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The Optimist Class is the largest junior sailing class around the world

In the UK the Optimist Class has two main objectives: to provide enjoyable junior sailing for all sailors, and to develop sailors who want to perform to high standards domestically and internationally. Significant numbers of Optimist sailors move on into the RYA Youth and Olympic sailing classes. Many well-known and successful GBR sailors such as Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy, Hannah Mills, Saskia Clarke, Luke Patience, Charlotte Dobson, Sophie Ainsworth, Nick Thompson, Hannah Diamond, Alison Young, Sophie Weguelin and Anna Burnett amongst many, many others, were all Optimist sailors first.

Optimist GBR sailors start off attending regional and national events and gradually as they become more confident and experienced move on to gain valuable international experience.

Each year we select a number of Teams to represent the Optimist Class and the RYA at International sailing events. The IODA international events are closed events where we are required to run selection trials to choose teams to represent GBR. We are permitted to select 5 sailors to attend the Worlds and 7 or 8 sailors to attend the Europeans. We also select a team of 8 promising sailors to attend the Development team event and a team to attend the European Team Racing Championships.


The Class has 4 selectors who make decisions on behalf of the Class. The Chair of Selectors is Ann Whitfield, along with Chris Atherton who is the RYA Senior High Performance Manager, Sarah McGovern the Class National Coach and Alan Williams. The Selectors and the Class agree selection polices and publish these but it is the Selectors, independent of the Class, who actually select the sailors.

Selection Trials

Each year we run Selection Trials, which is 4 days of racing to select the teams. Approximately 80 sailors are invited by the Selectors from the rankings, and a small number of recommendations from RYA Zone High Performance Managers. The top 5 sailors go on to attend the Worlds. The next 3 boys, the next 3 girls and the next sailor or either gender go onto attend the European Championships.

Each team has a coach and a team leader. Each team has a training programme before their event which is supported by RYA funding.

The Development team is a team which consists of 8 promising younger sailors in the under-14 and under-13 age groups, 4 boys and 4 girls. This team is supported by RYA funding.

Braassemermeer- Holland

At Easter each year, as an extension of the squad training, we offer 40 sailors the chance to attend the Easter International Regatta in Holland. It is a 4-day event with some additional training. This team is supported by RYA funding. The Easter Regatta is an open event and it is possible to attend also with parent supported teams. The host Dutch class only allow their top 80 sailors to attend and use it as a selection event, so the days on the water are long and the level is high.

Irish Nationals – Junior Team

Each year we select a junior team to attend the Irish Nationals, supported by coaches. This team is supported by RYA funding.

Other Selected Events

We select a team to attend the European Team Racing Championships and we select a sailor, usually either our top ranked boy or girl to attend the Bermuda Junior Gold Cup in October.

Invitation Events

The Class receives a number of invitations each year to international events, with the offer of subsidised costs, which could be in the form of reduced charter fees, accommodation, travel or entry fees. These invitations are passed to the Selectors to consider under the Class’s Overseas Invitation Guidelines (published on the class website). Usually expressions of interest are then invited from sailors. These events are usually parent-led and organised and are not official RYA or IOCA teams.

International Events

We encourage parents to get together to take advantage of going to European and international events. Be mindful that international standards of Optimist sailing are very high.

· Garda Easter international.

· United 4 events in Holland in the Spring and Autumn

· Torrevieja – in Spain in January

· Palamos Regatta in Spain in February

· Optispring – in Holland in April

· Flanders week- Nieuwpoort in July – an excellent event for older sailors

· Irish Nationals

· Euromed – Malta over the Xmas break

· French nationals

· Spanish events