The Optimist is a children's dinghy with a daggerboard and single sail.
The design is very simple, being basically a box made of glass-reinforced plastic or plywood with a thwart made of wood to help support the mast. It was designed in 1947 by Clark Mills. Considering the design (famously "a sailing bathtub") breaks many of the principles of good boat design, it has surprisingly good handling characteristics. Many sailing schools have a number of Optimists and they are the first boat many children will sail single-handed.
Optimists are very well suited for complete beginners to intermediate sailors between the ages of 6 and 11 years. Unfortunately due to their small size and low boom, most children will grow too large to comfortably sail optimists around the age of puberty (individuals may vary). Very small children are sometimes "doubled up" in Optimists but in general they should be regarded as single handers - it is in this mode that children seem to gain the most in terms of confidence and improved skills.
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