Optimist or Opti Sailing is where most junior sailors begin their sailing career. These are great boats in which to learn to sail and there is a strong Texas and National fleet that encourages junior sailing. For those of you who aren’t as familiar with the Optimist program, I thought I would explain a little about it.
The Optimist Green Fleet is for the novice racer. You cannot be more than 15 years old and compete in the Green Fleet. The goals of the green fleet are to encourage novices to attend their first regatta and to encourage continued participation in Optimist racing. Because of this the Opti Green fleet normally sails separately from the other Opti racers. Often they are sailing in more protected waters. Coaches are allowed to coach the bottom half of the Opti fleet during the race. Some regattas have separate skipper’s meetings for this fleet. Normally everyone in this fleet takes home a participation award.
Many parents of Opti Sailors are new to sailing as well. The United States Optimist Dinghy Association reports on average 50% of the parents of Optimist sailors have no background in sailing. The coach and other parents are here to support parents as well as the junior sailor to learn more about junior sailing.
A junior sailor moves up to the Red, White and Blue Fleet, when, in consultation with their coach, they decide that they are ready for more competition. Traditionally, when a junior sailor wins the Green Fleet, they are automatically moved to the Red, White and Blue Fleet.
Your coach can help you determine if your child is ready for the green fleet. To be able to compete in their first race, they should be able to sail upwind and downwind as well as reaches. They need to understand the basic rules of racing. They need to be able to identify a race course, usually a triangle marked by orange floats and know to listen to the starting signal. The goal should be to have a good time, make friends and learn more about racing.
The Red, White and Blue Fleets are quite competitive in Texas, which has one of the strongest Opti programs I believe in the country. These fleets sail together on the same course and participate in the same skipper’s meetings; the only thing that differentiates them is the age of the sailor. The White Fleet is for sailors ages 10 and under. The Blue Fleet is for sailors ages 11 and 12. The Red Fleet is for junior sailors ages 13, 14 and 15. Despite the fact that this is a competitive fleet, the goals for Opti sailing are still the same in the Red, White and Blue Fleet as the Green fleet; have fun, make friends and learn more about racing.
To find out more about Optimist Sailing, Read the USODA Parent Manual: A Guide to Help Your Family Get Started in Optimist Sailing. racing.ussailing.org/Assets/Racing/Youth/Parent+Manual+Part+I.pdf
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