Opti Buoyancy Bag Care and Use | Expert Advice

Buoyancy Bags: An Opti-MUST Have Item feature image

Today’s item up for discussion: Opti Airbags a.k.a. Optimist Buoyancy Bags

  • Optimist a.k.a. Opti Airbags and Optiparts Buoyancy BagsNecessity Scale: 10 out of 10 (Must Have)
  • Total number per boat: 3
  • Durability: 5 out of 10 (Not exactly a Punching Bag…)
  • Cost: between $33 and $37
aps-opti-airbagAs for cost, the lower end of the cost spectrum have a short-tube for inflation kind of like a beach ball.
The higher end bags are more durable and are built with a long inflation tube. This tube is much better for keeping air in the bag and is far more convenient to inflate.

Annapolis Performance APS Thumbs UpGood News:

For optimist, using airbags for buoyancy is what makes the boat much affordable and lighter than having tanks or false decks. Hardly anyone can say they have been lucky enough to see an opti sink…to the bottom at least. Therefore, you can rest assured that fully inflated airbags will keep your dinghy floating in any condition. That is, of course, assuming that opti sailors sail with three airbags that WORK.


Bad News: Annapolis Performance Sailing APS Thumbs Photo

They are not tanks. You might find yourself pumping up your airbag(s) frequently. (Good way to hyperventilate for some people. Be careful.) Unfortunately, this is a sign that you are going to have to replace them, especially if you are sailing in a USODA regatta. You may notice most Opti sailors do not have the means to pay for their sailing, much less their airbags. Optimoms and Optidads get to immerse themselves with the maximum potential of their child’s “Opticost.” To put it simply, these airbags are One Design parts. Like many One Design parts, they are made by a select few companies, and they are very important to proper boat functionality. Take good care of them (tips to follow…), and be sure to replace them when you need to.


Annapolis Performance Sailing APS 3 Thumbs UpBest News:

If you are able to take care of the airbags, you’ll get or should ultimately get a good amount of use from them.


Personal Experience:Annapolis Performance Sailing APS Not Twenty Dollars

I remember when my father and I learned that twenty dollars does not buy you a set of 3 airbags as our (now) APS Product Master James rang us up back in the day. (Oh yeah, APS promotes from within!)

From then on, I had a new found respect for my airbags…at least my dad did. In fact, it was such a good learning experience that it did not take my old man long to figure out a few ways to make those airbags last more than one summer. (WARNING: Opti maintenance habits are not genetically linked.)


Here are a few good lessons my parents still bring up to this day…

Annapolis Performance Sailing APS Optimist a.k.a. Opti Top Cover• The best way to kill your airbags is to travel with them in the boat, ESPECIALLY boats without an Opti Top Cover on.
• Don’t use the airbags as a pillow or put heavy objects on them as that will put unnecessary wear on them.
• Leaving airbags exposed to sun is going to kill them quickly!
• Over-inflation of the airbag puts a good bit of pressure on the seams.
• Leaving the airbags in the boat in the off-season will likely land you in our storefront or on our website at least once a year.

Personal Recommendations:
Annapolis Performance Sailing APS Beach Ball•Avoid airbags with nozzles that resemble the ones on beach balls. (Short Tube)
•Remove all airbags before any road trip even if boats have a top covers.
•When you store deflated airbags, avoid folding the airbag; just roll it up if possible.
•They can be over inflated, consider a quick release of pressure if your airbags are bulging through the straps.
•Keep the airbags out of the sun with a top cover or store the boat upside down.
•Take the airbags out if the boat is not being used for any extended period of time.

Annapolis Performance Sailing APS Don't Let your Opti Sink like this...

I cannot say that I have been lucky enough to have seen an Opti sink to the bottom. Although, in my many years of “Optifun,” I recall various occurrences in which Opti sailors decided to experiment with the concept. A story or two from my early years (which might have involved no wind at sailing camp, youthful curiosity, and a somewhat-vicious bailer war) in which my friends and I learned that airbags are somewhat necessary to Opti Safety. We were not able sink a single boat…all the way to the bottom that is.

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