Forums > Sailing General

Alternatives to the Opti for kids

Created by MattM14 Two weeks ago, 10 Jan 2021
NSW, 149 posts
10 Jan 2021 10:02AM
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I'm wanting to get a small sailing boat for my 9 year old. He's done a few sailing courses (in Opti's) and really enjoys it. He also does pretty well on our 32 footer. The question is what boat? I think he would probably want more excitement than the Opti offers fairly soon but the step up to something like a Flying 11 is probably a bit big (also requires another person). The criteria is as follows;
Simple to rig
Probably single sail though open to considering boats with a jib.
Light enough so that mum can get the boat out and in the water without me having to be there also.
Would be good if it had enough space to fit a second person (friend or a folded in adult) Must look cool / fast

My deliberations so far have led me to the following;
Continue with the Opti
O'pen BIC - looks like it ticks the boxes. Might be a bit $$ even second hand (2k +).
The Nippa - Ian Murray design - looks perfect but it seems they were made pretty much exclusively for Avalon SC and not really available.

After these I was thinking the next step might be a Manly Junior. Or is there something I'm overlooking?
At this stage he is not looking at competing (that might come in time). So it's just to have fun in and learn more about how to sail a boat.
looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


634 posts
10 Jan 2021 7:32AM
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Hi Matt
Do you actually own and Optimist now?
If so I would suggest sticking to it till your 9 year old son has mastered it and grown out of it.
Even though it is small and simple, there is a world of tricks and skills to be learned on an Opti.

NSW, 149 posts
10 Jan 2021 11:02AM
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Hi Gary,
No we don't have an Opti ourselves. This will be his first boat.

92 posts
10 Jan 2021 5:34PM
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634 posts
10 Jan 2021 6:04PM
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Hi Matt
You can choose a boat and then go looking for it, or see what is available close to home.
I think what is around and for sale in your price range will pretty well define the boat for your son.
A ratty old thing that you and he can work on could be the go.
Where are you?


NSW, 69 posts
10 Jan 2021 9:14PM
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Hi Matt. Depending where in NSW you live you may be close to a club that has a fleet of Sabots. these are an awesome little boat that set kids up for a pathway thru Flying 11s and on to other skiff classes. Lane cove, drummoyne and Vaucluse are some Sydney clubs that come to mind. sabots are not quite as forgiving as an Opti but if you look at the honour rolls, you will find most of the successful Aussie sailors started in Sabots. good luck.

QLD, 2228 posts
10 Jan 2021 8:31PM
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G'day Matt,
If a jib doesn't scare you off, my first dinghy was a Rainbow and I was 9yrs old. Loved it to bits, we used to sail it on a lake and spent nearly every weekend pottering about getting dunked and thinking it was hysterical fun. The old man rigged up a sliding roof rack on the family Kingswood where it would slide it out to one side and rest on the ground so we could just pull the boat off and slide it down to the waters edge.
Great memories, your kid is lucky his old man wants to get him into sailing, good on you.

1 posts
10 Jan 2021 10:03PM
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Google Maylands Yacht club Learn to sail course . I can't give the link as this is my first post ....
$180 for a whole week of sailing instruction which is a bargain and cheaper than child care .

My son started there a couple of years ago and loves it . They are an incredibly generous bunch of volunteers .
His first year they encouraged him to enter the state minnow champs , Loaning him a boat and trailer . It was awesome .
FYI my son has a Bic there and if you asked I'm sure he would let your son take it for a rip .

Sorry didn't realize your not in WA. I'm sure other clubs have a similar thing for the school holidays .

NSW, 149 posts
11 Jan 2021 7:54AM
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Shaggy - thanks. That kind of "just messing about in boats" is exactly what I'm hoping for. I haven't come across any Rainbow boats in my search but I'll check them out.
Mike_e - thanks the Sabot is on the list to investigate. Gary - that's pretty much where I am at. Just finding the boat that meets the criteria in the budget is proving to be an interesting, at times exciting, time consuming but enjoyable process.
Sqwerty - thanks for the offer but WA is probably a bit far for a test sail ?? . We do have a number gold clubs here that do the learning to sail programs and they have been great. That's what started us on this journey ??

Thanks for your input. The search continues.

SA, 240 posts
11 Jan 2021 7:53AM
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There's a boat called a pj (pittwater junior) which my kids did some lessons etc in at Gosford SC.
they are basically a sabot with a self draining cockpit and a lazer style drop in a hole rig.
more fun than an opti and way easier to rig than a Sabot.

SA, 377 posts
11 Jan 2021 2:55PM
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I also sailed a Rainbow but they are very similar to the flying 11. Great boats but not sailed anywhere anymore. (one or two at a historic wooden boat club in Vic I think)

I currently have 2 kids in Opti's and I was dead againt them at the start but now am a strrong advocate for them. They are very easy to sail, very competitivfe to race and there are fleets everywhere. I would also STRONGLY encouragre you to join a local club and have your kid sail there. This way you have trained coaches, many boats to sail against and a good social framework. My eldest had 3 best mates through sailing opti's against each other and they are the best of friends on and off the water. Sailing in a fleet also provides the best way to learn how to sail in all conditions, mnessing about it boats often leads to poor habits and an aversion to strong winds.

Photo is my kid at 10.5 years old in 25 knots at Sandy Bay (Tasmania) Australian Championships

NSW, 5898 posts
12 Jan 2021 7:22AM
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Opti's are photogenic.

189 posts
12 Jan 2021 8:27AM
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Another strong vote for the Pittwater Junior (PJ) above.
Self draining, simple rig with an open transom to let kids get back in easily.
I taught a group of kids to sail in them and compared to other classes, they had a ball.
So easy to right that we actually had to tell the kids they had to do some sailing before they were allowed to muck around capsizing them.

And unlike an Opi, there's room for a friend too.
Those who brought Opi's and Sabots along to a training session were a nightmare to manage by comparison as real beginners often needed help to right and bail the boat and would take up way more time to look after and often scare the kids out of them.
The Bic can be good fun, but doesn't steer and sail nearly as well.

I am a fan of the MJ and there are self draining versions, but the flapping jib will scare a young inexperienced kids witless before they even leave the beach.

For what you say you want, the PJ is the go.
There were a lot of them around BYRA on Pittwater a decade ago. Not sure what its like now.

This seems to be a club that uses them. Lots of pictures on the site

NSW, 79 posts
12 Jan 2021 11:31AM
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Looking at your photos of your boat I am guessing you are on Lake Macquarie? Wangi Sailing Club has a good junior programme, they sail sabots which are great fun little boats to learn on.

NSW, 632 posts
12 Jan 2021 8:34PM
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Not the seas Optis were designed for.............

NSW, 20 posts
14 Jan 2021 8:20AM
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Hi Matt
I used to sail manly juniors
They are the perfect boat. Only reason I stopped is because I got to big
We have a manly junior for sale, advertised around 1500 but it has been for sale for a year so willing to go lower
Private message me if your interested

NSW, 277 posts
14 Jan 2021 7:48PM
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Select to expand quote
Ramona said..
Opti's are photogenic.

...and potentially fun/fast!!
you can just make out the wand at the bow

NSW, 149 posts
15 Jan 2021 8:41AM
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Thanks for all the input, all valid points. I liked the PJ also but they are hard to find. But the search is over. We picked up a Bic yesterday. The boy is very excited to get out sailing in it. Timings not great we are heading away for a few days today so he's going to have to wait until we get home to have his first sail in it ??

TAS, 184 posts
Sunday , 17 Jan 2021 1:23PM
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Bic O'pen seems to be gaining traction, seems to be a better boat than the sabot or oppi, and also well priced from what I've seen.

NSW, 273 posts
Sunday , 17 Jan 2021 7:18PM
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BIC is good - son went thru with bics.

shoold be fun


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"Alternatives to the Opti for kids" started by MattM14