The International Optimist (affectionately known as the Oppie) is a simple, stable boat which is ideal for children who are learning to sail and which, as they gain experience, provides exhilarating racing at all levels. Its popularity is attested by the estimated 350,000 boats which have been built and sailed throughout the world.
In Britain it has been adopted by the Royal Yachting Association as the pivot of its junior training programme and its annual championships regularly attract around 300 entries - more than any other sailing dinghy in the country. Quite apart from its value in training young sailors, it helps children from the age of about 8 upwards gain confidence in themselves - there are few other sports indeed which require such young children to make their own decisions to the same extent.
Many well known names in sailing have started their sailing careers in Optimists, including Ben Ainslie and Hannah Mills (who are both previous winners of the National Optimist Championships), and Ellen MacArthur.