Optimist is a boat dedicated to the very young (from 8 to 14 years old), designed in 1947 by Clark Mills; it spread in the 50s in Denmark and Scandinavia and later throughout Europe. The characteristic that distinguishes it is surely the “severed” and therefore squared bow; it is 2.30 meters long; even the sail is characteristic with an area of 3.25 square meters. His project was based on the need to be able to offer the smallest trainee navigators, a boat that is simple to drive and above all safe. For the shape of the hull, Mills first observed the shape of some carts used by children in the post-war period, built with wooden boxes and wheels, hence the flat bow. The intuition, however, went further, Mills immediately understood that a hull of compact dimensions with edge and smooth hull, in addition to offering a wide margin of safety, was able to ensure interesting performance. He developed the project and studied an appropriate sail plan.
The Optimist is a single hull equipped with a single sail, which a child can ride alone. Due to its structure it violates a series of principles of the good design of a sailboat – its picturesque appearance has earned it, in particular, the nickname of “bathtub”.
Nevertheless it has surprising maneuverability characteristics in maneuvering, and the average level of the racers in this class is notoriously very high. The Optimist is still today the quintessential school boat, in fact many shipyards produce this type of boat. In 1973 the Optimist became an international series, reflecting the widespread popularity it rapidly had: a success that few other sailing classes can boast; a success signed by Clark Mills, a designer who passed away on 11 December 2001, but also obtained thanks to the commitment of all the class.