Ice Optimists

Iceboats Designed for Kids.


Designed to be easy to build using commonly available materials, to keep costs to a minimum.

Fun For Kids

Uses standard Optimist dinghy sail plan, so youth sailors can use much of the same equipment in summer and winter.

About the Ice Optimist

About the Ice Optimist

It was created specifically as a youth trainer. It was designed to be easy to build using commonly available materials, to keep costs to a minimum. It uses a standard Optimist dinghy sail plan (hence the name), so youth sailors can use much of the same equipment in summer and winter, if they sail/race in both seasons.
An Ice Optimist is a smaller, less powerful boat than a DN. It is about two feet shorter in length, has a narrower plank, has less sail area, is easier to build, is far less costly, and is generally sailed in a bit more comfortable upright position. A DN is no longer an “entry level” ice boat that is well-suited for kids. Although technology advancements have made modern DN’s easier to sail than their predecessors, they are also faster and far more expensive–two factors that really make them less appropriate as a youth trainer. An Ice Optimist provides performance and stability that are a better match for the experience level and self confidence of most “green fleeters.”
An Ice Optimist can be built for about $1,000; the majority of the cost being accounted for by the sail plan ($500 used) and the runners ($300 used). By contrast, a modern DN can easily exceed $7,000. Building an Ice Optimist requires no special tools. Many are built with straight sideboards eliminating the need for bending/re-gluing or complex angle cuts.
If you’d rather buy one, check the Buy & Sell page of this website. Commercial iceboat builders such as Composite Concepts and Williams Infusion offer complete packages or components.
Ice Optimists can be sailed on smaller sheets of ice than other ice boats. Small lakes and even larger ponds can be quite suitable. They should always be sailed under tight supervision by adults. The 4LIYC will be hosting youth races over the lunch breaks during weekend club races and other youth training opportunities, such as dry land discussions/parties, are being planned.
Ice boating is safe for kids as long as proper safety precautions are followed. Under no circumstances should kids be ice boating alone or without close adult supervision. Kids should never be sailing on thin ice or near open water. Proper safety gear is mandatory: a helmet, goggles, ice creepers, ice picks, a life jacket, a whistle, warm clothing. The North American Ice Opti Racing Association requires that all Junior sailors wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket at ALL times while on the ice whether racing or not. The Iceboat Safety page has tips for gear and keeping safe on the ice.
Contact Ron Rosten in Madison, WI, the North American Ice Optimist Program Director. He’d be glad to, give you building plans and construction tips, point you to sources for materials/parts, discuss the clubs approach to teaching juniors, etc. Email Ron Rosten

Latest Ice Optimist News

Iceboating 101

4LIYC Junior Sailing Page
IDNIYRA Junior Sailing Page

This slide presentation, created by Sam Bartel, the IDNIYRA Junior Sailing Director, is cross-posted on DN North America. However, it is too valuable not to share with the entire ice sailing community. Keeping the pipeline full is crucial for DN Junior Sailing, and Sam’s presentation helps maintain and improve momentum.

Meet the Replacements

Jay’s replacement looking comfortable in the Skeeter.

Windjammers iceboater Jay Yaeso had his hands full with two boats over the weekend at Menominee, the Class A Skeeter, and Stern-Steerer HAYWIRE. Jay reported that he was “training his replacements.” His boys Jason and Clay sailed both the Skeeter and Stern-Steerer independently.

Below, future 4LIYC sailors Jack Ripp (Yes, that’s right!) and brother Henry Ripp (left) are taking a shop moment to discuss their Ice Optimist strategy. Their dad, Mike, will make sure their runners are sharpened.

4LIYC Next Gen

Fritz Simon explaining runner technology.

Many thanks to Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club DN sailor Tim Sugar for sharing this good-news story.

In the Season of Giving, the Sugar families were greeted with not one, but two exceptional surprises.
DNer Mark Isabell  was selling his DN trailer to Tim and Hugh and “threw in” two, hand-crafted, Ice Optimist hull’s built by Mark.  The only ask was to outfit the hulls and get them on the ice.  You’ll see one of these beautiful hulls in the picture of the Sugar kids practicing their Opti skills in the front yard!  Thanks so much Mark!
The second surprise came two weeks later, when Renegade sailor Greg Simon, emailed Tim offering two complete ice Optimist programs to the Sugar clan!  These hulls were built by Jerry Simon for his grandkids Meta & Fritz.  Greg Simon completed the programs by hand sewing Optti sails!  Meta & Fritz have outgrown the Optis and the Sugar kids are the proud new stewards of these beautiful boats!
At delivery, the Simon’s rolled out the red carpet.  Cheese, sausage, beers, and personalized rigging instructions from the Simon kids were the order of the day.  It was an amazing evening of fun!  Thank you Simon family, we’re beyond grateful for your generosity.
If there are any families that are interested in trying the Optis, please give Hugh or Tim a call.  We are happy to continue the Season of Giving with any interested kiddos.

The Sugar kids have been waiting for this since first being on the ice in 2013 with dad Tim at the Western Challenge. 

“Let’s Go Let’s Go” with Aniela Graczyk Ice Optimist Sailor

Iceboating for Kids

Aniela Graczyk is a champion Ice Optimist sailor from Poland  who competes in the annual Junior World Ice Sailing regatta held in Europe. Watch and listen as she explains in an entertaining 2 minutes why she is passionate about ice sailing.  Consider introducing your kids to ice sailing this winter.  The Ice Optimist is the perfect boat for junior sailors. Learn more about youth ice sailing here. Questions about Ice Optimists or ice sailing for kids? Please email to us!


Michal Skawinski/Kornik P339, Laura Taggu C4, and Aniela Graczyk P375 push off to race at the 2020 Junior World Championship in Sweden.

Aniela Graczyk listens as her father, Robert, coaches her on the upcoming race at the 2020 Junior World Championship.

2020 Junior World DN & Ice Optimist Championship

The World and European Junior Ice Sailing Championship concluded on February 20, 2020.  It was one of the most amazing regattas I’ve ever seen for many reasons.  Some of them include the first time being around so many young people who iceboat and the commitment and support their parents and coaches make to get them there and have a good experience. You can tell from the photos that the ice was fast. Both the DNs and Ice Optimist fleets showed a high level of sailing skill. The Lithuanian DN Ice Sailing club, organizers of the event, provided hot tea and cookies on the ice every day and the Uppsala, Sweden contingent organized hot lunch every day as well.

One of the  best memories I’ll take away from the regatta ironically took place on a day without sailing. Boredom is not a bad thing. The kids played soccer on the ice, skated, and generally horsed around for hours before being excused for the day. That evening, Estonian coach and DN sailor Mikhal Kosk organized a bowling tournament between countries at regatta headquarters. I have no idea who won but it was a blast to watch them having fun.
Here are some photos from the regatta.


Hollywood Swedish Ice

Rainbow’s End

Sorry for the light posting but I’ve been in Europe for the 2020 DN Worlds and now Junior Worlds. Good morning from near Furudal, Sweden, site of the 2020 Junior World DN & Ice Optimist championship. A few quick pictures before heading off to the sailing site. Racing will begin today.



Junior Worlds Complete

Ice Optimist sailor Livia Liszkiewicz P334 would rather be ice sailing!       Photo: Olsztyński Klub Żeglarski Facebook Page


DN Junior World Championship: 1st Rasmus Maalen, 2nd Zuzanna Rybicka Photo: Zuzanna Rybicka

The 2019 Junior DN and Ice Optimist World Championships are complete. Congratulations to all who competed including the 4LIYC’s Thor Rosten who kept his DN moving in some sticky, light conditions. The European Championship began today and will be completed on Friday.
It’s heartening to see these kids racing iceboats and gives us all hope for the future of this always fragile sport. North Americans may be wondering how the Europeans can field an 80 boat youth regatta on ice. 4LIYC member and North American Junior Secretary Ron Rosten has written about why he thinks the Europeans are miles ahead of North America in youth iceboat sailing. Read his article, “The State of Youth Sailing” in the September 2018 issue of the DN newsletter, Runner Tracks.
Europeans are also leading the way to encourage more women to compete in the sport. One sailor who has benefited from such a strong youth program is Polish DN sailor Zuzanna Rybicka -she has had quite an ice sailing season. Someday we will see her compete in North America. I took the liberty of posting (with a bit of correcting and guessing on the translation) her thoughts from Facebook today:


Yay! Today ended the junior world championship where I took 2th place in the DN fleet and 1st place in the women’s division. 🏆
It’s a great goodbye with age junior, and at the same time successful year greeting with age
This year I got a lot of support from a lot of people and I would like to thank everyone Awesome starts having such great fans like you guys.

Summary of my results in season 2018/19:
🥇 1st Women, European championship
🥈 1st. Women, Polish junior championship
🥈 2nd  Junior World Championship
🥇 1st  Women, Junior World Championship
[In today’s] European Junior Championship, after the first day I am on lead among women and second place in DN. Open. Keep your fingers crossed, tomorrow decisive races 💪

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Previous: 2019 Junior World Championship Begins
Previous: Junior Worlds Ice Sailing Championships Day 1

Junior World Ice Sailing Championship: Day 1

Photo: Michał Skawiński “Kornik” POL 333 P-339

Provisional Results IDNIYRA Europe

The 2019 Junior World DN & Ice Optimist Championships got underway today on Lake Siemianowka in light air and sticky ice. Ron Rosten reported that the wind shut off during the day’s last race and they tore down their boats in the dark. Ron also praised Estonian DNer Rasmus Maalen C20, currently in first, who “went out of his way to give Thor [Rosten] advice and offer encouragement.”
Rasmus Maalen, it should be noted, won the first race of the European Championship 2 weeks ago and finished 6th overall. Another junior who competed at the Europeans, Zuzanna Rybicka P119, is in second place just 2 points behind Rasmus tonight.
In the Ice Optimist fleet, Estonian sailor Lisbeth Taggu C1 holds first with Poles Mateusz Gigielewicz P89 and Anielka Graczyk P375 tied for second. Aneilka’s father, Robert Graczyk, won the Polish Championship last Saturday. There are a combined total of 80 skippers registered for the regatta. Youth iceboating is doing well in Europe.

Previous: Junior Worlds See the World
Previous: 2019 Junior World Championship Begins

Junior Worlds See the World

Junior DN & Ice Optimist sailors at Lake Niegocin in Gizycko, Poland                   Photo: Mihkel Kosk


“Double ice [the Europeans’ name for shell ice], not frozen slush, and snow drifts” on Niegocin means the juniors are on the move today to greener iceboating pastures on Lake Siemianowka at Poland’s border with Belarus. Opening ceremonies and racing for the Junior World DN & Ice Optimist championships are scheduled for Wednesday Feb 6th.
Previous: 2019 Junior World Championship Begins

Sam Bartel, an active DN class sailor and Director of Race Operations at the Lake Minnetonka Sailing School has stepped forward to take the reins of the DN Junior Ice Optimist program. 
Learn more about Sam and junior iceboating by visiting the IDNIYRA website. 
IDNIYRA DN Junior & Ice Optimist Page