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Buying an Optimist

As we get near the end of the Learn to Sail, you should start looking towards the future and see if your young sailor is keen to continue sailing. If they are, then you need to look at the next step. The next step is to join Bucklands Beach Yacht Club’s centreboard divisions. To do this, you sailor will require their own boat to sail.

It can be a difficult task to find and buy a good Optimist

Things like budge, sailor ability and sailors future need to be taken into account. This will help avoid costly mistakes in buying a dud or getting a bargain, only to find out you need to replace most of the gear or purchasing an expensive boat only to have your sailor give up.

A wooden boat can be a perfect option for those people who are not sure if their sailor is really keen on sailing, but still want them to progress and see how they go. A wooden boat should not normally cost more than $1000. Wooden boats vary greatly in quality. Be sure to compare boats at every end of the price range before getting one. But generally if it’s under $500 and has a colourful sail, it will not be much chop for racing. Your sailor’s true talent maybe lost in the boats underperformance.

A second hand Fibre Glass boat is, for most people, the best option for sailors stepping straight out of ‘learn to sail’ at a younger age (9, 10, 11). This will allow them to learn in a relatively good boat, but you will not feel like your new investment is getting bashed to smithereens as the sailors are still very much in the beginning of their sailing career, bangs and crashes will happen!

Second Hand Fibre Glass Optimists vary in price, but you can pick up good ones for between $2,000 to $2,500.

Things to look out for on second hand boats.

Is it an IOD 95 Optimist? This refers to the rules on the optimist class. In 1995 all the optimist builders had to be licensed from thew World Optimist Association (IODA). This means that now all optimists, no matter who builds them, have an IOD 95 sticker. In theory, no one builder should have an advantage. Only things like building quality and price need to be taken into consideration. Wooden boats are not normally IOD 95 boats
Brands to look out for are:
• DWR (early sail one boats)
• Nautivela
• Winner
• Far East – Sail One

Make sure it has a ratchet block that works. There is a type of ratchet known as a smart ratchet. These ratchets wear out quickly and can stop working. A regular ratchet that has a turn off/on switch is the best way to go.

Adjustable mast step.
It is important to have an adjustable mast step. This allows us to set the boat up to a sailors weight and ability. If it is fixed, then this is not possible.

Air bags.
This is important safety equipment to have for all boats. They do perish under the NZ weather conditions. They cost about $70 each. So if you need to replace of them, consider the price you are paying for the boat.

Many people selling their boats will claim it has 1 racing sail and 3-6 training sails as this increases the price of the boat. Please realise that training sails are just old racing sails and many should be thrown in the rubbish. Think of sails more like tyres on a car. You would not buy a car because if had three sets of old tyres. Old sails can be good for new sailors to train with, but as they get more into racing, then newer sails are better.

The latest trend/development in Optimist sails is the radial cut. This type of sail holds its shape better and will help sailors manage the windy weather better. They are also slightly more expensive than the normal cross cut sail. The NZ sails can be up to $200 cheaper than the European sails. Brands to look out for are:

Graham Robbins (NZ)
NZ North Sails
NZ Doyle
Olympic (Europe)
Euro Sails (Europe)
Tony Tio – Quantum (Europe)
Phluid3 Sails -

Mast, Booms and Sprits
Look for corrosion around all fittings. Brands to look out for are:

Gillete – Black Top & Regatta
Opti Max – MkI, MkII, MkIII & Gold
Optiparts – BlackGold & Silver

Rudder and Centreboards.
There are many types of rudders and centreboards out there.
Make sure both the pintles are on the rudder. Generally kick up rudders are not good. Look for general condition. Has it got lots of dents and scratches in it? Brands to look out for are:

Infusion foils –
Extreme GRP foils

New Boats can cost between $3,500 and $6,000 depending on the package you get. The cheaper options normally come with lower standard of equipment, e.g. a $3,500 boat will only have training sails, training mast and booms. But the hull will be the same as any other optimist.

A $6,000 boat will have all the bells and whistles attached to it. These boats can be an over kill and seriously consider what you are getting yourself in for, before purchasing one of these boats. Often a sailor could benefit more by going training once or twice a week or concentrating on improving their starts. Brands to look out for are:

Extreme Optimist Hulls- Kiwi Yachting

Nautivela –
Winner –
Fare East – Sail One –
Three main suppliers of Optimist and Optimist parts in NZ are:



Racing Package
Ready to sail Optimist
Giulietti Regatta Rig
Euro sail
Extreme GRP foils

Elite Racing Package
Ready to sail Optimist
Giulietti Black Top rig with big boom
Olympic sail
C-tech composite rudder
Extreme wooden centreboard

Beach Trolley
With Inflatable Tyres and foam padding