Perspective: The year was 1947. A gallon of gas was 15 cents and the brand new car to put it in was $1,300. In Pinellas County, Florida, a population boom was happening, and there was a desire for more activities for family and children.
The local Rotary Club had an idea — a soap box derby for kids on the water. A sailing derby.
Clark Mills, a father of four, made an offer to do what he did best — to design a boat, a small design easy enough for a family to build together in the garage.
The boat that he designed was made of three pieces of plywood and one simple sail. It caught on fast and soon “Opti” pram kits were being shipped to families around the United States. Mills’ design has helped thousands of children around the world to experience sailing with more than 400,000 Optimist prams active in 120 countries today. At the 2014 Olympics, 80 percent of the boat skippers were former Optimist pram sailers.
On Sept. 24, Mills who died in 2001, will be inducted posthumously into the National Sailing Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court in Newport, Rhode Island.
For those interested in seeing some of Clark Mills’ work, Heritage Village in Largo, Florida, in 2012, created the McKay Creek Boat Shop, patterned after the boat shops that lined Florida’s westcoast during Mills’ era as a boat builder. The idea for the boat shop came after one of Mills’ childhood friends donated a Snipe, a sail boat Mills built from juniper wood. Over the last five years, volunteers have ensured that Mills’ legacy stays in the public eye.
Source: this information originally appeared here in the Tampa Bay Times.
Read more about the 2017 Sailing Hall of Fame inductees here.