Do they have to learn on Optis? Or is that just the cheapest entry method?
I participated in our local sail program (optis and 420), but don't think I'll join the travel team (for any sport) due to costs and time involved. I want the hooligans to learn to ENJOY the sport and learn the fun-damentals. If they really take an interest later on, they can join the HS or college teams.
One of the really fun deals they have here is Sunday at Sugdeon (our local park). Couple of Waves, a few 420 looking craft... Sail club rents the facility and all chip in $15/family for unlimited use of the boats for the day along with BBQ and other social stuff. We all pile on the Wave and chase down the other boats on the small lake. The kids love it.
We move from Sabots to Open Bics years ago. Primary reason was maintenance. We'd spend three to six weeks every year repairing the Sabots. The Bics are pretty much bullet proof.
Downside of the Bics is the film sails. Depending on use, we were luck to get three years out of them. We had North make sails that have lasted six years and are still going strong for about two thirds of the film sail price.