Originally Posted by Ribtecer
Not looking for a race winner just something to teach the children how to sail.
Plastic ideally, but GRP or wood considered - any condition.
Winchester area but will travel for the right boat.
Firstly, if you genuinely want something in Optimist format but not for racing then the OPPI in rotomoulded polyethylene is definitely worth a look. They are much more robust than GRP or Wood, but they are also a bit heavier. Personally I'd never want to own a wooden dinghy again - unless you like doing DIY and painting more than sailing its just a headache - on a boat kids will bash into pontoons, RIBs, other boats, drag across the beach and drop off the back of the trolley its just asking for problems!
Bizarely in the pushy-parent world of Oppy sailing you may find that if your kids graduate to wanting to race that the OPPI's are not permitted as although indistinguishable in any realistic way they don't meet the technicalities of the class rules. I find this slightly odd as OPPIs are heavier and slower so not a threat to the 'pure' Optimist community. At Club level there will probably be no problem. Once you start racing away from your own club, especially at official events then I think you can expect to face this snobbery.
Whilst I am a fan of sailing what you want rather than what some committee has decided is the perfect route into sailing for kids is, there is much to be said for them sailing similar boats to other children so they can learn together, race (even informally) etc. That said I'm not convinced Oppies are any longer the best total beginner, primary school age kids boat we can design.
How old are your kids? My eldest is 8 and hasn't shown an enormous interest in sailing so far (he's not a strong swimmer so I can see it would be a little intimidating). Personally if he starts looking to get into sailing I would be seriously considering the RS Tera - they won't outgrow it as quick as an Oppi and I think they are better than Toppers too. If the kids are really young it may not be suitable (suggested min weight is 30 kg - what's that about 9?) There is a race scene - but not as big as topper/oppy - which may or may not be a plus it depends if you want to spend every weekend in a campervan following the little ones round in the vain belief that if you keep pumping money into it that they will live the dream you never had!
I've also heard good things about Bic Opens - as well as having a faster rig, they can be sailed with an Oppy rig which would make for an ideal training format for younger kids, with an upgrade path just by putting the "proper" Bic rig on it. Never seen one in person though.