It was created specifically as a youth trainer. It was designed to be easy to build using commonly available materials, to keep costs to a minimum. It uses a standard Optimist dinghy sail plan (hence the name), so youth sailors can use much of the same equipment in summer and winter, if they sail/race in both seasons.
An Ice Optimist is a smaller, less powerful boat than a DN. It is about two feet shorter in length, has a narrower plank, has less sail area, is easier to build, is far less costly, and is generally sailed in a bit more comfortable upright position.
A DN is no longer an "entry level" ice boat that is well-suited for kids. Although technology advancements have made modern DN's easier to sail than their predecessors, they are also faster and far more expensive--two factors that really make them less appropriate as a youth trainer. An Ice Optimist provides performance and stability that are a better match for the experience level and self confidence of most "green fleeters."
An Ice Optimist can be built for about $1,000; the majority of the cost being accounted for by the sail plan ($500 used) and the runners ($300 used). By contrast, a modern DN can easily exceed $7,000. Building an Ice Optimist requires no special tools. Many are built with straight sideboards eliminating the need for bending/re-gluing or complex angle cuts.
If you'd rather buy one, check the Buy & Sell page
of this website. Commercial iceboat builders such as Composite Concepts
and Williams Infusion
offer complete packages or components.