Why the Optimist?

Optimists are designed for kids.

Single-handed is best.  They didn't learn to ride a bike on a tandem.

Over 150,000 kids in over 110 countries cannot be wrong.

The Optimist is not only the biggest dinghy class in the world, it is the fastest growing.

Former Optimist sailors were over 85% of medal winners at the last Olympics.

Builders on five continents provide ample opportunities for travel sailing.

Your local sailing club has them - and if it doesn't, it will.

The only dinghy recognized by the World Sailing* exclusively for under 16 sailors.

(*the world organizing body for sailing)


Fleets/Ages Explained

What fleet is my sailor in and how are the ages for Red, Blue and White fleets defined?


We get many questions about the different fleets (age groups) found at Optimist regattas. Here's a simple explanation.

It wouldn't be fair to make a beginner race against skippers who have been racing for years.

To make Optimist racing in the United States as fair as possible, the Class puts each skipper into an age group, called a fleet. Trophies are typically awarded to the top skippers in each age group, or fleet.

White fleet is for skippers who are 10 and under. Blue fleet is for skippers who are 11 or 12. Red fleet is for skippers who are 13, 14, or 15. In all fleets, the determining date is the skipper’s age on the first day of the regatta not the skipper's age at the end of the current year. Skippers move up to blue fleet on their 11th birthday and red fleet on their 13th birthday. At most regattas, the red, blue, and white fleets all start at the same time and race on the same course.

What about this Green Fleet?

Green fleet is a special fleet for beginners. Green fleeters can be any age up to 15.  A green fleet might have skippers who are as young as 6 and as old as 15, but sooner or later they'll move into their age-appropriate fleet. A ten year old green fleeter would move into white fleet, a thirteen year old green fleeter would move into red fleet, etc.

The purpose of the green fleet is to encourage novice sailors. To discourage sailors from staying in green fleet, in order to win races and receive awards, USODA’s policy is to present “Participation Awards” to all skippers sailing in the green fleet. By not crowning a champion,  sailors and their parents, are encouraged to move to the appropriate age fleet as they become more confident of their abilities.

What is "Aging Out"?

A skipper can only race Optimists until December 31 of the year in which they turn 15.  On December 31st of that year, they "age out" of Optimist and can no longer race in the Optimist Class.


Sound complicated?

It really isn't. The fleets keep the competition fair and challenging for everyone. They also help you see how you're doing against other skippers your own age. Good luck, sail fast, and have fun!



Where do I find info on the Opti CLASS RULES?

Click here.


How do I find out my SAIL NUMBER on a boat I bought used?

There is a blue plaque in the front of each boat – an IYRU plaque in older boats, an ISAF or World Sailing plaque in newer boats. This plaque has a five-digit or six-digit number. If you email the Class Office ( with this number you can find out the sail number that goes with your boat.  The plaques look like these:

Sample IYRU Plaque

Sample ISAF Plaque

Sample World Sailing Plaque


Where do I find info on SAIL LETTERING Requirements?

Click here and review Appendix G of the Racing Rules of Sailing.


Can I make my Sail NUMBERS a different color from the COUNTRY letters?

No. Numbers and letters must be the same color. These must be Arabic numerals and the letters capital letters.


Can the Opti SYMBOL be a different color?

Yes, to the best of our knowledge.


What does it mean when it says, YOUR SAIL # and IYRU / ISAF / WORLD SAILING number MUST MATCH?

Every boat built gets a sticker from the World Sailing Federation (WS) (formerly known as the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and the International Yacht Racing Union (IYRU). The builder affixes this toward the bow of your boat, usually on the aft-facing section of the mast partner. The builder then buys a USA Sail Number from its class association (USODA) who issues a sail number for that hull. This sail number and the WS/ISAF/IYRU plaque numbers are forever married to one another.

It is an international rule that the boat sailing in sanctioned championships must have a sail number that matches the ISAF number.  Recognizing that sailors often own multiple boats, USODA allows you to use any sail number that is registered in their name (or their family's name), regardless of the hull they are sailing.  


What about if you charter or use a club-owned boat (i.e. you don't own a boat)?

These are the only exceptions and you are supposed to charter only from the firms supplying boats to the regatta host. The charter company or Club Sailing Director will be able to provide you with the sail number associated with the boat you are using.  

To simply “charter” a boat for a dollar (in order to use a non-matching sail, as an example) is a violation of the standards that the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) are designed for. The charter cost should be the same to all requiring a charter at the regatta.


I just want to use a sail number from another boat owned by my family, is that OK?

Sure.  When you use the online event registration process, you will see that any skipper in your family can use any boat owned by your family.  


What is all that about numbers and LETTERS being TOO CLOSE to the LEECH?

Appendix G of the Racing Rules of Sailing directs that any number or letter shall be not less than 45mm from the leech. This is not an Optimist Class Rule, rather an ISAF rule to which all racing sailboats must adhere.


What is that band on my sail?

The band is a measurement device. It MUST fit between the two (2) bands that are on the mast. This assures that each sail is the same height on the mast.


What is a SAIL BUTTON? Why are they needed? How can I get one if my sail doesn’t have one?

Sail Buttons are a means of funding for the international class. The USODA and sailmakers purchase buttons from IODA and resell them to sailors in the US. If you attend a USODA regatta (regional or National event) you must use a class legal sail which means means you must have a royalty button on the sail.



Where do I find the Opti CLASS RULES?

The USODA abides by the USODA Conditions for Sanctioned Regattas and Championships, and the IODA Class Rules.

The USODA Conditions for Sanctioned Regattas and Championships are currently being revised.

Visit for the IODA (International Optimist Dinghy Association) Class Rules.


Which boat is FASTEST?

There is no proof that one boat is faster than any other. This is one of the features and benefits of a true one-design class.


What does an OPTI COST?

Genuine club Opti’s start at about $1700, much less ($700 - $1100) for used boats in good condition.


I bought a boat built in 1995 but there is no blue plaque with a number in the bow-area (front of centerboard case/on mast thwart). HOW CAN I GET THE SAIL NUMBER FOR THIS BOAT?

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but no IYRU/ISAF plaque means that the boat cannot receive a sail number. Also IODA Class Rule 2.5.4 specifies that “hulls shall comply with the current Class rules or the rules current at the time the boat was first measured and registered” which means that a boat measured again now would have to comply 2018 Rules which obviously it would not.


I am buying a CLUB BOAT from my yacht club. How do I register it in my daughter’s name?

Fill out and submit the online USODA New Owner Boat Registration Form. A boat registration fee may be required.


I bought an Optimist that was used at a Continental Championship. How do I register it or get the correct sail number?

You need to send in the boat’s Registration & Measurement Book, which has the blue page and measurer’s signature, to the USODA class office with a check for $49. USODA will assign you a sail number and issue you a Certificate. If you were not given the book you will need to contact the Builder and he will send this to you. Once received, your boat is class legal and you can sail in any USODA or IODA sanctioned regatta.


I bought an Optimist that was a CHARTER BOAT. How do I register it or get the correct sail number?

Any charter boat used at a USODA championship has a USA Sail Number. You simply fill out and submit the online USODA New Owner Boat Registration Form.  If you are a member of USODA your new Measurement & Ownership certificate will be added to your membership record on the web site and thereafter sailors in your family may register for events using that sail number. 


Is there any difference between a boat BUILT OVERSEAS and a boat built in the USA?



Can you completely or partially remove the forward tanks from a pre-95 Optimist to get the boat back down to class legal weight?

The USODA class rules grandfather all pre-IOD 95 boats. These boats can legally sail in USODA regional events as long as they can float. This does exclude Team Trials, the Nationals Championship Fleet Regatta, and the Spring Team Qualifier Regatta.  Repairs can obviously be carried out to keep the boats seaworthy. However, the class rules that any alterations made to the hull shall comply with the current rules. You cannot turn a pre-IOD 95 boat into an IOD 95.


Wood Boats

Where do I find the Opti CLASS RULES?

Click here.


Where can find plans to build a wood boat?

Pages 1-3 are here.  (14 Mb)

Pages 4-7 are here.  (18 Mb)

Pages 8-11 are here.  (18 Mb)


Can I vac bag up my own plywood to the thicknesses required? Can I include some foam sheets in the lamination? If I must buy commercially available marine ply, can it have a foam layer in it?

Class Rules 1.2 specifies that:

"The Optimist is a One-Design Class Dinghy." "In deciding whether an item is permitted it should be noted that, in a One-Design Class, unless the rules specifically state that something is permitted it shall be assumed to be prohibited."

Class Rule in Appendix A specifies that:

"The hull shall be constructed from .... commercially available plywood"

Foam sheets are not specifically stated to be allowed and are therefore prohibited. As far as we can discover 6mm plywood with a foam layer is not commercially available.


After I build my wood (or wood-epoxy) Opti how do I get a USA Sail Number?

Get your boat measured by a class approved measurer, then send in your Registration & Measurement book, with a check for $49, and the class will issue you a USA Sail Number and complimentary one year membership.


Is there a special/unique Registration & Measurement Book for Wood Opti’s? Do I need this versus a standard book?

Yes, but you can also use a standard R&M book.


Boat Transfer

If you've purchased a boat new from a vendor/builder, or used from another family, please submit a Boat Registration/Transfer form so that we can link the boat to your membership.


Measurement Book & Certificates

Where do I find the Opti Class Rules?

Click here.


What is a Measurement Book?

A Measurement Book is issued by IODA and sold with every new boat as a guarantee that you have purchased a class-legal Optimist. USODA used to collect and retain Measurement Books when it issued US Sail numbers to new boats.  USODA no longer retains Measurement Books, boat owners safeguard them. 


What is a Measurement Certificate?

Formerly, when USODA retained Measurement Books, it would issue Measurement Certificates to insure subsequent purchasers that they were buying a bona fide Optimist. Measurement Certificates are no longer issued by the class office because Measurement Books are retained by the boat owner.


How do I get a Measurement Book?

If you have purchased a NEW BOAT, the builder or importer should have provided you with the Measurment Book for the boat.  If you did not receive a Measurement Book, call the dealer where you bought the boat.  If you have purchased a USED BOAT, the seller should have provided you with the Measurement Book for the boat.


What if the Measurement Book is lost?

IODA has a procedure for replacing lost Measurement Books. For purposes of US, non-IODA events, USODA is also building an electronic database of scanned Measurement Books and you should be able to obtain a copy from the USODA web site.


What is the ISAF or IYRU number or plaque?

Each boat when manufactured applies for a registration sticker from the International Sailing Federation (ISAF – this was previously called the International Yacht Racing Union IYRU). Once a boat is measured and deemed to meet class rules the sticker is applied in the front of the boat (generally on the mast thwart).

Once certified, the builder can request a USA sail number. The sail number and the ISAF number are matched and forever linked together. If you need to find a sail number or confirm that the boat has been measured and certified as class legal, you need only identify the ISAF number and USODA can tell you the sail number of this hull.


Regattas & Team Trials

How do you determine what "Fleet" your son or daughter belongs in?

See the "Fleets/Ages Explained" FAQ above.  Note that the online regsitration system will automatically assign yor sailor to the proper fleet (RBW) based on their birth date in the directory.


What exactly are Team Trials?

The team trials selection regatta qualifies sailors for both Optimist international championships (see the International page under Teams) and also for the US National Team  and US Development Team (see the USNT and USDT pages under Teams).  


Who can attend Team Trials? What are the QUALIFYING Regattas?

Sailors must qualify to attend Team Trials.  To become “Team Trials qualified” or “TTQ,” sailors must qualify by (i) finishing in the top 50% of the total number of boats registered for the Championship Fleet and Green Fleet at the USODA National Championship or (ii) in the top 25% of the total number of boats registered for the Championship Fleet and, if applicable, Green Fleet at another USODA regatta (please see the USODA Regatta Calendar for a current list of USODA regattas).  The 50% or 25%, as the case may be, will not include sailors who are not eligible to attend Team Trials (e.g. sailors who will age-out before Team Trials and international sailors), but will include sailors who are already TTQ.  If two sailors are tied for the last qualifying place, both sailors will be TTQ.  Once sailors have qualified for Team Trials, their name will be added to the TTQ list in the Notice Board section of the Team Trials event website.


What is TEAM TRIALS ELIGIBLE, exactly?

To be Team Trial Eligible (TTE) both for any USODA Championship and the Team Trials itself, the competitor must, (a) not turn sixteen in that calendar year, (b) be a member of the USODA, (c) be either a US citizen or a bona fide resident of the US as determined in the sole and unreviewable discretion of the USODA at the time of participation in the USODA championship, and (d) not competed in another organization's or country's process to select a team to participate in an IODA championship within twelve months prior to the start of the USODA championship unless the competitor has reestablished permanent residence in the United States between the end of the other organization's or country's process and the start of the USODA championship.

A sailor who has represented a country or organization other than the US at an IODA World or Continental Championship is TTE only if the sailor has altered his or her residence to the US and receives approval from the IODA Executive to compete for the US. (See Sec. 9.2 of IODA Handbook). Such a sailor shall be deemed TTE for purposes of competing in USODA Championships to secure an invitation to sail in the USODA Team Trials but the sailor shall not be permitted to register for the Team Trials itself without having first received the approval from the IODA Executive.



USODA has to pre-pay fees to the country hosting the World, European, North American and other championships well prior to selection of these teams. These outlays are substantial and cover housing, food transportation, charter boats, coach boats and other fees.  In past years, these advance fees exceeded the annual budget of USODA.  The ITF was established to build a capital reserve in order to enable USODA to advance these sums without disrupting its normal operations.  All sailors participating on USODA international teams are required to pay $100 into this fund.  Donations are also welcome.


How are invitations to Trials actually received?

You will not receive an invitation.  Instead, when registration opens for the Team Trials event, you will submit an application.  Once we confirm you are TTQ, your application will be accepted, and converted to an entry, and you will be invoiced for the entry fees.


Can my sailor select on which international team they wish to participate?

Yes to a limited degree which depends on order of finish.


How long can I stay in the Green Fleet?

As long as you desire. Green Fleet is for sailors who do not wish to enter into large, competitive regattas. Green Fleet now provides “participation awards” instead of placement trophies. This discourages ‘trophy hunting’ and allows the sailor who wants to be on the water, but not in a serious race, to enjoy sailing with her/his friends and without competitive pressures.


National Teams

What exactly is the U.S. Optimist National Team (USNT) and U.S. Optimist Development Program (ODP2)?

The USNT and OPD2 are run by the USODA, but with a different mission. The USODA strives to make children lifelong sailors.  The mission of the United States Optimist National Team and Optimist Development program is to develop the top Optimist sailors in the United States to prepare them for success in international competition; create awareness of opportunities and avenues in sailing after the Opti years; develop a Corinthian spirit and teamwork within the Opti community; produce good role models for the less-experienced sailors within the USODA; and stress the importance of safety, fun, and good sportsmanship in sailboat racing.  The USNT and ODP2 are funded by parents of participating sailors and does not impact the USODA budget.  The USNT and ODP2 use the results of Team Trials and the Spring Team Qualifier to select sailors for USNT and ODP2. 


How do you qualify for the NATIONAL TEAM (USNT) or DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM (ODP2)?


The USNT and ODP2 use the results of Team Trials and the Spring Team Qualifier to select sailors for USNT and ODP2. 

Join USODA and login to get more information on the selection process.


What if you are aging-out this year, will be sixteen the following year?

Age-outs are invited to join the team shortly after Team Trials based on their finish until year end. 


Where can I find MORE INFORMATION about the National Team?

Join USODA and login to for more information.


Optimist Parent & Owner Manuals

Optimist Parent Manual & Optimist User Manual

Coming Soon!



Where can I find a local coach, or a coach for an event?

Coming soon!


Certified Measurer

Where can I find a Certified Measurer?

Please contact the Technical Committee Chair for assistance at


Optimist Sellers


Secondary address