Belize joins the Optimist family

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Belize joins the Optimist family

IODA “6 for 5” programme continues

BELIZE in Central America this week placed an order for its first 26 Optimists following a story uncannily similar to the origins of the Optimist over 60 years ago in Clearwater Florida.

Back in June 2010 JonO Oliver wrote “I as sailing teacher for a group of sea scouts, have been asked to find out if a junior programme for the schools would be feasible.

The answer from the IODA was an unequivocal YES. Under its “6 for 5” scheme Optimists could be sourced at very low cost and IODA would donate one boat for every five bought, The programme was backed by a group of local people who, just like the businessmen’s Optimist Club of Clearwater back in 1947, sought “to train these kids in the qualities that can lead them into being honest, productive and successful citizens. That apart, sailing itself teaches sportsmanship, fair play, teamwork, self reliance and other characteristics which they will need as they grow up.


The group, led by Alan Usher who confesses that he is not even a sailor, held a series of “open days” in December which, actively publicised by the largest local newspaper, generated huge enthusiasm. As Alan reported: “Many people in Belize now know what an Opi is and just the mention bring smiles to peoples faces!” The project snowballed. Sponsors were found for first 10, then 15, then 20 boats with IODA increasing its offer to 4 free boats.

The infrastructure is being created. “JonO has signed Bz$1.00 per year lease with the City for a lovely piece of sea front on the Button Wood Bay.” and a precast concrete launching ramp has been donated. Initial training of instructors by RYA-qualified personnel from the British army base has already begun. There are two more courses scheduled in this series to bring Optimist club personnel to full certification prior to the arrival in Belize of the first batch of Optimist dinghies scheduled for mid April.

Keen volunteers all involved with the Optimist project

Optimist builder Far East, Shanghai, who are supplying these boats at ex-factory cost, will have ex-charter boats available after the IODA South Americans at Easter and Alan is already planning the next order. “We will probably have about 4 or 5 clubs in Belize City, one in Ladyville and one in Belmopan” and there is also interest from Ambergris Cay, Spanish Lookout and the northern town of Corozal.

The newly formed Belize Sailing Association has now applied to join the ISAF, one of the new countries sought by the report of its Olympic Commission which had identified Central America as one of its prime targets for expanding sailing.

IODA has several other “6 for 5” projects at the planning stage and further applications are invited from qualifying organisations see:

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