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Opti Racing Explained

Opti Green Fleet- NWYRC

​Opti Green Fleet is a great entry level experience for novice racers. Who should do Green Fleet? Generally if a sailor is can get around two buoys with minimal assistance they are ready for Green Fleet. Every summer there are several sailors who step in an Opti for the first time in June or July, and end up in Green Fleet by August or September. 

All Northwest Youth Racing Circuit events include a Green Fleet, except for the WIND Regatta at the Gorge. Often times Green Fleet racing takes place on a separate race course that is smaller and more protected. Green fleet usually enjoys a shorter day on the water and/or a lunch break mid way through racing. Coaching is permitted during racing for the back half of the fleet, and coaches are encouraged to coach everyone, not just their sailors. Many regatta hosts provide Optis free of charge, and/or offer a reduced entry fee for Green Fleet sailors. At some regattas it can be as easy as just showing up with a lifejacket and positive attitude! 

There are no prizes or trophies for Green Fleet, instead sailors are given participation awards. Most Green Fleet sailors are between the ages 8-11. The only age restriction is that sailors must be younger than 15. Sailors generally do Green Fleet for one year, or until they are near the top of green fleet, before moving up to Championship Fleet. Switching back and forth between Green Fleet and Championship Fleet is discouraged. Click here to read the USODA Green Fleet Policy Statement.

Similar to the Northwest Youth Racing Circuit is a smaller, more casual series of one day regattas in the Seattle area known as the Milfoil Dodger Series. The Milfoil Dodger Series follows most of the same guidelines mentioned above. Many novice racers will do the Milfoils in addition to the NWYRC regattas. Milfoils are easy to do and provide another great opportunity to gain experience. 

Championship Fleet- NWYRC

When sailors are ready to move out of Green Fleet they move into the "Opti Championship Fleet." To make Optimist racing in the United States as fair as possible, the class puts each skipper into an age group, called a fleet. White Fleet is for skippers who are ages 10 and under. Blue Fleet is for skippers who are 11 or 12. Red Fleet is for skippers who are 13-15. The Northwest Youth Racing Circuit crowns a winner in each fleet, plus an overall series champion.

At most regattas, the red, blue, and white fleets all start at the same time and race on the same course. Many regattas recognize the top sailors in each fleet. On their 16th birthday sailors "age out" of the Optimist and are no longer allowed to compete in the class. However, most sailors "size out" before they "age out." Sailing the Opti becomes very difficult once a sailor reaches 115lbs.

The USODA

The United States Optimist Dinghy Association oversees Opti racing here in the US. The USODA is in charge of enforcing class rules, overseeing national/qualifying regattas, and selecting the US National Team. The USODA adheres to the rules and guidelines set forth by the International Optimist Dinghy Association. Opti sailors are strongly encouraged to join the USODA. Although USODA membership is not required for NWYRC events, it is required for championships, qualifiers, and team-trials. Membership is also a good way to support the class that supports you! On the USODA website you'll find lots of great resources!

The US National Team

The US National Team is run by the USODA. The purpose of the USNT is to improve the level of Optimist sailing in the United States, by providing high level training to top US Optimist sailors who compete internationally. The team receives the best coaching available and practices against the best sailors in the country. The team also tries to improve the fitness of sailors. It is funded by parents of participating sailors and does not impact the USODA budget. A sailor must first qualify for Team Trials by finishing in the top 25% of the USODA NW Championships or one of the country's other regional championships. The USNT then uses the results of Team Trials to select sailors for USNT. Currently the top forty-five (45) sailors from Team Trials are invited to participate on the US National Team. Sailors must qualify for Team Trials.