Although the Optimist class is comprised of children, the fact of the matter is that serious racing happens in the Optimist class and that carries with it needs for equipment and replacement parts. Any sailor or coach worth their salt will tell you that you need a ditty bag or tackle box to carry spare parts and tools in order to keep your Opti up or in case of technicals - breakage - out on the race course.
|The historical example of a ditty bag, complete with marlinspike|
So what should you keep in your ditty bag?
At the bare minimum, your ditty bag needs to have tools to repair or adjust parts of your boat. A good set of screwdrivers, of medium length, pliers, and a crescent wrench are absolute musts
|Example contents of a ditty bag. Note the ample variety of tape, tools and spare line|
Next, you'd want to add a roll of sail tape, the thick kind, to patch up tears or holes that might happen. I cannot stress the importance of dealing with that sooner rather than later, because a small hole might turn into a small tear, depending on how windy the conditions are or where the hole is located. I've seen entire foot of an Opti sail rip off just because of a small hole by the tack grommet.
Another bit of tape that is super useful is electrical, or e-tape. You can get it in a variety of colors, and I definitely recommend getting the 3M stuff. Other vinyl tapes can do the job but I've found that the 3M tapes have more tear resistance and the adhesives are stronger - which means it will hold up better on the boat.
A quick story: One windy Orange Bowl I was coaching a kid who capsized and tore the thwart apart when he righted, as his mast collar had slipped and the mast came off the step - a loud crunch and a sad kid later, I must have spent half my new e-tape roll wrapping the thwart down so that it could hold his mast again. He made it to the last race and ended up taking second overall.
There are other uses for e-tape, but there's one example.
To round out the kit, you may want to consider keeping spare set of corner ties, sail ties, mainsheet, and a spare halyard. Those things are what go missing the most, or break the most often. This way, instead of having to buy one of those things if you forget it, just go into your bag and get your spare!
But seriously, spare sail ties. They fly off of booms and kids drop them all the time. I swear, if you walked around the boat park picking up sail ties, you'd never need to buy another set again.
Lastly, spare stick of sunscreen, and markers are good additions to the kit as you can label your stuff or make measurement marks on your boat or equipment to finetune your boat as you race.
Although these are just basics, of course you can add more things to your ditty bag as you need to or based on your travel/racing needs on the Optimist circuit. Having spares and tools is invaluable, and will make your sailor more self-reliant.
What are you going to put in your ditty bag?
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