The American Clark Mills is considered to be the inventor of the optimist, which he himself once called the “horse trough”. The actual father of the youngest boat Major Clifford McKay is less well known.
The retired officer was the initiator of an initiative in the town of Clearwater / Florida to promote youth projects. There were soap box races and other sports to choose from. But the Clearwater Town Council favored the sailing project.
McKay commissioned Clark Mills with the construction and determined the key data. The most important requirement: the ship could not exceed the price of 50 dollars. Father and son should be able to assemble it in the garage at home.
McKay's son was the first Opti sailor allowed to test the prototype. He then sailed it with enthusiasm. “We often jumped straight from the school bus into our ships,” he says. "The muddy shallows were often a problem, but you quickly learned to heel the boat so that it could move forward in shallow water."
33 Optis were built in a short time. Then the hangar burned down with all the ships. A disaster. The project seemed to have failed. In fact, it was just the beginning …