Ingenious, adaptable, attractive and affordable...

The Optimist dinghy may have met its match in the new Laser bug that was unveiled at the London Boat Show.

The Oppie has been the starter boat of choice for 60 years and its simple design and seaworthiness has kept it head and shoulders above other small dinghy upstarts. Until now, perhaps.

The Laser Bug is aimed squarely at the would-be Optimist buyer and makes the Oppie look very old indeed.

Jo Richards, designer of the Bug, was asked to build a modern dinghy that offers a huge range of performance and could suit beginners and experts alike.

He came up with a design that seems to have fulfilled the brief and much more besides.

Looking at the Bug besides an Oppie the differences are obvious.

GRP bouyed up by bulky airbags is replaced by a hollow triple layer polythylene hull. The Bug will float even if the air chamber is flooded.

The spritsail-rig of the Oppie is replaced by a conventional bermduian sail that can be rolled around the mast to reef.

The wide sections of the stern, free of airbags, would allow an adult to sail the Bug without needing a contortionist’s skills and there’s plenty of room for two kids.

The Bug comes in a learner and racing option. The former has a wheel partly recessed into the bow. Pull the two integral aluminium handles from the stern drainage ports and the dinghy can be trundled like a wheel barrow from boat or carpark to the shore. At 46kg it’s easily carried on roof racks.

The Bug Race has a pre-bent mast top and a 5.3m sq Mylar sail, more akin to a windsurf rig.

There are storage compartments for a bottle of water (today’s kids have to hydrate!) and for a pair of oars and rowlocks, plus Dad’s car keys or mobile phone. The box for the dagger board is wide and flat to make a comfortable seat from which to row.

Jo Richards is the man behind many of Laser’s most popular designs and has been working on the Bug for two years.

‘I am ecstatic with where we have ended up. It’s rare to walk away from a project feeling that you have met all the targets.’

The Bug costs GBP 1,350. The Bug Race is GBP 1,450, putting it just below the price of Laser’s Optimist.

Expect to see Bugs popping up in sailing schools around the country. Whether they will be able to shake the Oppie off the top spot as the choice for national and international regettas is doubtful. Though give them a decade or two and who knows.

Picture: London Boat Show