The ecoOptimist dinghy is said to be the first recyclable sailing boat of the Optimist class in the world – since it started to be built from fibreglass rather than plywood.

The ecoOptimist has been designed and built by Northern Light Composites in Monfalcone, Italy, who teamed up with Clean Sailors to launch the world’s first sustainable and recyclable Optimist for young sailors and sailing schools, globally.

Many sailors have their first experiences on the water in an Optimist dinghy – it represents the single largest sailing class on the planet, and is the single most-widely used boat.

The materials for the hull of the ecoOptimist were carefully selected and tested to make sure that they delivered the same high performance as conventionally built boats in the Optimist class, but in a package that is significantly more sustainable.

What’s the ecoOptimist made from?

The ecoOptimist is built from sustainable materials and recyclable once it is no longer fit to carry young sailors – more than 90% of the hull are already recyclable today and soon it should be 100%.

The ampliTex natural fibre reinforcements, Atlas HPE core and resin can then be reused to produce new components. Compared to conventional glass fibres, flax fibres reduce the CO2 footprint of the composite from cradle to gate and don’t rely on fossil resources for the production of the raw material.

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Instead, they sequester CO2 from the atmosphere during their growth and act as a natural CO2 sink during their entire lifetime.

Each ecoOptimist also features a sail by OneSails, the primary producer of Optimist sails worldwide and the only sailmakers to date achieving a performing, strong and durable ISO certified sustainable and recyclable sail fabric, produced in a low carbon footprint manufacturing process, making them the leading sailmaker also in sustainable practices. OneSails is a proud partner of the ecoOptimist project.

First 10 will be prizes

A competition will be launched this month (June 2022) to give sailing clubs around the world the chance to own one of the first ten ecoOptimists ever produced. The ten boats will be built later this year and ready for the opening of the 2023 sailing season by March 2023.

Winning sailing clubs will provide a 500 EUR deposit ahead of build. The total cost of the ecoOptimist is comparable with other composite Optimists at EUR 4,000.

Holly Manvell and Fabio Balgion

Holly Manvell and Fabio Balgion with the ecoOptimist dinghy

Founder of Clean Sailors Holly Manvell said: “The Optimist is renowned across the world for being the primary boat so many of us have our first experience of sailing in, myself included. It’s the single largest class on our planet, sailed by our youngest and the next generations of our global sailing community.

Much of the current, global Optimist class are imported plastic hulls which enter landfill at end of life. It’s therefore super important to consider and develop how we produce this boat, and how we introduce our future sailors to a better way of sailing, at comparable cost – something that Northern Light Composites have managed to achieve.”

Fabio Bignolini, co-founder of nlcomp, said: “Many of us sailors started with the Optimist and it is really exciting for us to launch this project for a new generation of recyclable boats. I believe that starting with young sailors is the way to change the marine industry’s perception about our new technology and what is possible for the future of better boatbuilding.

“We are super proud to launch our ecoOptimist with Clean Sailors and a partner like Onesails, both who share our same sensitivity for the end-of-life problem. We can’t wait to tour Europe over the coming months and talk about new materials and technologies with the industry and young sailors, alike.”

Dede De Luca, founder of Onesails, said: “I’m very proud that OneSails can support the launch of the ecoOptimist with nl comp and Clean Sailors. As a team of sailmakers we are committed to testing and developing new technologies to minimize the impact we have on our environment. We are proud to be the leading sail provider for the Optimist class and the sailmaker leading the way for better, smarter practices in sailmaking.”

“Train ‘em young!”

“Train ‘em young! This could be the motto for Northern Light Composites’ ecoOptimist project, which Bcomp is an instrumental partner of. Our advanced ampliTex flax fabrics are used throughout the hull laminates, matching the performance and weight of traditional glass laminates, but with much more attractive end-of-life options and environmental properties. It is great to see that sustainability and our planet’s health are starting to become major priorities in the selection of boatbuilding materials. Passing on this sustainable mindset already to young sailors is definitely the way to go”, added Paolo Dassi, Marine and Industry Manager at Bcomp.