Guide to Blades

Where can I purchase a set of blades? - McLaughlin is the North American importer for all major brands of blades. All of the best selling foils can be purchased at your nearest Optiparts dealer and a complete line of blades with prices can be found in our online store. If you still have questions after reading what follows give us a call and we will help you get the right set for your sailor. 800-784-6478

The epoxy foil - The Optimist class has a goal that boats built by different manufacturers be identical. The tolerances for the boat were very loose when it was first designed. Since 1995 the class has been tightening the rules to achieve their goal. Effective March 1st of 2005 a new blade manufacturing specification was put into effect. Called “New Rule Foils”, this standard specifies that: the outside shape of the foil be within 1 to 3 mm of each other, that the core be PVC foam, that the resin shall be clear epoxy, and the foil be built from specific weaves and weights of fiberglass. Even the leading, trailing and bottom edges have specific set back to control the parabolic shape. The class also wanted to allow people to be able to build a boat from wood. Thus there is a legal plywood version of the foil plans. As of this writing there are no commercial manufacturers of this foil.

Grandfathered old shape foils - Before the new standards went into effect the shape of the rudder could be anything that fit in a specified rectangle. There are hundreds of thousands of these blades in existence. The International Association (IODA) said any old rule foils not measured before March 1, 2006 could not be used for racing. The United States Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA) has been tolerant of the measurement date for Old Rule foils, allowing foils built to the old standard to be measured at major regattas past the 2006 date. These old style foils are grand fathered and will be legal for racing at every regatta in the United States forever as long as they meet the old standard. The only place New Rule Foils are mandatory is at the World and Continental Championships and on any new boat built after 2005.

Is the old style shape still offered? - Optiparts still offers wood and fiberglass foils the old style shape in wood and fiberglass because they are cheaper and the shape is a better for teaching sailing. The old shape gives more weather helm or feel for steering and allows better sculling. Sculling helps the student keep the boat from stalling out. These foils cannot be sold with a new boat and used for racing but they are less expensive and still purchased for club programs.

Are foils all the same? - Yes, all New Rule epoxy foils are basically the same. The major difference is in the surface finish and the leading and trailing edges. N1 foils has manufactured a high tolerance foil to go on McLaughlin’s Pro-Racer. It is made to our specifications and is denoted by green foam and the Pro-Racer logo. As with everything surrounding the Pro-Racer it is built to the highest standards.

What should I be looking for when I buy blades? - There are three properties, which define a good set of blades, straightness, fairness, and stiffness. With the controls placed on the manufacturers by the new rule specifications these differences are very subtle compared to what they were in the past. Here is a brief description of each, and what you should expect to see in different price brackets.

Straightness - is the most important in the daggerboard and can be tested by sighting down each of the long edges. Since the use of epoxy as the foil resin, most blades will be perfect to the eye.

Fairness - refers to how smooth the surface of the foil is. The more expensive the blade, the more perfect you may expect the surface to be.

Stiffness - is most important in the daggerboard. Generally the stiffer, the better. Since the rules now specify the stiffness of the foams and what glass and resin will be used. All New Rule foils are about the same and exceed the stiffness of those built under the old rule.

Other information on foils - You are better off with bad blades in great condition than great blades in bad condition. Taking care of your equipment makes you faster on the water and it will save you money. Blade bags, covers and dollies all pay for themselves in a short amount of time.

A blade bag is worth the investment - We feel the blade bag is essential for protecting your expensive blade investment. Foils can be easily damaged and a fully padded blade bag keeps them safe. The Optiparts blade bag has an outside compartment to store things like: Life jacket, gloves, wind pennants, lunch, sunglasses, etc. The compartment is made out of a mesh material, which allows wet articles to dry. This compartment gives a young sailor, prone to losing things, a central place to put them.