It's Not About The Boat, It's About You.
Navigating the waters post-Opti is sometimes quite the challenge because we, in Optiland, tend to get tunnel vision and only see the possibilities in sailing within the context of the Optimist class. In reality, the Optimist is the first step of many into a wide world of sailing that's out there.
Out of the many, many classes out there most of them will remain inaccessible to a fresh-out-of-the-class sailor who is transitioning from the Opti into another boat. There are many youth fleets out there and although the typical pathway is to jump into a 420, Laser or such there are no hard rules about what to do after the Opti.
Here are some resources and words of advice we've put together for those who are eyeing the next steps already, whether they're reaching the age cutoff or are getting too big for the boat. Remember that because there are so many options out there, its not about the boat - its about the sailor and their kind of style. If you chase speed, there are many things you can try. If you like the tactical challenges of a sailboat race, there are big fleets you can get into.
Check out what actual sailors have to say about their experiences transitioning to other competitive classes. Main Takeaway: Try a lot of different classes and find what works within your area/context!
The Laser /ILCA 4.7 has emerged as a strong competition for post-opti life with fleets in Miami and Canada growing every year. It is a great choice for kids who want to continue sailing singlehanded and can simplify life for parents as well, as you don't have to find a committed crew for your serious racer.
We get asked often about the 420 and which type of 420 to look into - well its a good question because with the resurgence of the i420 in the USA now there is a pre-olympic option for the 470, one of the most venerated olympic classes of all time. Despite having the same name and overall length, all three 420’s [Club, Collegiate, and International] are very different. The I420 has a slightly different hull shape from the Club/Collegiate, much more similar to the 470 and much lighter, thus quicker to plane. The I420 is [also] much more technical with a fully tapered mast, and you can control everything in the sail plan, basically everything you’d do in a 470. For someone who is looking to gain more experience in a more technical boat, the I420 is where you want to be. For those who want a more affordable option, the Club 420 is the way to go
It can be a bit challenging deciding your next steps after time in the Optimist as a competitive class and with as many options as there are nowadays the most important thing is to try as many different boats and classes as you can, and be patient! After all, it's all sailing.
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