What fleet is my sailor in and how are the ages for Red, Blue and White fleets defined?
We get many questions about the different fleets (age groups) found at Optimist regattas. Here's a simple explanation.
It wouldn't be fair to make a beginner race against skippers who have been racing for years.
To make Optimist racing in the United States as fair as possible, the Class puts each skipper into an age group, called a fleet. Trophies are typically awarded to the top skippers in each age group, or fleet.
White fleet is for skippers who are 10 and under. Blue fleet is for skippers who are 11 or 12. Red fleet is for skippers who are 13, 14, or 15. In all fleets, the determining date is the skipper’s age on the first day of the regatta not the skipper's age at the end of the current year. Skippers move up to blue fleet on their 11th birthday and red fleet on their 13th birthday. At most regattas, the red, blue, and white fleets all start at the same time and race on the same course.
What about this Green Fleet?
Green fleet is a special fleet for beginners. Green fleeters can be any age up to 15. A green fleet might have skippers who are as young as 6 and as old as 15, but sooner or later they'll move into their age-appropriate fleet. A ten year old green fleeter would move into white fleet, a thirteen year old green fleeter would move into red fleet, etc.
The purpose of the green fleet is to encourage novice sailors. To discourage sailors from staying in green fleet, in order to win races and receive awards, USODA’s policy is to present “Participation Awards” to all skippers sailing in the green fleet. By not crowning a champion, sailors and their parents, are encouraged to move to the appropriate age fleet as they become more confident of their abilities.
What is "Aging Out"?
A skipper can only race Optimists until December 31 of the year in which they turn 15. On December 31st of that year, they "age out" of Optimist and can no longer race in the Optimist Class.
It really isn't. The fleets keep the competition fair and challenging for everyone. They also help you see how you're doing against other skippers your own age. Good luck, sail fast, and have fun!