The Optimist Pram

The Clearwater Community Sailing Center and the Rotary Club of Clearwater Beach have something in common. The Optimist Pram! The Optimist Pram has taught more sailors than any other class sailboat in history and it started in 1948 right here in Clearwater Florida.

Major Clifford A. McKay, founder of the Clearwater Beach Rotary Club, went to the local Optimist club with an idea for a child size sailboat to teach children to sail and hold races in Clearwater Bay. Clark Mills was approached to design a boat safe for children to sail that could be built out of 2 sheets of plywood for under $50.


Mills, Green, and Major Clifford A. McKay.

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Mills, Green, and Major Clifford A. McKay.

Clark designed a funny looking box with a spritsail rig he named the Optimist Pram. Clark said of the first hull, “It wasn’t pretty, because Major McKay wanted it fast, for the next Optimist Club meeting. I hammered it together in a day and a half with 10 penny galvanized nails, slapped on a coat of paint, and called her an “Optimist Pram”. We rigged her up in the hotel lobby where the Optimist Club met!”

The first child to sail that boat was Clifford McKay, Jr., who had a great time. The boat proved perfect for its purposes and now you can find Opti Prams racing on every continent except Antarctica – so far!

The Clearwater Community Sailing Center (CCSC) was founded in 2002 to provide credible sailing instruction to the local area. With more than 60 boats, CCSC is able to provide educational and recreational sailing, windsurfing and paddling programs to everyone regardless of age, ability or financial concerns.

CCSC’s programs and outreach include Camp Awesome, a summer camp teaching high functioning Autistic and Asperger’s youth how to sail. CCSC is an official US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider Training Center, in full support of the U.S. effort to produce winning national Olympic and Paralympic teams by providing an effective development pathway for future Olympians and Paralympians.

For more about CCSC, visit Clearwater Community Sailing Center and the CCSC Facebook Page.