The new Optimist is born, “retiring” the others. Find out who is behind

Optimist LK21The news is the bombshell. Juan Kouyoumdjian and Lillia have joined forces again(HERE is the story of their Star that won the European Championship with Enrico Chieffi) and, hush-hush, made a new, super, Optimist. That’s right, the “bathtub” that introduces thousands of kids around the world to sailing every year.

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 configurable on the website of Ultra Sailing Boats, Massimo Leporato ‘s company that will market the boat.

Optimist LK21THE K FACTOR.

How the idea for a new Optimist “concept” (which we recall was a 1947 design by Clark Mills) came about, and how a great internationally renowned designer like Juan K, between a 115-foot Swan and a TP52 or IMOCA 60, “had fun” rethinking a 2.36 x 1.12 m (35 kg weight) dinghy, we asked Stefano Lillia, owner of the historic Lake Como shipyard that has been producing Dinghy 12, Snipe, Fun and Star since 1957.

The great designer Juan Kouyoumdjian

“Amused is the word,” he tells us. “Juan K likes these projects, which are a real challenge.”

In fact, if there is one class characterized by pure monotypy, it is the Optimist: “The rating system is very rigid, the only ‘tolerated’ differences from the standards to be met are those made to address construction defects,” explains Lillia. “Koujoumdjian took action in full compliance with the rules, but he managed to give his ‘touch’ here as well, playing on shapes, on hull camber.”

Optimist LK21A boat ‘pushed’ to the limit and performing well, which, Lillia assures us, can never be considered out of tonnage: “Not least because, with the extreme meticulousness that distinguishes us, we designed the molds using numerically controlled machines, a unique procedure for this type of boat!”

Stephen Lillia


I had long been asked to build a Lillia-branded Optimist.”, Stefano recounts, “but I didn’t feel ready. Or rather, the skills were there, but on my own I would probably have ended up building very few boats, for a niche. When my son also started going Optimist (that’s him aboard the Optimist LK21, in Carlo Borlenghi’s photos), the ‘little voice’ in my head was stronger.” And this is where Massimo Leporati, Lillia’s friend and client (he is a Dinghy owner) comes in, who not only decides to finance the construction of the prototypes (the molds were made in a shipyard in Spain), but to start an international distribution network with his Ultra Sailing.


“We recently got ‘clearance’ from the Optimist class to produce the boat, since, as anticipated, it meets all the construction parameters. Now the goal, having brought the molds to the shipyard, is to start with production and have the first boats ready for the Italian Championship in Sardinia in September.”

A production that will not be niche: “The idea is to conquer the international market, supported by a solid sales network.” Not least because the Optimist market has been at a standstill for some time, and a new Italian player who can expend two big names like Juan K and Lillia will certainly shake things up.


Massimo Leporato is the owner of Ultra Sailing Boats, which markets LK21

The Optimist LK21 is priced at 4,087 euros. Package includes: hull LJK21, buoyancy reserves, Optiparts adjustable mast foot, straps, Carbo Ratch Matic block, Gottifredi and Maffioli graded sheet, elastic centreboard, coaming collar, Harken mainsail sheet circuit.

To all this must be added, in addition to sails and masting, of course, the rudder and daggerboard set (with prices ranging from 375 to 510 euros).

Eugene Ruocco


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