The Optimist may be the most successful class in history. Thousands of kids around the world have cut their teeth sailing and racing Optis since the boat first appeared in 1952, but is that it? Must young sailors start out in a square boat that’s not too durable, not self-bailing, and needs fixed buoyancy bags? Yes, the Opti has earned its place by sheer force of numbers, and it’s going to take a while before another boat usurps its spot at the top of the kid-boat heap. But have you seen the Bug from LaserPerformance?
Over 10 new boats in this category (planing dinghies with and without retractable weighted keels, rotomolded fun boats, and trailerable racers and cruisers) were launched this year by several different companies, which should pump some fun and vitality into this important category. We gave this year’s award to the smallest boat in the fleet—the Bug—because it makes a legitimate claim to improving on the Opti. It looks cool and appears to sail well. The cockpit is self-bailing, the rotomolded hull can withstand punishment that a fiberglass hull can’t, and if little Johnnie does capsize in a squall, he’ll be able to right it himself and sail back to the dock. That’s a quantum leap forward from needing to be picked up by an instructor from a completely swamped training boat. For more information, visit LaserPerformance
LOA: 8ft, 6in
Beam: 4ft, 4in
Draft: 2ft, 11in