditions described as "challenging and tricky." The next sessions will be held on the May holiday weekend at the Royal St.George club in Dun Laoghaire.

More youth sailing news

This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website:
Published in Island Nation

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.


The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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