The news is striking. Juan Kouyoumdjian and Lillia have joined forced again and created the new super Optimist. That’s right, the “bathtub” that every year introduces thousands of kids around the world to sailing.
The boat is called LK21 (L stands for Lillia, K for Juan K and 21 for the year of construction) and is already available and customizable on the website of Ultra Sailing Boats, the company led by Massimo Leporato that will market the boat.
We asked Stefano Lillia, owner of the historic boatyard on Lake Como, which has been producing Dinghy 12, Snipe, Fun and Star boats since 1957, how the idea for a new Optimist “concept” (which we recall was designed in 1947 by Clark Mills) came about and how a great designer of international renown like Juan K, between a 115-foot Swan and a TP52 or IMOCA 60, had “fun” in rethinking a 2.36 x 1.12 m dinghy (weighing 35 kg).
Amused is the right word,’ he tells us. “Juan K likes these projects, which are a real challenge”.
In fact, if there’s one class characterised by pure monotypy, it’s the Optimist: “The rating system is very rigid, the only ‘tolerated’ differences from the standards to be respected are those made to remedy construction faults,” explains Lillia. “Koujoumdjian has intervened in full compliance with the rules, but he has also managed to give his ‘touch’ in this case, playing with the shapes and the camber of the hull.
A high-performance boat that, Lillia assures, will never be considered oversized: “Not least because, with the meticulousness that distinguishes us, we designed the moulds using numerically controlled machines, a unique procedure for this type of boat!
“They had been asking me to build a Lillia Optimist for some time,” says Stefano, “but I didn’t feel ready. Or rather, I had the skills, but on my own I would probably have ended up building very few boats, for a niche. When my son started sailing in the Optimist (he is on board the Optimist LK21, in Carlo Borlenghi’s photos), the ‘little voice’ in my head was stronger. This is where Massimo Leporati, a friend and client of Lillia’s (he owns a Dinghy), comes in. He not only decides to finance the construction of the prototypes (the moulds were made in a shipyard in Spain), but also to set up an international distribution network with his Ultra Sailing.
“We have recently received clearance from the Optimist class for the production of the boat, since, as we said, it meets all the construction parameters. Now, once the moulds have been taken to the boatyard, the goal is to start production and have the first boats ready for the Italian Championship in Sardinia in September.
Production will not be a niche product: “The idea is to conquer the international market, supported by a solid sales network. The idea is to conquer the international market, supported by a solid sales network.” This is also because the Optimist market has been at a standstill for some time, and a new Italian player with two big names like Juan K and Lillia will certainly give it a boost.
The Optimist LK21 is offered for sale at € 4,087. The price includes: LJK21 hull, buoyancy reserves, Optiparts adjustable mast foot, straps, Carbo Ratch Matic 2625.red block, Gottifredi and Maffioli graduated sheet, centreboard elastic, coaming collar, Harken mainsheet circuit.
In addition to the sails and masts, there is also the rudder and centreboard set (with prices ranging from 375 to 510 euros).
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