Types of Sailboats: A Complete Guide

Types of Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

Learning the different types of sailboats can help you identify vessels and choose the right boat.

In this article, we'll cover the most common kinds of sailboats, their origins, and what they're used for. We'll also go over the strengths and weaknesses of each design, along with when they're most useful.

The most common kind of sailboat is the sloop, as it's simple to operate and versatile. Other common sailboat types include the schooner, cutter, cat, ketch, schooner, catamaran, and trimaran. Other sailboat variations include pocket cruisers, motorsailers, displacement, and shoal-draft vessels.

The information found in this article is sourced from boat reference guides, including A Field Guide to Sailboats of North America by Richard M. Sherwood and trusted sources in the sailing community.

Table of contents

Distinguishing Types of Sailboats

In this article, we'll distinguish sailboats by traits such as their hull type, rig, and general configuration. Some sailboats share multiple characteristics with other boats but fall into a completely different category. For example, a sailboat with a Bermuda rig, a large engine, and a pilothouse could technically be called a sloop, but it's more likely a motorsailer.

When discerning sailboat type, the first most obvious place to look is the hull. If it has only one hull, you can immediately eliminate the trimaran and the catamaran. If it has two or more hulls, it's certainly not a typical monohull vessel.

The next trait to consider is the rig. You can tell a lot about a sailboat based on its rig, including what it's designed to be used for. For example, a long and slender sailboat with a tall triangular rig is likely designed for speed or racing, whereas a wide vessel with a complex gaff rig is probably built for offshore cruising.

Other factors that determine boat type include hull shape, overall length, cabin size, sail plan, and displacement. Hull material also plays a role, but every major type of sailboat has been built in both wood and fiberglass at some point.

Sailboat vs. Motorsailer

Most sailboats have motors, but most motorized sailboats are not motorsailers. A motorsailer is a specific kind of sailboat designed to run efficiently under sail and power, and sometimes both.

Most sailboats have an auxiliary engine, though these power plants are designed primarily for maneuvering. These vessels cannot achieve reasonable speed or fuel-efficiency. Motorsailers can operate like a powerboat.

Motorsailers provide great flexibility on short runs. They're great family boats, and they're popular in coastal communities with heavy boat traffic. However, these features come at a cost. Motorsailers aren't the fastest or most efficient powerboats, and they're also not the most agile sailboats. That said, they make an excellent general-purpose sailing craft.

Monohull vs. Multi-hull: Which is Better?

Multihull sailboats are increasingly popular, thanks to advances and lightweight materials, and sailboat design. But are they better than traditional sailboats? Monohulls are easier to maintain and less expensive, and they offer better interior layouts. Multihulls are more stable and comfortable, and they're significantly easier to control. Multihull sailboats also have a speed advantage.

Monohull Sailboats

A monohull sailboat is a traditionally-shaped vessel with a single hull. The vast majority of consumer sailboats are monohulls, as they're inexpensive to produce and easy to handle. Monohull sailboats are proven and easy to maintain, though they lack the initial stability and motion comfort of multi-hull vessels.

Monohull sailboats have a much greater rig variety than multi-hull sailboats. The vast majority of multihull sailboats have a single mast, whereas multi-masted vessels such as yawls and schooners are always monohulls. Some multi-hull sailboats have side-by-side masts, but these are the exception.

Catamaran Sailboats

The second most common sailboat configuration is the catamaran. A catamaran is a multihull sailboat that has two symmetrical hulls placed side-by-side and connected with a deck. This basic design has been used for hundreds of years, and it experienced a big resurgence in the fiberglass boat era.

Catamarans are fast, efficient, and comfortable. They don't heel very much, as this design has excellent initial stability. The primary drawback of the catamaran is below decks. The cabin of a catamaran is split between both hulls, which often leaves less space for the galley, head, and living areas.

Trimaran Sailboats

Trimarans are multi-hull sailboats similar to catamarans. Trimarans have three hulls arranged side-by-side. The profile of a trimaran is often indistinguishable from a catamaran.

Trimarans are increasingly popular, as they're faster than catamarans and monohulls and considerably easier to control. Trimarans suffer from the same spatial limitations as catamarans. The addition of an extra hull adds additional space, which is one reason why these multi-hull vessels are some of the best-selling sailboats on the market today.

Sailboat Rig Types

Rigging is another way to distinguish sailboat types. The rig of a sailboat refers to it's mast and sail configuration. Here are the most common types of sailboat rigs and what they're used for.

Sloops are the most common type of sailboat on the water today. A sloop is a simple single-mast rig that usually incorporates a tall triangular mainsail and headsail. The sloop rig is easy to control, fun to sail, and versatile. Sloops are common on racing sailboats as they can sail quite close to the wind. These maneuverable sailboats also have excellent windward performance.

The sloop rig is popular because it works well in almost any situation. That said, other more complex rigs offer finer control and superior performance for some hull types. Additionally, sloops spread their entire sail area over just to canvases, which is less flexible than multi-masted rigs. The sloop is ideal for general-purpose sailing, and it's proven itself inland and offshore.

Sloop Features:

  • Most popular sailboat rig
  • Single mast
  • One mainsail and headsail
  • Typically Bermuda-rigged
  • Easy to handle
  • Great windward performance
  • Less precise control
  • Easier to capsize
  • Requires a tall mast

Suitable Uses:

  • Offshore cruising
  • Coastal cruising

Cat (Catboat)

The cat (or catboat) is a single-masted sailboat with a large, single mainsail. Catboats have a thick forward mast, no headsail, and an exceptionally long boom. These vessels are typically gaff-rigged, as this four-edged rig offers greater sail area with a shorter mast. Catboats were popular workboats in New England around the turn of the century, and they have a large following today.

Catboats are typically short and wide, which provides excellent stability in rough coastal conditions. They're hardy and seaworthy vessels, but they're slow and not ideal for offshore use. Catboats are simple and easy to control, as they only have a single gaff sail. Catboats are easy to spot thanks to their forward-mounted mast and enormous mainsail.

Catboat Features:

  • Far forward-mounted single mast
  • Large four-sided gaff sail
  • Short and wide with a large cockpit
  • Usually between 20 and 30 feet in length
  • Excellent workboats
  • Tough and useful design
  • Great for fishing
  • Large cockpit and cabin
  • Not ideal for offshore sailing
  • Single sail offers less precise control
  • Slow compared to other rigs
  • Inland cruising

At first glance, a cutter is difficult to distinguish from a sloop. Both vessels have a single mast located in roughly the same position, but the sail plan is dramatically different. The cutter uses two headsails and often incorporates a large spar that extends from the bow (called a bowsprit).

The additional headsail is called a staysail. A sloop only carries one headsail, which is typically a jib. Cutter headsails have a lower center of gravity which provides superior performance in rough weather. It's more difficult to capsize a cutter, and they offer more precise control than a sloop. Cutters have more complex rigging, which is a disadvantage for some people.

Cutter Features:

  • Two headsails
  • Long bowsprit
  • Similar to sloop
  • Gaff or Bermuda-rigged
  • Fast and efficient
  • Offers precise control
  • Superior rough-weather performance
  • More complex than the sloop rig
  • Harder to handle than simpler rigs

Perhaps the most majestic type of sailboat rig, the schooner is a multi-masted vessel with plenty of history and rugged seaworthiness. The schooner is typically gaff-rigged with short masts and multiple sails. Schooners are fast and powerful vessels with a complex rig. These sailboats have excellent offshore handling characteristics.

Schooners have a minimum of two masts, but some have three or more. The aftermost large sail is the mainsail, and the nearly identical forward sail is called the foresail. Schooners can have one or more headsail, which includes a cutter-style staysail. Some schooners have an additional smaller sale aft of the mainsail called the mizzen.

Schooner Features:

  • At least two masts
  • Usually gaff-rigged
  • One or more headsails
  • Excellent offshore handling
  • Precise control
  • Numerous sail options (headsails, topsails, mizzen)
  • Fast and powerful
  • Complex and labor-intensive rig
  • Difficult to adjust rig single-handed
  • Offshore fishing

Picture a ketch as a sloop or a cutter with an extra mast behind the mainsail. These vessels are seaworthy, powerful, excellent for offshore cruising. A ketch is similar to a yawl, except its larger mizzen doesn't hang off the stern. The ketch is either gaff or Bermuda-rigged.

Ketch-rigged sailboats have smaller sails, and thus, shorter masts. This makes them more durable and controllable in rough weather. The mizzen can help the boat steer itself, which is advantageous on offshore voyages. A ketch is likely slower than a sloop or a cutter, which means you aren't likely to find one winning a race.

Ketch Features:

  • Headsail (or headsails), mainsail, and mizzen
  • Mizzen doesn't extend past the rudder post
  • Good offshore handling
  • Controllable and mild
  • Shorter and stronger masts
  • Easy self-steering
  • Slower than sloops and cutters
  • Less common on the used market

A dinghy is a general term for a small sailboat of fewer than 28 feet overall. Dinghys are often dual-power boats, which means they usually have oars or a small outboard in addition to a sail. These small boats are open-top and only suitable for cruising in protected waters. Many larger sailboats have a deployable dinghy on board to get to shore when at anchor.

Dinghy Features:

  • One or two people maximum capacity
  • Easy to sail
  • Works with oars, sails, or an outboard
  • Great auxiliary boat
  • Small and exposed
  • Not suitable for offshore use
  • Going from anchor to shore
  • Protected recreational sailing (lakes, rivers, and harbors)

Best Sailboat Type for Stability

Stability is a factor that varies widely between sailboat types. There are different types of stability, and some sailors prefer one over another. For initial stability, the trimaran wins with little contest. This is because these vessels have a very high beam-to-length ratio, which makes them much less prone to rolling. Next up is the catamaran, which enjoys the same benefit from a wide beam but lacks the additional support of a center hull section.

It's clear that in most conditions, multihull vessels have the greatest stability. But what about in rough weather? And what about capsizing? Multihull sailboats are impossible to right after a knockdown. This is where full-keel monohull sailboats excel.

Traditional vessels with deep displacement keels are the safest and most stable in rough weather. The shape, depth, and weight of their keels keep them from knocking over and rolling excessively. In many cases, these sailboats will suffer a dismasting long before a knockdown. The primary disadvantage of deep-keeled sailboats is their tendency to heel excessively. This characteristic isn't hazardous, though it can make novice sailors nervous and reduce cabin comfort while underway.

Best Sailboat Type for Offshore Cruising

The best sailboat type for offshore cruising is the schooner. These graceful aid robust vessels have proven themselves over centuries as durable and capable vessels. They typically use deep displacement keels, which makes them stable in rough weather and easy to keep on course.

That said, the full answer isn't quite so simple. Modern multihull designs are an attractive option, and they have also proven to be strong and safe designs. Multihull sailboats are an increasingly popular option for offshore sailors, and they offer comfort that was previously unknown in the sailing community.

Many sailors cross oceans in basic Bermuda-rigged monohulls and take full advantage of a fin-keel design speed. At the end of the day, the best offshore cruising sailboat is whatever you are comfortable handling and living aboard. There are physical limits to all sailboat designs, though almost any vessel can make it across an ocean if piloted by a competent skipper and crew.

Best Sailboat Type for Racing The modern lightweight Bermuda-rigged sailboat is the king of the regatta. When designed with the right kind of hull, these vessels are some of the fastest sailboats ever developed. Many boats constructed between the 1970s and today incorporate these design features due to their favorable coastal and inland handling characteristics. Even small sailboats, such as the Cal 20 and the Catalina 22, benefit from this design. These boats are renowned for their speed and handling characteristics.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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sailing yacht types

Types of Sailing Yachts: Pros, Cons and Comparison

sailing yacht types

There are many different types of sailing yachts, each with their own unique features and characteristics. Here, we will discuss some of the most popular types of sailing yachts and the features that set them apart.

Table of Contents


sailing yacht types

Cruiser/Racer sailing yachts are designed for both cruising and racing, making them versatile and popular among sailors of all skill levels. These yachts typically have a comfortable interior for longer trips and a more performance-oriented hull design for racing.

One of the key features of cruiser/racer yachts is their balance between comfort and performance. While they have the amenities and space needed for cruising, such as a comfortable interior, a large cockpit, and a variety of amenities for extended voyages, they also have a more performance-oriented hull design for racing. This allows sailors to enjoy the best of both worlds, whether they want to go for a leisurely cruise or participate in a racing event.

The hull design of cruiser/racer yachts is typically more hydrodynamic than traditional cruising yachts, which allows for better speed and manoeuvrability. Additionally, these yachts often have a more lightweight construction to help reduce drag and increase performance.

Another feature that sets cruiser/racer yachts apart is their modern sail plan. They are often equipped with larger and more powerful sails than traditional cruising yachts, which allows them to reach higher speeds and perform better in racing conditions.

Cruiser/Racer sailing yachts are popular among sailors who want to participate in racing events, but also want to take longer trips and enjoy the comfort and amenities of a cruising yacht. They are also popular among sailors who want to learn to race, but don’t want to sacrifice the comfort and space of a traditional cruising yacht.

Pros and Cons of Cruiser/Racer

Cruiser/Racer yachts are versatile sailing yachts that are designed for both cruising and racing, making them popular among sailors of all skill levels. However, like any type of yacht, they have their own set of pros and cons.

  • Versatility: Cruiser/Racer yachts are designed for both cruising and racing, which makes them a great choice for sailors who want to do both. They have a comfortable interior for longer trips and a more performance-oriented hull design for racing, which allows sailors to enjoy the best of both worlds.
  • Balance of comfort and performance: Cruiser/Racer yachts are designed to provide a balance of comfort and performance. They have the amenities and space needed for cruising, but also have a more performance-oriented hull design for racing, which allows them to perform well in racing conditions.
  • Good for learning to race: Cruiser/Racer yachts are a great choice for sailors who want to learn to race, but don’t want to sacrifice the comfort and space of a traditional cruising yacht.
  • Expensive: Cruiser/Racer yachts can be more expensive than other types of yachts, especially if they are designed and built to high specifications.
  • Maintenance: Cruiser/Racer yachts require more maintenance than other types of yachts, as they have more complex systems and features.
  • Not as comfortable as a cruiser: Cruiser/Racer yachts are not as comfortable as traditional cruising yachts, as they have more performance

Overall, Cruiser/Racer sailing yachts are a great choice for sailors looking for a versatile yacht that can handle both cruising and racing. With their comfortable interior, performance-oriented hull design, and modern sail plan, these yachts offer the perfect balance between comfort and performance.

sailing yacht types

Daysailer sailing yachts, as the name suggests, are designed for short trips and day sails. They are typically smaller and more compact than other types of yachts, and are often used for training or recreational sailing.

One of the key features of daysailers is their small size and simplicity. They typically have a smaller cockpit, a simple sailplan, and minimal amenities, which makes them easy to handle and maneuver for sailors of all skill levels. This makes them ideal for training, learning to sail, or for short trips where you don’t need to bring much gear or supplies.

Daysailers also typically have a more lightweight construction than other types of sailing yachts, which allows them to be more responsive and maneuverable on the water. This makes them ideal for racing and other competitive sailing events.

Another feature that sets daysailers apart is their affordability. They are often less expensive than other types of yachts, which makes them an accessible option for sailors who are just starting out or who are on a budget.

Daysailers are also popular among sailors who prefer the simplicity of day sailing and are not interested in overnight trips or longer cruises. They are also a great choice for sailors who want to enjoy the experience of sailing without the added responsibilities that come with owning a larger yacht.

Pros and Cons of Daysailers

Daysailer yachts are designed for short trips and day sails, and are typically smaller and more compact than other types of yachts. They are often used for training or recreational sailing. However, like any type of yacht, they have their own set of pros and cons.

  • Affordable: Daysailers are often less expensive than other types of yachts, which makes them an accessible option for sailors who are just starting out or who are on a budget.
  • Easy to handle: Daysailers typically have a small cockpit, a simple sail plan, and minimal amenities, which makes them easy to handle and maneuver for sailors of all skill levels. This makes them ideal for training, learning to sail, or for short trips where you don’t need to bring much gear or supplies.
  • Lightweight construction: Daysailers have a more lightweight construction than other types of sailing yachts, which allows them to be more responsive and maneuverable on the water. This makes them ideal for racing and other competitive sailing events.
  • Limited amenities: Daysailers have limited amenities, which means they are not designed for overnight stays or longer cruises.
  • Limited space: Daysailers typically have limited space, which makes them less comfortable than larger yachts.
  • Not suitable for long-distance cruising: Daysailers are not suitable for long-distance cruising or live-aboard cruising as they are not equipped for it.

Overall, Daysailer yachts are a great choice for sailors looking for a small, easy-to-handle, and affordable yacht that is ideal for day sailing and short trips. However, they are not suitable for overnight trips or long-distance cruising, and have limited amenities and space.

Racing Yacht

sailing yacht types

Racing yachts are designed specifically for speed and performance. They are typically much smaller than cruising yachts, and are built to be as lightweight and hydrodynamic as possible. They are often used in competitive sailing events, such as regattas and races.

One of the key features of racing yachts is their lightweight construction. They are typically made of materials such as carbon fiber or high-tech composites, which are both lightweight and strong. This allows them to reach high speeds and perform well in racing conditions.

Another feature that sets racing yachts apart is their hydrodynamic hull design. These yachts are built with a sharp bow, a narrow beam and a long waterline, which helps them to cut through the water more efficiently and reach higher speeds. They also tend to have a deep keel, which provides them with more stability and helps them to perform better in strong winds and rough seas.

Racing yachts also often have a more modern sail plan, with larger and more powerful sails that allow them to reach higher speeds and perform better in racing conditions. They also often have a smaller interior to keep weight down, which can make them less comfortable for overnight stays.

Racing yachts are popular among sailors who want to participate in competitive sailing events and races. They are also popular among sailors who want to experience the thrill of sailing at high speeds and pushing the limits of performance. However, it’s important to keep in mind that racing yachts are not as comfortable for long cruises as other types of sailing yachts and they can be expensive to maintain.

Pros and Cons of Racing yachts

Racing yachts are designed specifically for speed and performance, and are often used in competitive sailing events such as regattas and races. However, like any type of yacht, they have their own set of pros and cons.

  • Speed: Racing yachts are built with lightweight construction and a hydrodynamic hull design, which allows them to reach high speeds and perform well in racing conditions.
  • Maneuverability : Racing yachts are designed to be highly maneuverable, which allows them to perform well in tight and technical racing conditions.
  • Modern sail plan : Racing yachts are often equipped with larger and more powerful sails than traditional cruising yachts, which allows them to reach higher speeds and perform better in racing conditions.
  • Cost : Racing yachts can be expensive to purchase and maintain, especially if they are designed and built to high specifications.
  • Comfort : Racing yachts typically have a smaller interior than other yachts, which can make them less comfortable for overnight stays.
  • Maintenance : Racing yachts require more maintenance than other types of yachts, as they have more complex systems and features, and they are often pushed to the limits of their performance.
  • Not suitable for long-distance cruising : Racing yachts are not suitable for long-distance cruising or live-aboard cruising as they are not equipped for it.

Overall, Racing yachts are a great choice for sailors looking for a high-performance sailing vessel that can be used in competitive sailing events. With their lightweight construction, hydrodynamic hull design, and modern sail plan, racing yachts are designed to reach high speeds and perform well in racing conditions. However, they can be expensive to purchase and maintain, and may not be as comfortable as other types of yachts for overnight stays or long-distance cruising.

sailing yacht types

Cruising yachts, also known as cruisers, are designed for longer trips and are typically larger and more comfortable than other types of yachts. They are built for extended voyages, and often have a spacious interior, a large cockpit, and a variety of amenities to make life on board more comfortable.

One of the key features of cruising yachts is their spacious interior. They are designed to have multiple cabins, a large salon, and a well-appointed galley, which makes them ideal for longer trips and live-aboard cruising. They also usually have a lot of storage space, so you can bring all the gear and supplies you’ll need for an extended voyage.

Another feature that sets cruising yachts apart is their stability and seaworthiness. They are designed to handle rough seas and strong winds, which allows them to be more comfortable and safer for longer trips. They also typically have a more comfortable motion, which helps to reduce fatigue for those on board.

Cruising yachts also often have a variety of amenities, such as air conditioning, generators, and refrigeration, which make them more comfortable and convenient for longer trips. They also often have a larger cockpit, which provides more space for relaxing and entertaining.

Cruising yachts are popular among sailors who want to take longer trips, live aboard or even cross oceans. They are also popular among sailors who want to experience the comfort and convenience of a well-appointed yacht. However, it’s worth noting that cruising yachts are typically more expensive than other types of yachts and they require more maintenance.

Overall, cruising yachts are a great choice for sailors looking for a comfortable and seaworthy yacht that can handle longer trips and live-aboard cruising. With their spacious interior, stability, and variety of amenities, cruising yachts are designed to make life on board as comfortable and convenient as possible.

sailing yacht types

A catamaran is a type of sailing yacht that has two parallel hulls, rather than one. They are known for their stability and spaciousness, making them popular for longer trips, live-aboard cruising, and charter vacations.

One of the key features of catamarans is their stability. With two hulls, the boat has a lower center of gravity and a wider beam, which makes them less likely to tip over in rough seas. This makes them a comfortable and safe option for longer trips and live-aboard cruising.

Another feature that sets catamarans apart is their spaciousness. They typically have a larger interior than monohulls of the same length, which allows for more living and storage space. This makes them ideal for bigger groups of people or for longer trips. They also usually have a larger cockpit, which provides more space for relaxing and entertaining.

Catamarans also often have a more shallow draft than monohulls, which allows them to navigate shallow waters, and anchor in more secluded bays. This can open up new opportunities for cruising, especially in areas where monohulls can’t access.

Catamarans are popular among sailors who want to take longer trips, live aboard, or who are looking for more stability and spaciousness. They are also popular among sailors who want to experience the comfort and convenience of a well-appointed yacht. However, it’s worth noting that catamarans are typically more expensive than other types of yachts and they require more maintenance.

Pros and cons of Catamaran

Catamarans are a type of sailing yacht that have two parallel hulls, which makes them known for their stability and spaciousness. They are popular for longer trips, live-aboard cruising, and charter vacations. However, like any type of yacht, they have their own set of pros and cons.

  • Stability: Catamarans have a lower center of gravity and a wider beam than monohulls which make them less likely to tip over in rough seas. This makes them a comfortable and safe option for longer trips and live-aboard cruising.
  • Space: Catamarans typically have a larger interior than monohulls of the same length, which allows for more living and storage space. This makes them ideal for bigger groups of people or for longer trips.
  • Shallow draft: Catamarans also often have a more shallow draft than monohulls, which allows them to navigate shallow waters and anchor in more secluded bays.
  • Cost: Catamarans can be more expensive than other types of yachts, especially if they are designed and built to high specifications.
  • Maintenance: Catamarans require more maintenance than other types of yachts, as they have more complex systems and features.
  • Not suitable for racing: Catamarans are not typically used for racing as they are not as fast as monohulls.
  • Can be affected by wind direction: Catamarans can be affected by the wind direction, as the wind can hit the hulls from the side and can cause them to heel over.

Overall, Catamarans are a great choice for sailors looking for a stable and spacious yacht that can handle longer trips and live-aboard cruising. With their stability, spaciousness, and shallow draft, Catamarans are designed to provide a comfortable and safe sailing experience. However, they can be expensive and require more maintenance, they are

sailing yacht types

A trimaran is a type of sailing yacht that has three hulls, two smaller amas (outrigger hulls) and a central main hull, rather than one. They are known for their speed and stability, and are often used for racing and long-distance cruising.

One of the key features of trimarans is their speed. The two smaller amas, which are located on the sides of the main hull, increase the waterline length and provide more surface area for the sails to push against. This allows them to reach higher speeds and perform better in racing conditions.

Another feature that sets trimarans apart is their stability. With three hulls, the boat has a lower center of gravity and a wider beam, which makes them less likely to tip over in rough seas. This makes them a comfortable and safe option for longer trips and live-aboard cruising.

Trimarans also often have a more shallow draft than monohulls, which allows them to navigate shallow waters, and anchor in more secluded bays. This can open up new opportunities for cruising, especially in areas where monohulls can’t access.

Trimarans are popular among sailors who want to participate in racing events, and also want to take longer trips and enjoy the comfort and amenities of a cruising yacht. They are also popular among sailors who want to experience the thrill of sailing at high speeds and pushing the limits of performance. However, it’s worth noting that trimarans can be expensive to maintain and they also need more space to store.

Overall, trimarans are a great choice for sailors looking for a high-performance sailing vessel that can handle both racing and long-distance cruising. With their speed, stability, and shallow draft, trimarans are designed to provide a comfortable and safe sailing experience while reaching high speeds and performing well in racing conditions.

Pros and Cons of Trimaran

Trimarans have several advantages over monohull boats:

  • Faster: Trimarans have a wider beam (the width of the boat) than monohulls, which gives them more stability and allows them to sail faster.
  • Shallower draft: Because the majority of the weight is on the main hull, trimarans have a shallower draft (the depth of the boat in the water) than monohulls, which allows them to navigate in shallower waters.
  • More space: Trimarans have more space on deck and inside the boat, which makes them more comfortable for longer trips.
  • Less comfortable in rough seas: Trimarans can be less comfortable in rough seas because the smaller hulls can be affected by the waves.
  • More difficult to handle: Trimarans can be more difficult to handle than monohulls because they have a larger sail area and a wider beam.
  • More expensive: Trimarans are generally more expensive to build and maintain than monohulls.

In summary, Trimarans are faster, more stable, and have more space, but they can be less comfortable in rough seas and are more difficult to handle. They are also more expensive than monohulls.

Classic Yacht

sailing yacht types

A classic yacht is a type of sailing yacht that is typically older and has been restored or maintained in its original condition. These yachts often have a timeless aesthetic and are often made of wood, they are often used for historical sailing events and regattas.

One of the key features of classic yachts is their unique and timeless design. They often have a traditional and elegant aesthetic, with classic lines, and a beautiful woodwork finish. These yachts are often one of a kind, as many of them were custom-built for their original owners.

Another feature that sets classic yachts apart is their history. Many of these yachts have a rich and interesting past, and have often been sailed by famous sailors, or have participated in significant sailing events. This can add to the charm and allure of owning and sailing a classic yacht.

Classic yachts also often have a more traditional sail plan and rigging, which can add to the sailing experience. Sailing a classic yacht can be a unique and rewarding experience, as it allows sailors to connect with the rich history of sailing and to appreciate the craftsmanship of these yachts.

Classic yachts are popular among sailors who appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of traditional sailing yachts, and who want to experience the unique sailing experience that these yachts offer. They are also popular among sailors who want to participate in historical sailing events and regattas. However, it’s worth noting that classic yachts can be expensive to maintain, and require more expertise and care to keep in good condition.

Pros and Cons of Classic Yacht

Classic yachts are a type of sailing yacht that are typically older and have been restored or maintained in their original condition. They often have a timeless aesthetic and are often made of wood. They are often used for historical sailing events and regattas. However, like any type of yacht, they have their own set of pros and cons.

  • Timeless design: Classic yachts often have a traditional and elegant aesthetic, with classic lines and beautiful woodwork finish. These yachts are often one of a kind, as many of them were custom-built for their original owners.
  • History: Many classic yachts have a rich and interesting past, and have often been sailed by famous sailors or have participated in significant sailing events. This can add to the charm and allure of owning and sailing a classic yacht.
  • Traditional sailing experience: Classic yachts often have a more traditional sail plan and rigging, which can add to the sailing experience. Sailing a classic yacht can be a unique and rewarding experience, as it allows sailors to connect with the rich history of sailing and to appreciate the craftsmanship of these yachts.
  • Maintenance: Classic yachts require more maintenance than other types of yachts, as they are often older and may require more repairs and restoration.
  • Expensive: Classic yachts can be expensive to purchase, maintain, and restore, especially if they are in high demand or have a rich history.
  • Limited amenities: Classic yachts often have limited amenities, which can make them less comfortable than newer yachts. They may not have modern features such as air conditioning, generators, and refrigeration, which can be a drawback for longer trips or live-aboard cruising.
  • Limited performance: Classic yachts are not built for speed and performance, as they were not designed for racing and competitive sailing events. They may not perform as well as newer yachts in racing conditions.
  • Limited availability: Classic yachts are not as readily available as newer yachts, and it can be difficult to find one that fits your needs and budget.

Overall, classic yachts are a great choice for sailors who appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of traditional sailing yachts, and want to experience the unique sailing experience that these yachts offer. However, they can be expensive to purchase and maintain, and may not have the same level of amenities and performance as newer yachts. They also require more maintenance and expertise to keep in good condition.

No matter what type of sailing yacht you choose, it is important to consider the features and characteristics that are most important to you, and to choose a yacht that will suit your needs and preferences. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a beginner, there is a yacht out there that will fit your needs.

Steven T. Anderson

Steven Taylor Anderson is an experienced sailor and author who writes for He has been sailing for over 20 years across the USA and has taken several courses to improve his skills. He has also navigated throughout the world on various boats and yachts. His passion for sailing and knowledge of the sport shines through in his writing, making him a respected authority on the subject.

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Types of Sailboats: Essential Guide for Every Sailor

Sailboats have been an essential part of human history, contributing to exploration, trade, and leisure. With a myriad of designs and sizes, these versatile vessels cater to various purposes and preferences. The defining characteristics of sailboats come from their rigging, sails, and hull design.

sailing yacht types

The basics of sailboat design play a significant role in the classification and function of these vessels. Hull shapes, keel types, and construction materials contribute to the speed, stability, and maneuverability of sailboats. Additionally, rigging and sails come in various shapes and sizes, which influence sailing performance and handling.

Key Takeaways

  • Sailboats are classified by hull design, rigging, and sails that serve specific purposes.
  • Designs and materials have a direct impact on the performance and handling of sailboats.
  • A wide range of sailboat types exists, which cater to different needs and preferences.

Basics of Sailboat Design

Sailboats come in various shapes and sizes, designed for different purposes and sailing conditions. One can classify sailboats based on hull types, keel types, and mast configurations. This section will briefly discuss these basic components of sailboat design.

There are mainly two types of hulls: monohull and multihull.

  • Monohull : This is the traditional and most common type of sailboat hull. It consists of a single hull, providing stability through the use of a keel or centerboard. Monohulls come in various shapes and sizes, suitable for various sailing conditions.
  • Catamaran : Catamarans have two parallel hulls of equal size, offering increased stability and speed compared to monohulls. They are commonly used for cruising and racing.
  • Trimaran : Trimarans have three hulls, with a larger central hull and two smaller outrigger hulls. This design offers even more stability and speed than catamarans.

The keel is an essential component in sailboat design, helping with stability and performance. There are various keel types, including:

  • Full keel : This traditional design features a long and wide keel that extends along the boat's bottom. It offers good tracking and stability but sacrifices speed and maneuverability.
  • Fin keel : Fin keels are shorter and deeper than full keels, providing a better combination of stability and maneuverability. These are common in modern monohull sailboats.
  • Bulb keel : A bulb keel features a fin keel with a heavy bulb at the bottom, which concentrates the boat's weight, increasing stability and performance in rough conditions.
  • Swing keel or centerboard : Swing keels and centerboards can be raised or lowered, allowing the boat to adapt to different water depths and sailing conditions. They are common in smaller boats and racing sailboats.

sailing yacht types

Mast Configuration

The mast configuration affects the sail plan and overall performance of a sailboat. Some common mast configurations include:

  • Sloop : This is the most popular mast configuration and features a single mast with a mainsail and a headsail. The simple design makes it easy to handle and suitable for various sailing conditions.
  • Cutter : Similar to the sloop, the cutter also has a single mast but carries two headsails, providing more sail area and better performance in heavy weather.
  • Ketch : A ketch configuration has two masts: a taller main mast and a shorter mizzen mast. This design offers more flexibility in sail combinations and better balance in different sailing conditions.
  • Yawl : Similar to a ketch, a yawl also features two masts but the mizzen is located further aft and is smaller. This design provides better balance and control, particularly in downwind sailing scenarios.

In conclusion, the basics of sailboat design involve selecting the appropriate hull type, keel type, and mast configuration for the desired sailing performance and conditions. Understanding these concepts can help sailors make informed decisions when choosing a sailboat or planning their sailing adventures.

Rigging and Sails

When it comes to sailboats, the rigging and sails play a crucial role in the boat's overall performance and capabilities. This section will briefly cover popular rig types and sail types seen on different sailboats.

There are several types of rigs commonly found on sailboats:

  • Sloop : Sloops are the most common type of rig found on modern sailboats. They have a single mast with a mainsail and a single headsail, typically a genoa or jib.
  • Ketch : Ketches have two masts, with the main mast taller than the mizzen mast situated aft. They carry a mainsail on the main mast and a mizzen sail on the mizzen mast. Ketches benefit from easier handling and reduced sail area under strong winds.
  • Yawl : Similar to ketches, yawls have two masts, but the mizzen mast is smaller and sits further aft, behind the rudder post. Yawls are often chosen for their graceful appearance and improved balance.
  • Schooner : Schooners have two or more masts, with the aft mast(s) typically taller than the forward mast(s). Schooners can handle more sails, offering increased sail area for better performance, especially downwind.
  • Catboat : Catboats are single-masted sailboats with a single, large mainsail and no headsails. They have a wide beam, which provides stability and ample space for passengers.
  • Cutter : Cutters are similar to sloops but carry two headsails, usually a jib and staysail. Cutters may have multiple headsails for increased versatility in various wind conditions.

In addition to the types of rigs, there are also several types of sails used on sailboats, including:

  • Mainsail : The primary sail attached to the back of the main mast. It is typically raised on a track or luff groove and managed by a combination of halyard, sheet, and boom vang.
  • Genoa : A large triangular sail that overlaps the mainsail, typically used in light winds to provide additional surface area for better performance.
  • Jib : A smaller, non-overlapping triangular sail attached to the forestay. Jibs are easier to manage than genoas and are used in a variety of wind conditions.
  • Spinnaker : A large, lightweight sail used primarily for downwind sailing . Spinnakers are often brightly colored and shaped like a parachute to catch wind efficiently.
  • Staysail : A smaller sail typically used in cutter rigs, positioned between the main mast and the forestay. Staysails provide additional sail area and versatility in varied wind conditions.

Understanding the relationship between sail and rigging can help sailors optimize the performance of their sailboats. With various options for rig types and sail types, each sailboat can be configured to meet the unique needs of its skipper and crew.

sailing yacht types

Classes and Types of Sailboats

Monohulls are the most common type of sailboats, consisting of a single hull that provides stability and balance. They come in various sizes and designs, depending on their intended use. Some popular monohull sailboats include the Optimist , Finn, and Sunfish, which are frequently used for racing and recreational sailing. Monohulls tend to have a deeper draft, requiring more water depth than their multi-hull counterparts.

Multihulls, also known as multi-hull sailboats, are a more modern innovation in sailing. They feature two or more hulls connected by a frame or bridgedeck. This design offers increased stability and speed over monohulls. Some common types of multihulls are catamarans (with two hulls) and trimarans (with three hulls). Due to their wider beam and shallower draft, multihulls are particularly suitable for cruising in shallow waters and provide more living space on board.

One-Design Sailboats

One-Design sailboats are a specific class of racing sailboats in which all boats are built to the same design specifications, ensuring that the competition focuses on the skill of the sailor rather than the design of the boat. These boats must adhere to strict rules and standards, with minimal variations allowed in terms of hull shape, sail area, and rigging. Some popular one-design sailboats include the Enterprise and the aforementioned Optimist and Finn sailboats.

Dinghies and Skiffs

Dinghies and skiffs are small, lightweight sailboats that are often used for sailing classes, short-distance racing, or as tenders to larger boats. Dinghies usually have a single mast with a mainsail and sometimes a small jib. Some popular types of sailing dinghies include the Optimist, which is specifically designed for children, and the versatile Sunfish sailboat. Skiffs, on the other hand, are high-performance sailboats primarily used for racing. They have a larger sail area relative to their size and typically include features such as trapezes and planing hulls, which allow for faster speeds and greater maneuverability.

In conclusion, there are various classes and types of sailboats, each with its own unique features and characteristics. From the simplicity of monohulls to the stability and speed of multihulls, and from the fair competition of one-design sailboats to the excitement of dinghies and skiffs, there is a sailboat to satisfy every sailor's preferences.

Sailboat Size and Use

When exploring the world of sailboats, it's important to understand their different sizes and purposes. Sailboats can be categorized into three main types, each with unique characteristics and uses: Day Sailers , Racing Sailboats, and Cruising Sailboats .

Day Sailers

Day Sailers are small sailboats typically ranging from 10 to 24 feet in length. These boats are perfect for short sailing trips and are easy to maneuver for beginners. They have limited accommodations on board, providing just enough seats for a small group of people. Some popular day sailer models include the Laser, Sunfish, and Flying Scot. Lightweight and agile, Day Sailers are often used for:

  • Recreation: casual sailing or exploring nearby waters with family and friends
  • Training: beginner sailing lessons or practicing sailing techniques
  • Competition: local club races or interclub regattas

Racing Sailboats

Racing Sailboats are designed to provide maximum speed, maneuverability, and efficiency on the water. Sizes may vary greatly, from small dinghies to large yachts. Key features of racing sailboats include a sleek hull shape, high-performance sails, and minimalistic interiors to reduce weight.

Career racers and sailing enthusiasts alike participate in various types of racing events , such as:

  • One-design racing: all boats have identical specifications, emphasizing crew skill
  • Handicap racing: boats of different sizes and designs compete with time adjustments
  • Offshore racing: long-distance racing from one point to another, often around islands or across oceans

Cruising Sailboats

Cruising Sailboats are designed for longer journeys and extended stays on the water. They typically range from 25 to 70 feet in length and provide comfortable accommodations such as sleeping cabins, a galley, and storage spaces for supplies and equipment. Sailing cruisers prioritize stability, comfort, and durability for their voyage.

Here are some common types of cruising sailboats:

  • Cruiser-racers: These boats combine the speed of a racing sailboat with the comfort and amenities of a cruising sailboat. They are ideal for families or sailors who enjoy participating in racing events while still having the option for leisurely cruises.
  • Bluewater cruisers: Designed for handling the world's most demanding ocean conditions, bluewater cruisers are built with a focus on sturdy, self-reliant sailboats that can withstand long-distance voyages and challenging weather conditions.
  • Multihulls: Catamarans and trimarans are gaining popularity in the cruising world for their typically more spacious interiors and level sailing characteristics. With two or three hulls, multihulls offer high levels of stability and speed for a comfortable cruising experience.

Understanding the differences between various sailboat types will help potential sailors select the perfect vessel for their sailing goals, skills, and preferences. Day Sailers, Racing Sailboats, and Cruising Sailboats each have their unique features, catering to distinct uses and sailing experiences.

Advanced Sailboat Features

Sailboats have evolved over time, and many advanced features have been developed to enhance performance and safety. In this section, we will discuss some of the key advanced features in modern sailboats, focusing on performance enhancements and safety/navigation.

Performance Enhancements

One critical component that impacts a sailboat's performance is the type of keel it has, which affects stability, resistance, and maneuverability . There are several kinds of keels such as fin keel , wing keel , and bulb keel . Fin keels offer low drag and high efficiency, making them suitable for racing sailboats. On the other hand, wing keels provide better stability at low speeds, while bulb keels provide a lower center of gravity to enhance overall stability and comfort during long voyages.

Another feature that contributes to a sailboat's performance is its sails and rigging. The jib is a triangular sail at the front of the boat, which helps improve its upwind performance. More advanced sailboats use a combination of shrouds , which are the supporting cables running along the sides of the boat, and stays , the cables that help hold the mast in place, to create a stable and efficient rigging system.

A sailboat's performance can also be influenced by the presence of a centerboard or daggerboard , which can be adjusted to optimize stability, maneuverability, and speed. When racing or navigating in shallow waters, retractable centerboards and daggerboards are particularly useful as they provide better performance and versatility.

Safety and Navigation

Safety and navigation onboard a sailboat relies on a combination of advanced gear and equipment. A modern sailboat is usually equipped with:

  • GPS and chartplotters to assist with navigation and planning routes
  • VHF radios for communication with other vessels and authorities
  • Radar to detect obstacles, weather systems, and other vessels
  • AIS (Automatic Identification System) which helps monitor nearby vessel traffic

The design of a sailboat's hull, rigging, sails, and hardware also contribute to its safety. The boom , the horizontal pole that extends the sail, should be properly secured and designed to avoid accidents while sailing. The keel , whether it's a fin, wing, or bulb keel, plays a vital role in the overall stability and safety of the sailboat. The choice of keel should be based on the intended use of the sailboat and the prevailing sailing conditions.

In summary, advanced sailboat features significantly improve the performance, safety, and navigation capabilities of modern sailboats. Innovations in keel design, rigging systems, and onboard navigational equipment have undoubtedly contributed to the overall enjoyment and safety of sailing.

Sailboat Ownership

Buying Considerations

When considering buying a sailboat , it is important to understand the different types of sailboats available and the purpose each serves. Sailboats can be broadly categorized into three types:

  • Racing sailboats: Designed for speed and performance, with minimalistic interiors and advanced sail systems.
  • Cruising sailboats: Built for comfort and longer trips, featuring more spacious interiors and amenities.
  • Daysailers: Smaller, easy-to-handle boats that are often used for short trips and recreational sailing.

Prospective boat owners should consider factors such as boat size, type, budget, and intended use (solo vs. family sailing, charter operations, etc.). It's also essential to evaluate the availability of necessary gear and the level of experience required to handle the chosen sailboat.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Sailboat ownership involves maintenance and upkeep to ensure the boat remains functional, safe, and holds its value. Some common maintenance tasks include:

  • Hull cleaning and inspection: Regularly inspect the hull for damages and clean off any growth to maintain performance and fuel efficiency.
  • Antifouling paint: Apply antifouling paint to prevent marine organisms from attaching to the hull, which can negatively impact the boat's performance.
  • Engine maintenance: Check and replace engine oil, inspect cooling and fuel systems, and clean or replace air filters.

In addition to regular maintenance, sailboat owners should also be prepared to replace or repair critical systems and components, such as:

  • Sails: Monitor the condition of your sails and replace them as needed to maintain performance and safety.
  • Rigging: Regularly inspect and maintain the standing and running rigging, and replace worn or compromised parts.
  • Electronics and instruments: Ensure navigation systems, radios, and other electronic equipment are functioning properly.

Taking proper care of a sailboat can be time-consuming, and some owners may choose to charter their boats when not in use as a way to offset ownership costs. Others may opt for hiring professionals to manage routine maintenance, particularly when sailing solo or with limited sailing experience.

sailing yacht types

Historical and Special Sailboats

Tall ships and gaffers.

Tall Ships are large, traditionally rigged sailing vessels with multiple masts, typically square-rigged on at least one of their masts. Some examples of these ships include the clipper, brig, and square-rigged vessels. The clipper is a fast sailing ship known for its sleek hull and large sail area, while the brig features two square-rigged masts. Square-rigged ships were known for their impressive sail area and could cover large distances quickly.

Gaffers are a subset of historical sailing vessels with a gaff mainsail as their primary sail type. This gaff-rig is characterized by a spar (pole) that extends the top edge of the mainsail, giving it a quadrilateral shape to optimize wind coverage. Gaff mainsails were commonly used in England and influenced the development of other sailing vessels.

Classic and Antique Sailboats

Classic and antique sailboats refer to older, traditionally designed sailing vessels that have been preserved or restored. They often feature wooden construction and showcase a variety of rigging types, including gaff rigs and square rigs. These historical sailboats have unique designs, materials, and techniques that have since evolved or become rare.

Here are some examples of antique and classic sailboats:

  • Sloop : A single-masted sailboat with a Bermuda rig and foresail
  • Cutter : A single-masted vessel with a similar rig to the sloop, but with additional headsails for increased maneuverability
  • Ketch : A two-masted sailboat with a smaller mizzen mast aft of the main mast

In summary, historical and special sailboats encompass a wide range of vessel types, from large, multi-masted tall ships to smaller, single-masted gaffers and classic sailboats. These vessels reflect the rich maritime history and the evolution of sailing techniques and designs over time.

Sailboat Culture and Lifestyle

Sailboat culture and lifestyle encompass a variety of aspects including racing events, leisurely cruising, and exploring new destinations. The main types of sailboats include racing yachts, cruising sailboats, and motorsailers, each offering a unique experience for sailors.

Regattas and Racing Circuits

A popular aspect of sailboat culture involves participating in regattas and racing circuits . These events create a competitive atmosphere and develop camaraderie among sailors. Racing sailboats are specifically designed for speed and agility , and sailors often team up to compete in prestigious races such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race or the America's Cup. Yacht clubs play an essential role in cultivating this competitive sailing environment.

Sailboat Charter and Tourism

Another facet of sailing culture is the sailboat charter and tourism industry, which allows people to experience the cruising lifestyle without owning a sailboat. Charters are offered for various types of sailboats, from family-sized cruising vessels to luxurious superyachts . Yacht sailing provides tourists with a unique travel experience, as they can explore diverse destinations, immerse themselves in local cultures, or simply relax on the open water.

Cruising sailboats are designed to provide comfortable living spaces and amenities, making them perfect for longer journeys or exploring remote destinations. Motorsailers, on the other hand, are equipped with both sails and engines, offering versatility and convenience for sailors.

Some popular sailing destinations include the Caribbean, Mediterranean Sea, and the South Pacific. These regions offer beautiful scenery, rich cultural experiences, and ideal sailing conditions.

The sailboat culture and lifestyle attract individuals who enjoy adventure, exploration, and camaraderie. From competitive racing events to leisurely cruising vacations, sailing offers diverse experiences that cater to a wide range of interests.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the distinguishing features of different sailboat classes?

There are various sailboat classes, each with its own distinguishing features. Monohulls, for example, are the most common type of sailboat and have a single hull. Multihulls, such as catamarans and trimarans, have two or three hulls, respectively. These differences in hull design often affect the boat's stability, speed, and maneuverability.

Which sailboat types are best for novice sailors?

Novice sailors often benefit from starting with smaller, more manageable boats. Sailing dinghies and daysailers are popular choices due to their simple rigging and ease of handling. These boats typically have a single mast and a limited number of sails, making them ideal for beginners to learn sailing basics.

What are common types of small sailboats ideal for day sailing?

For day sailing, small sailboats such as sailing dinghies, day sailers, and pocket cruisers are ideal options. These boats usually range between 12 and 25 feet in length and offer simplicity, ease of handling, and portability. Examples of common day sailing boats include the Sunfish, Laser, and O'Day Mariner.

How do the purposes of various sailboat types vary?

Sailboats serve different purposes based on their design, size, and features. Daysailers and dinghies are ideal for short trips, sailing lessons, and casual outings. Racing sailboats, with their lighter weight and streamlined design, are built for speed and competition. Cruising sailboats, on the other hand, are designed for longer voyages and often include living quarters and additional amenities for comfortable onboard living.

What is considered the most popular class of sailboat for recreational use?

The most popular class of sailboat for recreational use often varies depending on individual preferences and local conditions. However, monohulls are commonly preferred due to their widespread availability, versatility, and affordability. Within the monohull class, boats like the Sunfish, Laser, and Catalina 22 are popular choices for their ease of use and adaptability to various sailing conditions.

Could you describe a sailing dinghy designed for two people?

A two-person sailing dinghy typically has a simple rig with a single mast and one or more sails, making it easy to handle for both experienced and novice sailors. The RS Venture , for example, is a popular choice for two-person sailing. It features a spacious cockpit, durable construction, and simplicity in its rigging and control systems. These characteristics make it an excellent option for recreational sailing, training, and even racing.

sailing yacht types

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Marine Insight

Types of Sailboats – A Comprehensive Classification

Traditionally, sailboats were made of marine wood and other materials however; modern ones use premium marine lumber products. Sailboats are divided into subclasses, and one such is the catamaran which is made of fiberglass, which makes it more durable and low maintenance.

Sailboats are propelled by wind captured through their sails, masts and rigging lines. Some are equipped with generators, wind makers and other technologies to generate more power, hence providing more speed. They are considered a separate class of vessels independent of motor-powered crafts since their hydrodynamic characteristics differ.

They can vary in occupancy from single-seater crafts for competitions or adventure sailing to recreational vessels spanning hundreds of metres that can host up to thirty individuals. The luxury yachts are ideal to experience sailing in comfort and style. These vessels are known for their remarkable craftsmanship and innovative design.

The most common type of sailboat is the racing sailboat, used in sailing competitions around the world. Several international events intended to raise awareness about sailing allow a wide range of craft types to participate, including catamarans and racer-cruiser.

For most sailing vessels, sail plans are often drawn up before the vessel leaves port. These plans indicate sail positions for various weather conditions.

In this article, we will go through the different types of sailboats and their key features.

Hull-Based Classification Of Sailboats

Sailboats can be classified into three distinct types based on their primary hull type.

These include

  • catamarans, and
  • multi-hull crafts.

Traditionally, monohulls are the most common design for sailboats since they provide storage in addition to a certain level of stability.

However, with the advent of sailing competitions and an increased focus on performance and stability features, there has been a general shift towards catamarans and trimarans.

Monohulls are single-hulled structures, much like conventional vessels , that have a large hull beam (breadth) which provides stability while sailing. The advantage of having a single large hull is that the longer beam allows for improved onboard systems and amenities. It has a cabin, a cockpit, a galley, a v-berth and a saloon as well.


Catamarans refer to twin-hulled structures that are attached by specialized members to provide strength. The term originates from the South Indian phrase for “tied pieces of wood”, as this was the manner in which traditional sailboats were built in the subcontinent.


Twin hulls offer an increased level of stability. In addition, if designed properly the vessel will have a much higher speed than conventional crafts owing to lower wetted-surface resistance forces.

On the other hand, extensive care must be taken in designing the vessel, or else the resistive forces can exceed the values found in monohulls.

Multi-hull crafts, or simply multihulls,  include vessels with anywhere between three to five hulls, although the three-hull variation is the most common. Such crafts are known as trimarans and are considered to be extremely stable owing to their large beam and lower centre of gravity.

Multi-hull crafts

Four and five-hulled vessels are more difficult to manufacture and hence are rarely used commercially. An advanced form of the catamaran design is the SWATH version.

SWATH is an acronym for Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull, and it achieves unprecedented levels of speed owing to a considerably small waterplane area. To reduce this area, the hull has a reduced beam above the surface of the water, while underwater buoyant structures ensure that the vessel has the necessary weight balance.

Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull

Common Monohull Designs

Monohulls are relatively easier to manufacture compared to multi-hull structures. Thus, there has been a wider range of innovations for this type of hull over the last thousand years.

The common classes of monohull crafts are – sailing dinghies, cutters, sloops, catboats, ketch and schooners.

A dinghy is a relatively common sailboat owing to its short overall length and ease of manoeuvring. They are used in competitions and in the port industry.


Generally, dinghies are used to transport people or small cargo to and from a larger vessel such as a cruise ship that is anchored away from the shore.

Such vessels may not be able to enter a port due to size and tonnage regulations. Hence, dinghies serve as the best mode of transporting essential goods between the port and the vessel.

Dinghies can have sails, such as the three-sailed variant consisting of the mainsail, jib and spinnaker. However, motor-powered dinghies are also commonly used especially as lifeboats onboard ships.

Cutters are another class of sailboats that are medium-sized and generally have three sails. The mainmast on which the sails are mounted is located near the stern of the ship to allow for larger sails to be used.


Cutters were commonly used in competitions as their design favours speed and agility. A different combination of the sails also allows cutters to be used for cruises and other recreational sailboats.

Sloops are similar to cutters and are the most commonly found sailboats. They are the standard in sail designs, with a two-sail configuration used for added manoeuvrability. They have a mainsail and a headsail called jib or genoa.


In addition to the generic sloop sail configuration, there is also a fractionally-rigged sloop in which one of the sails lies below the top of the mast.

This design allows the crews of smaller sloops to handle the craft while improving performance. Catboats are sailboats equipped with only a single sail. They are aimed at capacity rather than speed and have the mainsail mounted on a single mast.

For increased speeds, sails can be added to the rigging such that wind force is better optimized by the vessel.

The ketch is a sailboat that has two main masts- the main mast located around the midship, and the mizzen mast at the aft. The mizzen mast is generally smaller than the main mast and serves to add speed to the craft. The word ketch is derived from the word catch, denoting the manner in which the sails “catch” the wind as they move.


Schooners are a class of sailboats that can have more than two sails supported on masts known as the main mast and foremast. The foremast is located near the fore of the vessel and is slightly shorter than the main mast. In variations where additional masts are added to support more sails, they are positioned such that they remain shorter than the main mast depending on their sizes.


Keel Based Classification

The keel is the base of a vessel that provides a central backbone for the design of the entire structure. The boat keel is structurally relevant since it often has to carry the weight of the vessel.

In the case of sailboats, the keel is often what the entire craft rests on during transport by road or rail. Thus, keels need to have integral strength and be able to withstand a variety of forces.

Similarly, while sailing, the keel is the lowermost point of the vessel at which resistive forces act. As a result, many modifications are often made to the keel so that hydrodynamic features can be incorporated to reduce drag. Sailboats often sit high in the water owing to their design and shape.

However, for competition and performance crafts, it is essential that they try to sit as close to the surface of the water as possible without capsizing. Thus, the keel often plays the role of a central ballast, by integrating heavy iron or steel components so that the vessel draft increases.

Types of Sailboats Infographic

Based on keel type, there are several sailing boat variants found in the market. These generally have modified keels for improving performance and speed by integrating hydrodynamic features such as hydrofoils .

The types of keels commonly associated with sailboats are as follows: full-length keel, fin keel, centreboard keel, bilge keel, bulb keel and wing keel.

As the name suggests, full-length keels have keels that extend in the form of a long fin below the main structure of the ship. The fin runs along the length of the ship and often has an integrated rudder system attached at the stern.

The advantage of this type of keel is that it is easy to manufacture, with little cost in terms of development. Also, the ballast effect is provided by the extra weight of the full-length keel.

Since it can be difficult to enter certain ports or quays owing to the large draft that comes with this type of keel, manufacturers attempt to reduce fin depth and instead increase its length.

Fin keels , on the other hand, run only along certain regions of the sailboat. Located on the underside of the craft, it sticks out similar to the fin of a fish giving rise to this nomenclature. Since this type of keel must perform the same functions as the full-length keel without having a large length, the fin is deeper.

Fin keels

Owing to this large draft, it may be difficult to dock at certain ports due to depth restrictions. A key feature of this type of keel is that the rudder and manoeuvring systems remain independent of the fin keel, and are located at the extreme aft of the vessel. Centreboard keels are a common feature of high-performance crafts that take part in competitions. They are not restricted to monohull structures and are often found in catamarans and trimarans.

The centreboard keel employs a type of fin that is pivoted about a point on the keel of the vessel. By having a pivot, the natural flow of the vessel and surrounding water varies the depth at which the keel sits below the vessel. Similar to the fin keel, it only runs along a certain length of the vessel.

However, it is distinguished by being able to vary the angle of tilt with respect to the baseline of the craft. In some variations, the crew are able to manually change the angle of tilt, to change performance features during certain events and competitions.

Another variation of the centreboard keel is the daggerboard keel , which allows the fin to completely integrate into the underside of the vessel.

daggerboard keel

By providing a bay at the underside, the fin can be raised or lowered from the slot. In this type of keel, the raised configuration allows for higher speeds and reduced resistive forces. However, when lowered into the water, the vessel gains added stability and makes up for the loss in speed by improving hydrodynamic features.

Bilge keels refer to protrusions on the sides of the hull of the vessel, commonly called the bilges. These protrusions run along the length of the vessel while tapering into the hull panels at both ends.

The primary purpose of bilge keels is to improve the rolling stability of the craft. The fins stick out perpendicular to the hull and can vary in length depending on the purpose. For instance, sailboats require larger anti-roll stability and hence have long tapering bilge keels.

Bilge keels

The bilge keels must be symmetrically placed on both the port and starboard sides, so as to ensure even hydrodynamic characters.

A bulb keel is a protrusion sticking vertically below the craft and terminating in an oblong-shaped hydrodynamic device called the bulb. The bulb acts as a 3D hydrofoil that improves the stability and handling of the vessel. Due to the increased wetted surface area, there is a slight drop in the speed, but it can be made up through superior handling capabilities.

bulb keel

For smaller crafts, longer bulb keels are required, and as this length increases, the chance of accidental grounding of the vessel increases.

The last commonly found type of keel is the wing keel . The wing keel is similar to the bulb keel, except that instead of a bulb terminating a vertical protrusion, there are horizontal hydrofoils extending from the central shaft.

The primary purpose of the wings underneath the ship is to improve handling and stability. In addition, they slightly lift the craft above the surface of the water. As a result, the total wetted surface area remains constant and may even decrease. Thus, speed remains constant and may improve as the craft picks up velocity.

Mast Based Classifications

The mast of the vessel refers to a vertical shaft extending out of the deck which supports the sails and rigging. Older models of sailboats and ancient ships had masts constructed out of wood, while modern speed-oriented versions use galvanized steel or aluminium.

Aluminium has the benefit of being extremely light while still retaining its strength, which is important during harsh weather conditions.

The various mast-based classification includes – sloop, fractional-rig sloop, cutter, ketch, schooner and catboat.

The sloop is the most common mast type, where a single mast supports two sails called the headsail (or foresail) and the mainsail.

Mast based sloop

The headsail also goes by different names depending on the purpose and configuration of the sails.

In a fractional rig sloop , the forestay cable that is used to hoist the headsail is actually placed below the top of the mast. This configuration is particularly useful when it comes to performance, as the tip of the mast can be hauled towards the aft using stiff cables, and the sails can be collapsed.

fractional rig sloop

This is useful on days when wind power can be used to propel the sailboat, without the sails having to be fully extended.

Another useful feature of being able to trim or flatten the sails is that during particularly strong squalls of wind, the sails will not be punctured or ruptured due to the high wind pressure. The next type of mast configuration is the cutter. This involves a single mast supporting three sails- one mainsail, and two headsails known as the staysail hauled by the inner stay cable, and the jib hauled by the headstay cable.

The mast is located more towards the aft compared to the sloop, to allow for an easily manoeuvrable configuration. In addition, a wide range of sail arrangements makes it favourable for cruise operators and for competition purposes.

The ketc h has a two-mast configuration, with the aft mast known as the mizzen mast. The mizzen mast is located fore of the rudder post, and aft of the main mast.

Mast Based Ketch

The mizzen sail rests on the mizzen mast. In general, the mizzen mast is slightly shorter than the main mast.

mizzen sail

The main mast supports two sails known as the mainsail and the headsail.

The schooner is another configuration similar to the ketch, but where the aft mast is taller than the foremast.


Schooners can have multiple masts and are not restricted to commercial small and medium sailboats. The images of ancient ships that were used for trade and military purposes were often schooners having between four to six masts with an average of over ten sails each.

In addition, the sails of the schooner tend to lie along the length of the vessel, rather than along the beam. This is to prevent sail rupture during violent storms or during heavy winds. The catboat is one of the simplest configurations where only a single sail and mast arrangement are used.

The mast can be located either aft or fore of midships, with varying advantages to each configuration. The ease of design and construction makes it a favourable sailboat for beginners and trainees. However, the disadvantage behind the catboat is that the sail cannot be used to move against the direction of the wind, unlike other sail variations.

Apart from recreation purposes, sailboats are one of the most common types of vessels used in recreational purposes and competitions. They can vary in the hull, keel and sail configurations based on the primary purpose that they are intended to be used for.

For over five thousand years, sailboats have been in use, whether it has been for transportation in Ancient Egypt, or for sailing events in modern times. Technological advancements have turned the sailboat into a sleek, agile and fast vessel capable of reaching extremely high speeds by harnessing the power of the wind.

Whether it be for cruises or for racing events, sailboats and other such crafts continue to be a favourite choice for sailors.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sailboats

1. how many different kinds of sailboats are there.

There are many types based on their hull type- monohulls, catamarans and trimarans; keel type- fin keel, wing keel, daggerboard, centreboard; mast configuration and sails- sloop, fractional rig sloop, schooner, ketch, yawl, cutters and catch.

2. What is the most common type of sailboat?

The sloop is the most common sailboat. It has a mast, two sails, commonly a Bermuda rigged main and a headsail. They include a gaff rig, a mix of gaff and square rig or a Bermuda rig.

3. What is a four-masted sailboat called?

It is called a schooner. Traditional schooners have a gaff-rig, which means that they have a square topsail on the front of the mast. They were mainly constructed for carrying cargo, passengers and for fishing.

4. How many masts does a ketch have?

Ketch has two masts whose main mast is taller than the mizzen mast. It is similar to a yawl and has a triangular mizzen sail and a triangular or square headsail. Due to their smaller sails, they are easily manageable and preferred by sailors.

5. What is the most beautiful sailboat?

Some of the most beautiful sailboats in the world include Pelagic Australis, Thomas W Lawson, Royal Clipper, Barque Sedov and Amerigo Vespucci.

6. What are some popular sailboat brands?

Beneteau, Sparkman and Stephens, Oyster Yachts, Amel Yachts and Nautor’s Swan are some popular sailboat brands that sell the most number of sailboats yearly.

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sailing yacht types

About Author

Ajay Menon is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, with an integrated major in Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture. Besides writing, he balances chess and works out tunes on his keyboard during his free time.

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Types of Sailboats, Activities and Uses

sailboat types

Sailboats may be boats with sails, but they’re not one homogenous category. Sailboat types differentiate by design and use, and even the type of culture that permeates each subgroup. Let’s divide sailboats by hull types, rig types and activities/uses.

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Sailboat Hull Types

Sailboats ride on different hulls, which differ in the total number of hulls and their shape. The basic three hull types include:

  • Monohulls (one hull)
  • Catamarans (two hulls)
  • Trimarans (three hulls)

types of sailboats by use

Monohulls have one hull but that doesn’t make them all the same. Traditional monohulls may have full keels (heavy encapsulated ballast that runs along the bottom of the hull), cutaway keels (similar to full but the forefoot is cutaway allowing the boat greater maneuverability in tight quarters) or bolted on fin keels that may have a bulb at the bottom for extra ballast to keep the vessel stable.

Monohulls can also have a swing keel, daggerboard or centerboard that retracts up into an appendage in the hull itself. With the keel or board up, the boat can enter shallow water and can travel faster downwind. With the keel down, the vessel tracks better upwind.

Small monohulls like sailing dinghies, may also have shallow planing hulls that can surf off a wave. Finally, monohulls can also foil on appendages (usually made of carbon fiber) with the actual hull out of the water when a minimum speed is reached.

Catamarans (often nicknamed "cats") have two hulls with a deck or trampoline in between. Large cats (35 feet and over) have become popular in charter use because they offer more interior and deck space and an easier motion to induce less seasickness. Small catamarans usually have just a trampoline in between the hulls and make fun daysailers.

Because catamarans don’t have deep and heavy keels, they tend to sail faster off the wind. Foiling catamarans were made popular by the America’s Cup races and are proliferating into general cruising use.

Trimarans have three hulls: a main hull and two amas (side hulls used for stability). On some trimarans, the arms that hold the amas can fold inward, making the trimaran narrower and in some cases trailerable. Large cruising trimaranas are gaining popularity because they are stable and fast sailers.

sailboat types catamaran

Sailboat Rig Types

Sailboat rigging includes:

  • the mast(s);
  • and the shrouds or stays that hold up the mast.

A sailboat with one mast is usually a sloop with one mainsail and one headsail.

A cutter rig usually has one mast but two or more headsails. This rig “cuts” the foretriangle between the head (forward) stay and the main mast. Multiple headsails allow for flexible sail combinations in variable wind conditions.

Ketches and yawls have a secondary mast behind the main one. The ketch configuration places that mizzenmast behind the mainmast but ahead of the rudderpost while the yawl places it behind the post. The second mast is shorter than the main mast. Both of these designs (split rigs) provide more sail area that isn’t reliant solely on the height of the mainmast and therefore can be easier to manage when sailing shorthanded.

Schooners also have multiple masts—two or more. However, the foremost mast is shorter than the main mast. Tall ship rigging is in its own category and can get quite complex.

sailboat uses and activities

Sailboat Types by Primary Use

You can do many of the same things on all sailboats, but some types are more specialized.

Sailing dinghies: Small boats usually sailed by one or two people, sailing dinghies are often used to teach new sailors. That said, experts on high tech sailing dinghies compete in athletic racing up to Olympic level.

Day cruisers: Although any sailboat can be cruised for a day, day cruisers are often boats shorter than 30 feet that are designed to be sailed for an afternoon. They’re usually more Spartan in their outfitting and may or may not have a cabin with amenities.

Sailing cruisers: These sailboats can be monohulls or multihulls and are designed to cruise for weekends or longer. They usually have a berth (bed), a head (toilet) and a galley (kitchen). They can be sloop, cutter, ketch, yawl or schooner-rigged and vary in length (from 25-85 feet). Larger sailboats tend to fall into the crewed superyacht category.

Racing sailboats: Most offshore racers are larger boats crewed by multiple individuals while smaller racers can be single or double-handed. Racing boats are usually built lighter, have fin keels and laminate performance sails.

Racer/cruisers: These designs try to straddle the two above. They’re usually more lightly built cruisers with full amenities so they can be weekended. Some people will argue that these boats are a compromise for owners who want to primarily cruise but also race.

Bluewater cruising sailboats: These boats are designed to cross oceans or sail “blue waters.” They’re typically heavier in build with a stout rig and are fully equipped for extended offshore use.

Motorsailers: This term has fallen out of favor since it’s often pejorative. These sailboats may rely on the engine to sail in light wind conditions, especially due to their excessive weight.

Antique/classic sailboats: These are usually older restored vessels. They may be built of wood and have classic yawl rigs. These sailboats are often showcased in special events.

Sailboats occupy multiple segments and experienced sailors learn the finer points of design and use. Then, they never see two sailboats the same way again.

Read Next: Buying a Sailboat: Factors to Consider

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sailing yacht types

Download this cheat sheet to sail faster, cheaper and smarter.

Types of Sailboats: A Guide to Sailing Craft

There are many different types of sailboats. Each type has its own characteristics and uses, so it pays to be familiar with them before deciding which one is right for you.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most common types of sailboats:

sailing yacht types

Types of sailboats by hull

  • Monohull – A single-hull boat that has a flat bottom and straight sides, such as a sailboat or powerboat.
  • Catamaran – An open boat with two parallel hulls and a deck connecting them.
  • Trimaran – Similar to a catamaran but with three hulls instead of two.

Monohulls are probably the type of sailboat you’re most familiar with, and they’re also the most common. A monohull has one hull (duh), which means it’s shaped like a triangle or a rectangle.

These boats have been around since the very beginning of sailing, but they’ve undergone some pretty significant changes over time.

Today, modern monohulls come in all shapes and sizes—from small dinghies to massive yachts. Monohulls typically handle better than multihulls at high speeds because there is less surface area for air to flow across when wind pushes against them.

This makes them faster overall as well as easier to maneuver during races or other competitions where speed matters more than comfort

A catamaran is a vessel consisting of two hulls of equal size, connected by a frame or trampoline. The advantage of a catamaran over a monohull is that it has more stability, thereby reducing the need for ballast weight.

Catamarans are often faster than comparable monohulls because they can utilize the larger water surface area to make use of the wind.

Photo credit: Emma Dau

A trimaran is a multihull boat with three hulls in a triangular formation. The three hulls are connected by two parallel beams, called the trampolines or outriggers.

The center hull is the largest, and it houses most of the living space on board. The outer two hulls are smaller, and they serve as steering and propulsion.

Types of sailboats by their keels

Keels are the most common type of sailboat propulsion. They come in a few different varieties:

  • Full-length keel – This is the most common and traditional form of keel, where the full length of the boat is submerged to provide stability.
  • Fin keel – This type of keel has a fin at its tip that extends down below the waterline for greater stability at slower speeds.
  • Bilge keel – A bilge-shaped or rounded bottom section forms this type of sailing vessel’s hull shape, providing extra stability in rough waters because it sits lower to the water than a full-length or fin keel does.
  • Centerboard or dagger board boat – A centerboard or dagger board helps keep these boats upright by allowing them to slide up out of harm’s way when necessary; it also makes them more maneuverable than other types of sailing vessels due to their ability to pivot on an axis around its mast (or “mast”).

Full-length keel

A full-length keel is a common feature for sailboat hulls, and it’s one that you’ll see on many cruising sailboats.

This type of keel runs from the bow to the stern, completely encasing the hull in lead. It provides stability and resistance to leeway when sailing or motoring at low speeds.

It’s often used on boats that are designed for long distance cruising or racing (though not exclusively). A full length keel also allows you to take advantage of all available wind angles, giving your boat maximum speed potential as well as response time in rough conditions.

The main drawback of this type of keel is that it makes tacking more difficult, especially when there isn’t much wind or current pushing against your boat’s side.

If you’re trying to tack with a full-length keel on an empty lake during high winds and waves, don’t expect an easy transition back into forward motion once you’ve completed your 180° turn!

Fin keel sailboat

Fin keel boats are those with a fixed keel that runs along the centerline of the bottom of the hull.

his type of sailboat is generally considered to be easier to handle than other types of boats and they’re good for beginners.

he disadvantage is that they can over-steer when sailing close to the wind, especially in light winds. There are two major variations on this type:

  • Fin keels have a bulbous end that acts as a stabilizing surface when going upwind or downwind, but it can cause problems if you try to sail directly into the wind (you’ll see what I mean if you look at pictures of fin-keeled boats).
  • Finless spade rudder versions place their weight over the centerline instead, so they’re less affected by changes in wind angle than their finned counterparts—but they lack maneuverability in tight quarters or when sailing under outboard motor power alone.

Bilge keel sailboat

A bilge keel sailboat is one that has a keel that is set below the bottom of its hull.

This type of keel offers stability and control, which makes it ideal for smaller boats used for day sailing and non-competitive racing.

Bilge keels are used on many types of boats, including catamarans and trimarans; however, they are most often seen on small sailboats.

Centerboard or Dagger board sailboat

A centerboard is a retractable keel that is lowered down into the bottom of the boat.

The centerboard is lowered when sailing upwind, so that it can reduce drag on the hull. In this way, centerboards are similar to dagger boards and other retractable keels.

Centerboards are used on smaller boats because they make these boats lighter and more maneuverable than boats with fixed keels.

Because they’re lighter, you’ll also find that some centerboard boats are faster than fixed-keel boats—they have less drag from their hulls when moving through water at high speeds.

Many people use these small racing yachts for day trips or short coastal voyages due to their ease of handling in windy conditions near shorelines.

However, they’re not always suitable for longer journeys because their lack of stability makes them prone to capsizing or rolling over if there’s too much weight distributed towards one side of the vessel (i.e., if you put too much fuel in one side).

Types of sailboats by mast configuration

The configuration of the mast(s) is also important. There are three main types of masts: the mainmast, foremast and mizzenmast.

The mainmast is usually the tallest mast on a sailboat and carries most of its weight; it’s typically used as an additional support in heavy winds.

The foremast is just behind the mainmast in terms of height and generally has less sail area than either of them.

The mizzenmast sits further back than both these masts, but isn’t as tall as one or two feet high; this type generally supports light canvas-like sails that assist with steering when underway on open water without wind conditions favorable enough for full operation from other parts of your vessel’s structure (such as during calms).

A sloop is a sailboat with a single mast. The mainmast typically has a fore-and-aft rig, where there is one sail attached to it and it runs from front to back along its length.

The mast is directly behind the center of gravity of the boat (just where the keel runs).

t’s stepped at its forward end just ahead of amidships, which means that it’s slightly tilted down toward the bow; this helps keep any water that comes over it from running back down onto your deck.

Sloops can have either a fractional or full keel—or no keel at all! A fractional keel extends below but not far beyond amidships; such boats are often referred to as centerboard yachts rather than sloops when they lack mainsails (since they don’t look like traditional gaff rigs).

A full keel curves downward in front of amidships, then rises up again into an underwater hull extension called deadrise aft (which also increases speed by reducing drag), where you will find most modern sailing vessels located today because they offer greater stability without sacrificing performance or maneuverability as much as longer fin keels do.*

A cutter is a sailboat with two masts, which can be either a sloop or a ketch. The mainmast is taller than the shorter mizzen mast, and they are both located forward of the rudderpost.

sailing yacht types

Cutters are among the most common types of sailboats. The design helps balance out heavy winds in all directions with its two sails and symmetrical rig (mainsail on one side, jib on the other).

You may also see this type of sailing vessel referred to as brigantine or barquentine depending on its rigging arrangement.

A ketch is a sailboat with two masts. The mainmast is larger than the foremast and has the same length as the hull.

This type of sailboat usually has a jib on the main, and a staysail or mizzen on its smaller topmast.

Ketch-rigged boats can be identified by their triangular shaped sails and their “V” shape when viewed from above.

A spinnaker is another type of sail that can be used on a ketch rig boat, but it is only used when sailing downwind at high speeds

A schooner is a sailboat with two (or more) masts. The foremast is usually shorter than the mainmast.

Schooners were first developed in the Netherlands and northern Germany in the 17th century.

The design was meant to improve on the square-rigged ships that were common at the time by increasing speed, maneuverability and cargo capacity.

Schooners became popular in North America in the 18th century due to their ability to navigate shallow waters and for their speed.

A yawl is a two-masted sailing vessel. The mainmast is stepped further aft than on a sloop, and the mainsail is hoisted from a boom. The jib will be hoisted from a bowsprit.

The catboat is a type of sailboat, with a single mast, usually a Bermuda rig, and a single headsail. It has a flat-bottomed hull and may be rigged as a sloop, cutter or yawl. The centerboard may be retractable or fixed.

The mainmast is often in the middle of the boat (centerboard amidships) but can also be near the bow (centerboard forward). Catboats are usually gaff rigged; if they have more than one jib on each side they are called cat schooners.

Photo Credit: Leonhard Peters

Other “types” of sailboats

A dinghy is a small boat used for racing, or for towing behind a larger vessel. The term is also used to refer to any small craft or boat. A dinghy may be propelled by oars, sails, or motors.

Sailing Dinghies were usually small undecked boats carried aboard larger ships as part of the ship’s complement and launched or lowered on deck when required.

While most people today reserve the term “dinghy” for small human-powered vessels such as inflatables that are suspended from another boat’s deck by ropes or cables (rather than being carried), this usage has not always been so clearly defined.

Photo credit: Ludomil Sawicki

A dory is a small, flat-bottomed boat with a single mast and a lug sail. It was used mainly as a fishing boat in the 19th century but has also been used as lifeboats on the Titanic and Essex. A dory was also used to rescue survivors of the sinking of the Essex in 1820.

A drift boat is a boat that’s designed to be sailed or rowed with no sail. It can be any size, but usually refers to small boats, often used for fishing.

A drift boat could also be a rowing boat with a centerboard, which is lowered during sailing to provide greater stability.

Alternatively, it may refer to a traditional sailing dinghy (a small boat) that has been rigged so that all sails are furled while under way and only used as oars when stopped or nearly stopped—with the exception of jibing maneuvers where they’re deployed briefly while tacking or gybing in order to keep heading straight into the wind until they can once again use their oars without fear of capsizing due to excessive speed during maneuvers.

Cruising sailboat

Cruising sailboats are designed for long distance travel. They are typically larger than day sailing boats but smaller than ocean racers. They can range from 20 feet to over 100 feet in length.

A daysailer is a small, simple sailboat. Daysailers are usually used for short trips on inland waterways and are often single-masted boats with a jib and mainsail. They’re also less than 18 feet long, making them easy to carry and launch at the dock.

Daysailers come in all shapes and sizes, but they tend to be either catboats or ketches that have been designed with easy handling in mind. A catboat has two flat sides, while a ketch has three flat sides—two parallel hulls connected by stays (or “booms”) that form an X shape across the boat’s cockpit (the area where you sit when sailing).

Both types of sailboats can be rigged to be sailed by one person or two persons together; however, yachtsmen typically prefer two people so that one person can steer while another person adjusts lines as needed during maneuvers such as tacking (turning into wind) or jibing (changing direction of travel by turning 90 degrees).


Racer-cruisers are fast, responsive and can race or cruise in shallow waters. These boats are highly maneuverable because they have a high center of gravity and lack ballast.

They’re good for racing but not so much for cruising: racer-cruisers don’t have much room below deck, which isn’t ideal for taking long trips with lots of gear onboard.

They’re also not recommended if you want to sail in light winds—the lighter the air pressure, the more difficult it becomes to keep your boat moving forward on course when it’s lightweight (due to its lack of ballast).

A skiff is a type of sailboat. It is usually small and light with a single mast located forward of the center of buoyancy (the place where the boat’s weight is centered). Skiffs are often used for racing or fishing, but they can also be used in shallow waters.

They may look like dinghies, but they don’t have as much freeboard (distance between the waterline and deck).

There are many different kinds of sailboats

As you can see, there are many different types of sailboats. It’s important to know the types of boats that are available so that when you’re shopping for one, you’ll have a better idea of what kind will be right for your needs and desires.

sailing yacht types

Mike Sellers

Types of Sailboats.

Types of Sailboats

sailing yacht types

Table of Contents

Sailboats are one type of boat, but just because they all have sails doesn’t mean they’re all the same. There are subsets of sailboats and they differ by their shape (or number of hulls), the type of sailing rig, and their best primary use. Let’s investigate.

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Sailboat shapes

Sailboats can be monohulls or multihulls, which can be catamarans with two hulls or trimarans with three.

Sailboat race.

Monohulls are the classic sailing boat with one hull . Large, traditional, and older versions have deeper and heavier keels integrated into the hull for greater stability. At the same time, newer designs have fin keels that are attached rather than integrated appendages. Monohull boats can be used for racing or cruising.

Catamarans have two hulls that are connected by a bridge deck . Cats are prized for their large deck and accommodations space, stability, and shallow draft, so many mid-sized cats can be found in charter fleets worldwide.

Production cats are typically built for comfort rather than speed, but there are high-performance carbon fiber racing cats like those in the America’s Cup.

Trimarans are boats with three hulls. They can be large cruisers with fixed hull supports or small racers where the structural arms that hold the amas (outer hulls) fold to make the whole boat narrower. This is handy when fitting into a small slip or onto a trailer. Even more than catamarans, trimarans are known to be fast sailors.

More sailboats of all shapes (but especially catamarans) are experimenting with foils where the hull(s) ride out of the water to minimize wetted surfaces and maximize speed.

READ MORE: 10 Best Beginner Sailboats

Sailboat rigging

View from sailboat.

The rig of a sailboat includes the spar (mast) that holds the sails up, the boom that holds the bottom of the mainsail, and the shrouds or stays that support the mast. One sailboat can have multiple masts.

The number and placement of the masts decide what kind of boat it is. A sloop has one mast but may have multiple headsails (the sails that are in front of the mast), and therefore it may be called a cutter sloop.

A ketch or a yawl has a second smaller (mizzen) mast aft of the main mast. Schooners have multiple masts, but the secondary mast is ahead of the main mast rather than behind it. Many classic tall ships are outfitted as schooners, not generally found in modern recreational sailing.

Different uses of sailboats

Sailboat at sea.

As mentioned above, sailboats can be distance cruisers, racers, or something in between . Much of how they’re used will depend on their size and shape.

  • Daysailers: The primary use of a daysailer is for an afternoon sailing in a bay or harbor. You can daysail on the ocean, and any boat can be sailed for just a day. Still, typical daysailers are usually smaller (under 30 feet), have no or minimal accommodations below, and are used for short outings.
  • Cruisers: Sailboats can cruise for a weekend or a lifetime. Cruisers are often outfitted with amenities to accommodate overnight stays, so they have a galley , a cabin , and a head (bathroom). They vary in size, can be mono- or multihulls, and can carry any rig type.
  • Racers: Although any sailboat can be raced, some models are specifically designed to do so. They’re usually built lighter and carry more sail area.
  • Racer-cruisers: Racer-cruisers are performance boats (usually sloops) that can cruise. Some sailors will argue that there’s no such thing and that it’s all marketing rather than reality as companies try to make customers believe their boats are fast. Lightly built cruisers are often classified as racer-cruisers.
  • Bluewater cruisers: Sailboats designed to cruise across oceans are often called bluewater cruisers. They’re well equipped, have large water and fuel tanks, and are often loaded with technical and cruising gear to be able to stay at sea for a long time. Again, these sailboats can have any number of hulls or masts to qualify for this moniker.
  • Motorsailers: Heavy sailboats with big engines may be called motorsailers but it’s not a name that appeals to their owners because it implies the boat is heavy and slow under sail.
  • Sailing dinghies: Small sailboats that are often used to teach sailing are sailing dinghies. They’re designed for one or two people and can be basic like a Lido or Sabot or competition level such as a Finn, Nacra, or Laser.

Learn more about sailboats with Boatsetter

An expert sailor knows a sailboat isn’t just a boat with sails — there are nuances and knowing the differences will make you not only better informed, it will also enable you to decide which kind of sailboat is right for you.

Of course, the best way to get to know a sailboat is by hands-on practice . Rent a sailboat — with a captain or to sail solo — and get on-the-water practice. In no time, you’ll be a pro.

Boatsetter is a unique boat-sharing platform that gives everyone— whether you own a boat or you’re just renting — the chance to experience life on the water. You can list a boat , book a boat , or make money as a captain .

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Zuzana Prochazka is an award-winning freelance journalist and photographer with regular contributions to more than a dozen sailing and powerboating magazines and online publications including Southern Boating, SEA, Latitudes & Attitudes and SAIL. She is SAIL magazines Charter Editor and the Executive Director of Boating Writers International. Zuzana serves as judge for SAIL’s Best Boats awards and for Europe’s Best of Boats in Berlin. 

A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana founded and manages a flotilla charter organization called Zescapes that takes guests adventure sailing at destinations worldwide. 

Zuzana has lived in Europe, Africa and the United States and has traveled extensively in South America, the islands of the South Pacific and Mexico. 

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Types of Sailboats and Their Uses


Beach catamaran

Beach Catamaran

These are generally 14–20 feet in length primarily used for daysailing. They are fast boats that require some agility to sail. They have shallow drafts when the dagger boards are up for beaching.

Cruising catamaran

Cruising Catamaran

A larger relative of the beach catamaran, they share more in common with a cruising mono-hull with accommodation for extended cruising. They are stable platforms with shallow drafts and are 25–50+ feet in length.

Cruisng sailboat

Cruising Sailboat

Generally 16–50+ feet in length, these boats are cabins for extended cruising. Boats larger than 26 feet usually have standing headroom down below. Many of the more popular models have large fleets and are raced or have fleet associations for group cruising.

Day sailer

These boats are generally 14–20 feet in length. They can seat up to 4 passengers. As the name implied they are intended for day use with a small cuddy cabin for storing gear. Many can accommodate a small outboard. They make a great choice for new boaters.



Motorsailers are sailboats powered with inboard engines allowing long cruises under power or sail. They have luxury accommodations and usually 35 feet and over. They are a compromise giving up sailing speed due to a smaller rig and added weight for the engine and larger gas and water tanks.

Racing cruiser


This is a hybrid of the cruising boat built to accommodate overnight cruising but trimmed with the equipment for competitive racing. They are generally 25 feet and over.

Racing sailboat

Racing Sailboats

Similar to cruising boats but have more equipment and are built lighter, with spartan accommodations. They are not intended to be a comfortable ride, just a fast one. Usually 20–70+ feet in length. Just as these are related to cruising boats, there are smaller, faster cousins of sailing dinghies that are also raced.

Sailing dinghies

Sailing Dinghies

Small (under 15 feet) these boats are usually one or two person boats. These are boats that guarantee a wet ride. Many are competitively raced. They are a great choice for those that are new to boating.

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A Complete Guide to Yacht Types and Sizes

  • by yachtman
  • August 28, 2023 August 26, 2023

sailing yacht types

Yachts, symbols of luxury and leisure, provide a stunning escape. From motor yachts to sailing yachts, the world of yachting is both diverse and captivating. Journey with us as we explore the different types and sizes of yachts, uncovering their secrets.

Climb onboard a superyacht , the queen of the seas. These floating palaces boast remarkable dimensions, with amenities such as swimming pools, helipads, and even submarines. Ideal for those seeking indulgence, superyachts are the epitome of yachting excellence.

For a more intimate experience, try a luxury motor yacht . With powerful engines, they let you visit multiple destinations quickly. Enjoy the lap of luxury as you cruise across the sea, appreciating every moment on board these vessels.

Sailing lovers will appreciate classic sailing yachts . Watch their silhouettes gracefully cut through the waves, powered by wind. Feel the passion for sailing, and the freedom, on an adventure akin to ancient seafarers. Uncover your inner explorer while savoring unparalleled serenity.

Catamarans are ideal for sailing with precision and finesse. With twin hulls offering stability and space, catamarans offer great comfort. Enjoy vibrant sunsets to tranquil anchorages, and bliss on water, with these versatile vessels.

For those keen on exploration, expedition yachts are perfect. Built tough and with advanced tech, they are designed for explorations to remote areas. Discover untouched landscapes, encounter wildlife, and make memories in the far-flung corners of the world.

Types of Yachts

Sailboats to mega-yachts – there’s a large choice of yachts. Let’s delve into the types and sizes that meet different needs.

Take a gander at the table below for an overview of yachts:

Sailing yachts are graceful and use wind power. Motor yachts are speedy and powered by engines.

Catamarans stand out with their steadiness and roominess – great for a leisurely cruise. Trawler yachts are great for long-distance trips because they’re fuel-efficient and have comfy living areas.

Adventurous souls should check out expedition yachts . Flybridge yachts have an extra deck level for entertainment and relaxation.

Sports fisher yachts are designed for fishing, with special gear and amenities.

Don’t miss out on your dream yacht – find the perfect one and go on amazing sea experiences. Start your journey now!

Sizes of Yachts

Yachts come in plenty of sizes, each with its own unique features and capabilities. To discover the perfect yacht for your needs, let us explore the sizes of yachts via a table showcasing their specifications.

Here’s what the table looks like:

Moreover, take into account that certain yachts have stability systems, others prioritize speed, and some are customized. I once met a yacht owner who wanted a retractable roof! With the help of creative builders, his dream was fulfilled and he got to enjoy a unique experience on the open seas.

Factors to Consider in Choosing the Right Yacht

Making the right yacht choice involves many key points to think about. These include size, type, budget, use and preferences, like amenities . To decide wisely, assess each factor and see how important they are. Here’s a table of the main considerations when choosing a yacht:

In addition, there are unique details you should consider, like if you plan to charter your yacht when not in use, go for a popular model. If privacy is important, choose a yacht with separate crew quarters. So, here are some tips for making the right choice:

  • Get expert advice from experienced yacht brokers or naval architects.
  • Choose respected brands that hold their value in case you resell.
  • Visit boat shows and yacht exhibitions to explore different models and talk to professionals.

By taking all factors into account and following these suggestions, you can find the perfect yacht that fits your needs. Whether for leisure or adventure, the right yacht will give you amazing memories on the sea.

So many options! In this guide, we explore yacht types and sizes, helping you find the perfect vessel. From sailing yachts to motor yachts , each one offers a unique experience. Plus, you can customize your yacht for a truly special journey.

Let me tell you about James . He dreamed of a yacht that matched his adventurous spirit. So, he found a builder who specialized in customization. The result was amazing – a sleek motor yacht with state-of-the-art diving gear, space for fishing equipment, and luxurious comforts. On his customized vessel, James cruised beautiful coastlines and made memories that will last forever.

When you search for your yacht, remember that customization is key. You can have a tranquil sailing experience or a thrilling adventure. Dive into the ocean of possibilities – your imagination is the only limit.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ 1: What are the different types of yachts?

There are various types of yachts, including motor yachts, sailing yachts, catamarans, trimarans, superyachts, and expedition yachts. Each type offers unique features and advantages.

FAQ 2: What is the difference between a motor yacht and a sailing yacht?

A motor yacht, as the name suggests, is powered by an engine and offers more speed and convenience. On the other hand, a sailing yacht relies on wind power and provides a traditional sailing experience with a slower pace.

FAQ 3: What is a superyacht?

A superyacht is a luxury yacht with high-end amenities and extravagant features. These yachts often offer spacious cabins, multiple decks, swimming pools, helipads, and other luxurious facilities.

FAQ 4: What is the average size of a yacht?

Yachts can vary greatly in size. The average size of a yacht ranges from 30 to 60 feet. However, larger yachts, known as superyachts, can measure over 100 feet in length.

FAQ 5: What is the advantage of a catamaran or trimaran?

Catamarans and trimarans provide more stability due to their dual or triple hull design. They offer spacious interiors, increased deck space, and enhanced fuel efficiency compared to traditional monohull yachts.

FAQ 6: What is an expedition yacht?

An expedition yacht is designed for long-range cruising and exploring remote destinations. These yachts feature robust construction, advanced navigation systems, and ample storage for supplies and equipment.

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  • Articles and Guides

Types of Sailboats: Dive into the World of Sailboats

29th oct 2023 by samantha wilson.

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Sailing is a wonderful hobby that can bring a lifetime of relaxation, adventure, and fun. It offers the chance to learn new skills, spend quality time with the whole family, to explore new destinations and take part in a whole host of different activities. There are many types of sailboats for sale, so before you venture down the road of buying your first sailboat , it’s important to understand the different types of sailboats and which one will be best for you and your family. With everything from tiny dinghies up to enormous superyachts , the range is huge.

Here we’ll explore the different sailboat types and uses, look at their pros and cons, and how to choose the right one.

Different Types of Sailing Boat by Hull

With so many different sailboat variations, sailboat uses and styles of sailboat, there are different ways we can identify them, and one way is by hull type. There are three categories; monohulls (with one hull), catamarans (with two hulls) and trimarans (with three hulls).

Monohull sailboats

Monohulls are the most common type of sailboat and are designed with a single hull, and have a long, narrow shape which makes them fast and easy to maneuver. Monohulls are typically designed for recreational sailing, and are great for long-distance cruising, coastal sailing, and racing. As they can be relatively inexpensive to buy and easy to maintain, monohulls are often one of the most popular types of sailing boats for beginners. As the broadest range of sailboats, monohulls come in all shapes and sizes, but can also have vastly different keel types. See our comparison between monohull and catamaran sailboats .

monohull sailboat

Examples of monohull keels include:

Full keel consists of heavy ballast which runs along the bottom of the hull and keeps the boat centered in the water

Cutaway keel

Cutway keep works in the same way as a full keel but has a section cut away to allow for better maneuverability in shallow waters

Fin keel or wing keel

These are often bolted on to the hull and can have a heavy bulb or wing at the bottom for additional stability

Swing keel, lifting keel, daggerboard or centerboard 

All of these are identified by their ability to be retracted into the hull, allowing for access to shallow water and additional speeds 

Shallow planing hull:

Usually found on types of small sailing boats and dinghies, it allows them to surf on waves and enter shallower water. 

Catamaran sailboats

Catamarans are two-hulled sailboats with a deck or trampoline in between that are typically wider and more stable than monohulls. They also provide more space and storage, and are great for sailing in shallow waters. Popular choices for those wanting to go fishing , cruising and racing, catamarans are gaining in popularity particularly because of their increased stability which is less likely to cause seasickness. Because of their lack of deep, heavy keels (not necessary because of their two-hulled stability) catamarans are known for their speeds and make for popular daysailers and charter boats. 

catamaran sailboats

Trimaran sailboats

Trimarans are three-hulled sailboats that are usually faster and more stable than monohulls. They have a long, narrow shape, and they provide a good amount of space and storage. Trimarans are great for racing and long-distance cruising, and they are often used for fishing and recreational sailing. With a higher purchase price and less availability on the market, they are still fairly uncommon compared to monohulls and catamarans although larger trimaran yachts are gaining popularity thanks to their stability and speed. See our comparison guide between trimarans and catamarans .


Different Types of Sailing Boats

There are many ways to categorize sailboats, from their rigging to their mast configuration, their rudder type, hull type or by the different classes of sailboat. 

Another way to identify or categorize sailboat types is by their rigging. This refers to the configuration of the mast (or masts) and sail (or sails) and there are several types depending on what they’re used for.

These are some of the most common sailing yacht types:

Sloop are the most common type of sailboat on the water, and are characterized by a single-mast rig which frequently has a triangular mainsail and a headsail. They make for one of the most popular types of sailing boats for beginners as well as seasoned pros as they are easy to learn to control and maneuver, fun to sail and can be used for all types of sailing in different conditions. Sloops can get to great speeds with their rig configuration and offer good windward performance and as such they are popular racing boats as well as the perfect multi-purpose, easy maintenance leisure yacht. On the downside, sloops can be easier to capsize than some other sailboats and they require a tall mast to accommodate the two sails. 

While it might seem as though a cutter and sloop are barely distinguishable, a closer look shows that in fact the rigging is quite noticeably different. Yes, both types have a single mast, but a cutter has a two headsails, the additional one known as a staysail. This additional sail offers better control and more stability than a sloop and its singular jib sail, as well as being better at performing in adverse weather. The other difference worth noting is that many cutters have a spar extending from the bow, known as a bowsprit which increases the amount of sail area. The downsides to a cutter for some people is the rigging is more complex than that on a sloop. 

Schooners are probably the most easily identifiable type of sailboat to grace our seas. For centuries these multi-masted sailing yachts have transported sailors, soldiers, goods and passengers around the world, their multiple sails offering excellent offshore handling and the ability to withstand powerful sea conditions. They have a minimum of two masts, but can have many more, with two almost identical sized sails in the foresail and mainsail. Better suited to experienced sailors with a crew, they have a complex rigging with multiple sail options allowing for precise control offshore. 

Ketch and Yawl

Similar in appearance and handling, the ketch and yawl are characterized by their two masts, with the mainmast being taller than the mizzen mast. The two differ in that the ketch has the mizzen mast is forward of the rudder post, while the yawl has its mizzen aft of it. In general, ketch and yawl sailboats have shorter masts and smaller sails, making them slower than a sloop or cutter but more able to withstand rough sea conditions. Check our guide: Ketch vs Yawl

Daysailer and Dinghy

At the smaller end of the sailboat classification list are daysailers and dinghies. A dinghy tends to be under 28 feet in length and usually dual powered with a small outboard engine. Perfect for short cruises in protected water s they are great beginner yachts and easy to handle and rig. While usually slightly larger than a dinghy, the daysailer is, as the name suggests, perfect for short coastal cruising, have a single mast and can be either monohull or multihull. Both are a broad categorizations based on usage and size rather than shape or rigging. 


Racing Sailboats

The sport of racing sailboats dates back centuries and is today as popular as ever. There is no one type of racing sailboat, and the term in fact covers a broad spectrum of yachts, from one-man dinghies all the way to 100-foot yachts. In fact, any sailing yacht can be raced and there are many classes of sailboats and competitions around the world. Keel boats such as sloops and cutters are popular for racing, as they can sail quite close to the wind, but you’ll also find multihulls and the ultra-fast foiling hull boats which rise out of the water onto a narrow foil and can reach speeds well in excess of 50mph.   

Motorsailer Vs Sailboat

While many sailboats also have engines, the motorsailer is a different and easily identifiable style of yacht. It uses a combination of wind power and engine power, and in some cases resembles a motorboat in style more than a classic yacht shape. The motorsailer offers great opportunities for varying types of cruising such as coastal voyages, as well as living onboard, and is a reliable and easy-to-handle yacht popular with families.  On the downside, a motorsailer does tend to come with a higher price tag than sailboats of the same size and they aren’t usually as fast or efficient as a either a full powerboat or sailboat. 

Best Types of Sailboat by Activity

With so many variations, styles and types of sailboat on the market, it makes sense that they are designed for different activities and uses. Whether you want to sail around the world , enjoy a spot of day sailing or want something easy to handle, then you need to find the right kind of boat for your needs. 

Best sailboat for stability

When it comes to stability, the answer to which sailboat is best isn’t as clear cut as it might at first seem. The multihulls are the clear winners in temperate conditions, the trimaran taking first place thanks to its wide beam and triple hull configuration. A close second is the catamaran, also known for its lack of rolling, which is gaining popularity with those prone to seasickness who are looking for a yacht for day sailing or coastal cruising. 

However multihulls tend to be less stable when it comes to rougher sea conditions, and it’s impossible to right a capsized catamaran or trimaran. Monohulls with deep displacement hulls are by far the best choice in these instances, their design allowing them to keel far over in rough weather without capsizing. 

Best sailboat for Offshore Cruising

When adventure is calling and you want to head further offshore or embark on blue water cruises , then you need a yacht that is up to the challenge . The most important aspect of offshore cruising is experience and preparation, and there are many boats out there that can cross oceans if they’re properly equipped and handled. The simple rigged sloop, cutter or ketch are popular options. With easy handling qualities and good windward performance, a simple sloop is a good choice, while the cutter (similar in many ways) has even better rough weather performance qualities thanks to its additional headsail. The ketch, although slower, can be more stable in rough weather and has shorter and therefore stronger masts.

While it’s not a beginner’s sailboat, a classic schooner is probably the best sailboat for offshore cruising as it allows for precise handling even in big seas, as well as being fast and powerful. They have a deep displacement keel, which means they are more stable in rough weather too. 

Best sailboat for a day

More simple rigged sailboats tend to be the most popular day sailers, with the sloop, ketch, yawl and cutter top of the list. The idea of a simple rig makes using them coastally or in inland waters fun and fuss-free, and they make for great beginner boats . Likewise, on very protected waters such as lakes or coastal areas, smaller dinghies can great day boats too. 

Best budget sailboat

When it comes to budget, dinghies top the list of the cheapest sailboats. With or without an engine, they tend to be small and simple, without cabins, heads, instruments or other luxuries to add to the cost. Sloops, ketches and cutters too can be found on a budget, especially on the second hand market. But it’s important to look at more than the purchase price when buying a second hand boat, and consider the condition, repairs and maintenance that might need doing. Check out our guide Buying a Cheap Boat: Is it a Good Idea?

If you’re considering buying a sailboat then has one of the biggest collections of new and used boats for sale in the world. From dinghies to sailing superyachts and everything in between we work with the best brokers in the business as well as private sellers offering you the biggest choice. 

Written By: Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.


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Allied Yachting

Types of Sailboats by Type of Rig

16 December 2015

To have a better idea of which types of sailboats would best suit your needs, your Allied Yachting broker can advise you on the various options available on the market for new or second-hand vessels as well as new construction. In the meantime, here is a summarized guide to the different categories of sailing yachts by type of rig , whether they are monohull (single hull) or multihull , as they’re called in the Mediterranean.

Sailboats by rig type: hulls, masts

Single mast sailboat

Single masted sailboat with monohull

The most common monohull modern sailing yacht is the sloop, which features one mast and two sails, thus sloops are single-masted sailboats. If they have just two sails — a foresail and a headsail — then they’re a Bermudan sloop, the purest type of sailboat. This simple configuration is very efficient for sailing into the wind.

Sailing sloops with moderate rigs are probably the most popular of all cruising sailboats. Just a single-masted sailboat with two sails (a foresail or headsail, and a mainsail) and the minimum of rigging and sail control lines they are relatively simple to operate and less expensive than rigs with multiple masts.

Sloops are adapted for cruising as well as racing, depending on the height and size of their rig.

The cutter sailing yacht is also a monohull similar to a sloop with a single mast and mainsail but generally carries the mast further aft to allow for a jib and staysail to be attached to the head stay and inner forestay, respectively. Once a common racing configuration, today it gives versatility to cruising boats, especially in allowing a small staysail to be flown from the inner stay in high winds.

Thus, a cutter-rig sailboat has an additional sail (the staysail) set on its own stay between the foresail and the headsail.

Cutters are mostly adapted for cruising, but capable of good performance while racing as well.

A ketch is a two-masted sailboat, the main-mast forward and a shorter mizzen mast aft.

But not all two-masted sailboats are ketches — they might be yawls.

A ketch may also carry a staysail, with or without a bowsprit, in which case it would be known as a cutter-rigged ketch.

Ketches are also monohulls, but there is a second shorter mast astern of the mainmast, but forward of the rudder post. The second sailboat mast is called the mizzen mast and its sail is called the mizzen sail.

Yawls have their origins as old-time sail fishing boats, where the small mizzen sail was trimmed to keep the vessel steady when hauling the nets.

Similar to a ketch, the difference being that the yawl has the mizzen mast positioned aft of the rudder post whereas the ketch has its mizzen mast ahead of the rudder post.

Thus, a yawl is also a monohull, similar to a ketch, with a shorter mizzen mast carried astern the rudderpost more for balancing the helm than propulsion.

Schooners are generally the largest monohull sailing yachts.

Monohull sailboat

Monohull two masts sailing boat

A schooner has a mainmast taller than its foremast, distinguishing it from a ketch or a yawl. A schooner can have more than two masts, with the foremast always lower than the foremost main. Traditional topsail schooners have topmasts allowing triangular topsails sails to be flown above their gaff sails; many modern schooners are Bermuda rigged.

A schooner is a two-(or more) masted sailboat, in which the aft-most mast – the mainmast – is the same height or taller than the foremast. Many sailors agree that of all the different types of sailboats, a schooner under full sail is one of the most beautiful sights afloat.

Gaffed-rigged sailboats, or “gaffers”, have their mainsail supported by a spar – the “gaff” – which is hauled up the mast by a separate halyard. Often these types of sailboats are rigged with a topsail. The gaff rig is no longer seen on modern production yachts.

A catamaran (‘cat’ for short) is a multihull yacht consisting of two parallel hulls of equal size.

A catamaran is geometry-stabilized, that is, it derives its stability from its wide beam, rather than having a ballasted keel like a monohull. Being ballast-free and lighter than a monohull, a catamaran can have a very shallow draught. The two hulls will be much finer than a monohull’s, allowing reduced drag and faster speeds in some conditions, although the high wetted surface area is detrimental in lower wind speeds, but allows much more accommodations, living and entertaining space in stability and comfort.

Two parallel hulls catamaran

Two parallel hulls sailing catamaran

The speed and stability of these catamarans have made them a popular pleasure craft in Europe, most high-quality catamarans are built in France, but careful since their wide beams aren’t easy (or cheap) to berth in the French Riviera.

Racing catamarans technology has made them today’s leading racing sailboats of the world, like in the latest editions of America’s cup or other renowned transoceanic races.

Please surf through our website listings of sailing catamarans .


Even harder to berth in the Mediterranean, and most commonly designed for around-the-globe racing rather than cruising, the trimarans have also been gaining some popularity in the western hemisphere, especially by naval designers with futuristic projects.

A trimaran is a multihull boat that comprises a main hull and two smaller outrigger hulls (or ‘floats’) which are attached to the main hull with lateral beams.


A motorsailer or “motorsailor”, is a type of sailing vessel, typically a pleasure yacht, that derives propulsion from its sails and engine(s) in equal measure.

While the sailing yacht appeals primarily to the purist sailing enthusiast, the motorsailer is more suited for long-distance cruising, as a home for ‘live-aboard’ yachtsmen. The special features of the motorsailer (large engine, smaller sails, etc.) mean that, while it may not be the fastest boat under sail, the vessel is easily handled by a small crew. As such, it can be ideal for retired people who might not be entirely physically able to handle large sail areas. In heavy weather, the motorsailer’s large engine allows it to punch into a headwind when necessary to make landfall, without endless tacking to windward.

The Turkish word gulet is a loanword from the French goélette, meaning ‘schooner’.

A gulet is a traditional design of a two-masted (more common) or even three-masted wooden sailing vessel from the southwestern coast of Turkey, particularly built in the coastal towns of Bodrum and Marmaris; although similar vessels can be found all around the eastern Mediterranean. For considerations of crew economy, Diesel power is commonly used on these vessels, similar to a motorsailer. Today, this type of vessel, varying in size from 14 to 45 meters, is very popular and affordable for tourist charters in Turkey, the Aegean, Greece and up to Croatia in the Adriatic.

Please surf through our website listings of cruising sailing yachts by type of rig.


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43 of the best bluewater sailboat designs of all time

Yachting World

  • January 5, 2022

How do you choose the right yacht for you? We highlight the very best bluewater sailboat designs for every type of cruising

sailing yacht types

Which yacht is the best for bluewater boating? This question generates even more debate among sailors than questions about what’s the coolest yacht , or the best for racing. Whereas racing designs are measured against each other, cruising sailors get very limited opportunities to experience different yachts in real oceangoing conditions, so what is the best bluewater sailboat?

Here, we bring you our top choices from decades of designs and launches. Over the years, the Yachting World team has sailed these boats, tested them or judged them for European Yacht of the Year awards, and we have sifted through the many to curate a selection that we believe should be on your wishlist.

Making the right choice may come down to how you foresee your yacht being used after it has crossed an ocean or completed a passage: will you be living at anchor or cruising along the coast? If so, your guiding requirements will be space, cabin size, ease of launching a tender and anchoring closer to shore, and whether it can comfortably accommodate non-expert-sailor guests.

Article continues below…

sailing yacht types

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All of these considerations have generated the inexorable rise of the bluewater catamaran – monohulls can’t easily compete on these points. We have a full separate feature on the best bluewater multihulls of all time and here we mostly focus on monohulls. The only exceptions to that rule are two multihulls which made it into our best bluewater sailboats of 2022 list.

As so much of making the right choice is selecting the right boat for the venture in mind, we have separated out our edit into categories: best for comfort; for families; for performance; and for expedition or high latitudes sailing .

Best bluewater sailboats of 2022

The new flagship Allures 51.9, for example, is a no-nonsense adventure cruising design built and finished to a high standard. It retains Allures’ niche of using aluminium hulls with glassfibre decks and superstructures, which, the yard maintains, gives the optimum combination of least maintenance and less weight higher up. Priorities for this design were a full beam aft cabin and a spacious, long cockpit. Both are excellent, with the latter, at 6m long, offering formidable social, sailing and aft deck zones.

It likes some breeze to come to life on the wheel, but I appreciate that it’s designed to take up to five tonnes payload. And I like the ease with which you can change gears using the furling headsails and the positioning of the powerful Andersen winches inboard. The arch is standard and comes with a textile sprayhood or hard bimini.

Below decks you’ll find abundant headroom and natural light, a deep U-shape galley and cavernous stowage. For those who like the layout of the Amel 50 but would prefer aluminium or shoal draught, look no further.

Allures 51.9 price: €766,000

The Ovni 370 is another cunning new aluminum centreboard offering, a true deck saloon cruiser for two. The designers say the biggest challenge was to create a Category A ocean going yacht at this size with a lifting keel, hence the hull had to be very stable.

Enjoyable to helm, it has a practical, deep cockpit behind a large sprayhood, which can link to the bimini on the arch. Many of its most appealing features lie in the bright, light, contemporary, clever, voluminous interior, which has good stowage and tankage allocation. There’s also a practical navstation, a large workroom and a vast separate shower. I particularly like the convertible saloom, which can double as a large secure daybed or pilot berth.

Potentially the least expensive Category A lift keel boat available, the Ovni will get you dreaming of remote places again.

Ovni 370 price: €282,080

sailing yacht types

There’s no shortage of spirit in the Windelo 50. We gave this a sustainability award after it’s founders spent two years researching environmentally-friendly composite materials, developing an eco-composite of basalt fibre and recycled PET foam so it could build boats that halve the environmental impact of standard glassfibre yachts.

The Windelo 50 is an intriguing package – from the styling, modular interior and novel layout to the solar field on the roof and the standard electric propulsion, it is completely fresh.

Windelo 50 price: €795,000

Best bluewater sailboat of 2022 – Outremer 55

I would argue that this is the most successful new production yacht on the market. Well over 50 have already sold (an equipped model typically costs €1.6m) – and I can understand why. After all, were money no object, I had this design earmarked as the new yacht I would most likely choose for a world trip.

Indeed 55 number one Sanya, was fully equipped for a family’s world cruise, and left during our stay for the Grand Large Odyssey tour. Whereas we sailed Magic Kili, which was tricked up with performance options, including foam-cored deckheads and supports, carbon crossbeam and bulkheads, and synthetic rigging.

At rest, these are enticing space ships. Taking one out to sea is another matter though. These are speed machines with the size, scale and loads to be rightly weary of. Last month Nikki Henderson wrote a feature for us about how to manage a new breed of performance cruising cats just like this and how she coaches new owners. I could not think of wiser money spent for those who do not have ample multihull sailing experience.

Under sail, the most fun was obviously reserved for the reaching leg under asymmetric, where we clocked between 11-16 knots in 15-16 knots wind. But it was the stability and of those sustained low teen speeds which really hit home  – passagemaking where you really cover miles.

Key features include the swing helms, which give you views from outboard, over the coachroof or from a protected position in the cockpit through the coachroof windows, and the vast island in the galley, which is key to an open plan main living area. It helps provide cavernous stowage and acts as the heart of the entertaining space as it would in a modern home. As Danish judge Morten Brandt-Rasmussen comments: “Apart from being the TGV of ocean passages the boat offers the most spacious, open and best integration of the cockpit and salon areas in the market.”

Outremer has done a top job in packing in the creature comforts, stowage space and payload capacity, while keeping it light enough to eat miles. Although a lot to absorb and handle, the 55 offers a formidable blend of speed and luxury cruising.

Outremer 55 price: €1.35m

Best bluewater sailboats for comfort

This is the successor to the legendary Super Maramu, a ketch design that for several decades defined easy downwind handling and fostered a cult following for the French yard. Nearly a decade old, the Amel 55 is the bridge between those world-girdling stalwarts and Amel’s more recent and totally re-imagined sloop designs, the Amel 50 and 60.

The 55 boasts all the serious features Amel aficionados loved and valued: a skeg-hung rudder, solidly built hull, watertight bulkheads, solid guardrails and rampart bulwarks. And, most noticeable, the solid doghouse in which the helmsman sits in perfect shelter at the wheel.

This is a design to live on comfortably for long periods and the list of standard features just goes on and on: passarelle; proper sea berths with lee cloths; electric furling main and genoa; and a multitude of practical items that go right down to a dishwasher and crockery.

There’s no getting around the fact these designs do look rather dated now, and through the development of easier sail handling systems the ketch rig has fallen out of fashion, but the Amel is nothing short of a phenomenon, and if you’ve never even peeked on board one, you really have missed a treat.


Photo: Sander van der Borch

Contest 50CS

A centre cockpit cruiser with true longevity, the Contest 50CS was launched by Conyplex back in 2003 and is still being built by the family-owned Dutch company, now in updated and restyled form.

With a fully balanced rudder, large wheel and modern underwater sections, the Contest 50CS is a surprisingly good performer for a boat that has a dry weight of 17.5 tonnes. Many were fitted with in-mast furling, which clearly curtails that performance, but even without, this boat is set up for a small crew.

Electric winches and mainsheet traveller are all easy to reach from the helm. On our test of the Contest 50CS, we saw for ourselves how two people can gybe downwind under spinnaker without undue drama. Upwind, a 105% genoa is so easy to tack it flatters even the weediest crewmember.

Down below, the finish level of the joinery work is up there among the best and the interior is full of clever touches, again updated and modernised since the early models. Never the cheapest bluewater sailing yacht around, the Contest 50CS has remained in demand as a brokerage buy. She is a reassuringly sure-footed, easily handled, very well built yacht that for all those reasons has stood the test of time.

This is a yacht that would be well capable of helping you extend your cruising grounds, almost without realising it.

Read more about the Contest 50CS and the new Contest 49CS


Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Hallberg-Rassy 48 Mk II

For many, the Swedish Hallberg-Rassy yard makes the quintessential bluewater cruiser for couples. With their distinctive blue cove line, these designs are famous for their seakindly behaviour, solid-as-a-rock build and beautifully finished, traditional interiors.

To some eyes, Hallberg-Rassys aren’t quite cool enough, but it’s been company owner Magnus Rassy’s confidence in the formula and belief in incremental ‘step-by-step’ evolution that has been such an exceptional guarantor of reliable quality, reputation and resale value.

The centre cockpit Hallberg-Rassy 48 epitomises the concept of comfort at sea and, like all the Frers-designed Hallberg-Rassys since the 1990s, is surprisingly fleet upwind as well as steady downwind. The 48 is perfectly able to be handled by a couple (as we found a few years back in the Pacific), and could with no great effort crack out 200-mile days.

The Hallberg-Rassy 48 was launched nearly a decade ago, but the Mk II from 2014 is our pick, updated with a more modern profile, larger windows and hull portlights that flood the saloon and aft cabin with light. With a large chart table, secure linear galley, heaps of stowage and space for bluewater extras such as machinery and gear, this yacht pretty much ticks all the boxes.


Discovery 55

First launched in 2000, the Discovery 55 has stood the test of time. Designed by Ron Holland, it hit a sweet spot in size that appealed to couples and families with world girdling plans.

Elegantly styled and well balanced, the 55 is also a practical design, with a deep and secure cockpit, comfortable seating, a self-tacking jib, dedicated stowage for the liferaft , a decent sugar scoop transom that’s useful for swimming or dinghy access, and very comfortable accommodation below. In short, it is a design that has been well thought out by those who’ve been there, got the bruises, stubbed their toes and vowed to change things in the future if they ever got the chance.

Throughout the accommodation there are plenty of examples of good detailing, from the proliferation of handholds and grabrails, to deep sinks in the galley offering immediate stowage when under way and the stand up/sit down showers. Stowage is good, too, with plenty of sensibly sized lockers in easily accessible positions.

The Discovery 55 has practical ideas and nifty details aplenty. She’s not, and never was, a breakthrough in modern luxury cruising but she is pretty, comfortable to sail and live on, and well mannered.


Photo: Latitudes Picture Library

You can’t get much more Cornish than a Rustler. The hulls of this Stephen Jones design are hand-moulded and fitted out in Falmouth – and few are more ruggedly built than this traditional, up-for-anything offshore cruiser.

She boasts an encapsulated lead keel, eliminating keel bolts and creating a sump for generous fuel and water tankage, while a chunky skeg protects the rudder. She is designed for good directional stability and load carrying ability. These are all features that lend this yacht confidence as it shoulders aside the rough stuff.

Most of those built have had a cutter rig, a flexible arrangement that makes sense for long passages in all sea and weather conditions. Down below, the galley and saloon berths are comfortable and sensible for living in port and at sea, with joinery that Rustler’s builders are rightly proud of.

As modern yachts have got wider, higher and fatter, the Rustler 42 is an exception. This is an exceptionally well-mannered seagoing yacht in the traditional vein, with elegant lines and pleasing overhangs, yet also surprisingly powerful. And although now over 20 years old, timeless looks and qualities mean this design makes her look ever more like a perennial, a modern classic.

The definitive crossover size, the point at which a yacht can be handled by a couple but is just large enough to have a professional skipper and be chartered, sits at around the 60ft mark. At 58ft 8in, the Oyster 575 fitted perfectly into this growing market when launched in 2010. It went on to be one of the most popular models from the yard, and is only now being superseded by the newer Rob Humphreys-designed Oyster 565 (just launched this spring).

Built in various configurations with either a deep keel, shoal draught keel or centreboard with twin rudders, owners could trade off better performance against easy access to shallower coves and anchorages. The deep-bodied hull, also by Rob Humphreys, is known for its easy motion at sea.

Some of the Oyster 575’s best features include its hallmark coachroof windows style and centre cockpit – almost everyone will know at first glance this is an Oyster – and superb interior finish. If she has a flaw, it is arguably the high cockpit, but the flip side is the galley headroom and passageway berth to the large aft stateroom.

This design also has a host of practical features for long-distance cruising, such as high guardrails, dedicated liferaft stowage, a vast lazarette for swallowing sails, tender, fenders etc, and a penthouse engine room.


Privilege Serie 5

A true luxury catamaran which, fully fitted out, will top €1m, this deserves to be seen alongside the likes of the Oyster 575, Gunfleet 58 and Hallberg-Rassy 55. It boasts a large cockpit and living area, and a light and spacious saloon with an emphasis on indoor-outdoor living, masses of refrigeration and a big galley.

Standout features are finish quality and solid build in a yacht designed to take a high payload, a secure walkaround deck and all-round views from the helm station. The new Privilege 510 that will replace this launches in February 2020.

Gunfleet 43

It was with this Tony Castro design that Richard Matthews, founder of Oyster Yachts, launched a brand new rival brand in 2012, the smallest of a range stretching to the flagship Gunfleet 74. The combination of short overhangs and centre cockpit at this size do make the Gunfleet 43 look modern if a little boxy, but time and subsequent design trends have been kind to her lines, and the build quality is excellent. The saloon, galley and aft cabin space is exceptional on a yacht of this size.


Photo: David Harding

Conceived as a belt-and-braces cruiser, the Kraken 50 launched last year. Its unique points lie underwater in the guise of a full skeg-hung rudder and so-called ‘Zero Keel’, an encapsulated long keel with lead ballast.

Kraken Yachts is the brainchild of British businessman and highly experienced cruiser Dick Beaumont, who is adamant that safety should be foremost in cruising yacht design and build. “There is no such thing as ‘one yacht for all purposes’… You cannot have the best of all worlds, whatever the salesman tells you,” he says.

Read our full review of the Kraken 50 .


Wauquiez Centurion 57

Few yachts can claim to be both an exciting Med-style design and a serious and practical northern European offshore cruiser, but the Wauquiez Centurion 57 tries to blend both. She slightly misses if you judge solely by either criterion, but is pretty and practical enough to suit her purpose.

A very pleasant, well-considered yacht, she is impressively built and finished with a warm and comfortable interior. More versatile than radical, she could be used for sailing across the Atlantic in comfort and raced with equal enjoyment at Antigua Sailing Week .


A modern classic if ever there was one. A medium to heavy displacement yacht, stiff and easily capable of standing up to her canvas. Pretty, traditional lines and layout below.


Photo: Voyage of Swell

Well-proven US legacy design dating back to the mid-1960s that once conquered the Transpac Race . Still admired as pretty, with slight spoon bow and overhanging transom.


Capable medium displacement cruiser, ideal size and good accommodation for couples or family cruising, and much less costly than similar luxury brands.


Photo: Peter Szamer

Swedish-built aft cockpit cruiser, smaller than many here, but a well-built and finished, super-durable pocket ocean cruiser.


Tartan 3700

Designed as a performance cruiser there are nimbler alternatives now, but this is still an extremely pretty yacht.

Broker ’ s choice


Discovery 55 Brizo

This yacht has already circumnavigated the globe and is ‘prepared for her next adventure,’ says broker Berthon. Price: £535,000 + VAT


Oyster 575 Ayesha

‘Stunning, and perfectly equipped for bluewater cruising,’ says broker Ancasta International. Price: £845,000 (tax not paid)


Oyster 575 Pearls of Nautilus

Nearly new and with a high spec, this Oyster Brokerage yacht features American white oak joinery and white leather upholstery and has a shoal draught keel. Price: $1.49m

Best bluewater yachts for performance

The Frers-designed Swan 54 may not be the newest hull shape but heralded Swan’s latest generation of displacement bluewater cruisers when launched four years ago. With raked stem, deep V hull form, lower freeboard and slight curve to the topsides she has a more timeless aesthetic than many modern slab-sided high volume yachts, and with that a seakindly motion in waves. If you plan to cover many miles to weather, this is probably the yacht you want to be on.


Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Besides Swan’s superlative build quality, the 54 brings many true bluewater features, including a dedicated sail locker. There’s also a cockpit locker that functions as a utility cabin, with potential to hold your generator and washing machine, or be a workshop space.

The sloping transom opens out to reveal a 2.5m bathing platform, and although the cabins are not huge there is copious stowage space. Down below the top-notch oak joinery is well thought through with deep fiddles, and there is a substantial nav station. But the Swan 54 wins for handling above all, with well laid-out sail controls that can be easily managed between a couple, while offering real sailing enjoyment to the helmsman.


Photo: Graham Snook

The Performance Cruiser winner at the 2019 European Yacht of the Year awards, the Arcona 435 is all about the sailing experience. She has genuine potential as a cruiser-racer, but her strengths are as an enjoyable cruiser rather than a full-blown liveaboard bluewater boat.

Build quality is excellent, there is the option of a carbon hull and deck, and elegant lines and a plumb bow give the Arcona 435 good looks as well as excellent performance in light airs. Besides slick sail handling systems, there are well thought-out features for cruising, such as ample built-in rope bins and an optional semi-closed stern with stowage and swim platform.


Outremer 51

If you want the space and stability of a cat but still prioritise sailing performance, Outremer has built a reputation on building catamarans with true bluewater characteristics that have cruised the planet for the past 30 years.

Lighter and slimmer-hulled than most cruising cats, the Outremer 51 is all about sailing at faster speeds, more easily. The lower volume hulls and higher bridgedeck make for a better motion in waves, while owners report that being able to maintain a decent pace even under reduced canvas makes for stress-free passages. Deep daggerboards also give good upwind performance.

With bucket seats and tiller steering options, the Outremer 51 rewards sailors who want to spend time steering, while they’re famously well set up for handling with one person on deck. The compromise comes with the interior space – even with a relatively minimalist style, there is less cabin space and stowage volume than on the bulkier cats, but the Outremer 51 still packs in plenty of practical features.


The Xc45 was the first cruising yacht X-Yachts ever built, and designed to give the same X-Yachts sailing experience for sailors who’d spent years racing 30/40-footer X- and IMX designs, but in a cruising package.

Launched over 10 years ago, the Xc45 has been revisited a few times to increase the stowage and modernise some of the styling, but the key features remain the same, including substantial tanks set low for a low centre of gravity, and X-Yachts’ trademark steel keel grid structure. She has fairly traditional styling and layout, matched with solid build quality.

A soft bilge and V-shaped hull gives a kindly motion in waves, and the cockpit is secure, if narrow by modern standards.


A three or four cabin catamaran that’s fleet of foot with high bridgedeck clearance for comfortable motion at sea. With tall daggerboards and carbon construction in some high load areas, Catana cats are light and quick to accelerate.


Sweden Yachts 45

An established bluewater design that also features in plenty of offshore races. Some examples are specced with carbon rig and retractable bowsprits. All have a self-tacking jib for ease. Expect sweeping areas of teak above decks and a traditionally wooded interior with hanging wet locker.


A vintage performer, first launched in 1981, the 51 was the first Frers-designed Swan and marked a new era of iconic cruiser-racers. Some 36 of the Swan 51 were built, many still actively racing and cruising nearly 40 years on. Classic lines and a split cockpit make this a boat for helming, not sunbathing.


Photo: Julien Girardot / EYOTY

The JPK 45 comes from a French racing stable, combining race-winning design heritage with cruising amenities. What you see is what you get – there are no superfluous headliners or floorboards, but there are plenty of ocean sailing details, like inboard winches for safe trimming. The JPK 45 also has a brilliantly designed cockpit with an optional doghouse creating all-weather shelter, twin wheels and superb clutch and rope bin arrangement.


Photo: Andreas Lindlahr

For sailors who don’t mind exchanging a few creature comforts for downwind planing performance, the Pogo 50 offers double-digit surfing speeds for exhilarating tradewind sailing. There’s an open transom, tiller steering and no backstay or runners. The Pogo 50 also has a swing keel, to nose into shallow anchorages.


Seawind 1600

Seawinds are relatively unknown in Europe, but these bluewater cats are very popular in Australia. As would be expected from a Reichel-Pugh design, this 52-footer combines striking good looks and high performance, with fine entry bows and comparatively low freeboard. Rudders are foam cored lifting designs in cassettes, which offer straightforward access in case of repairs, while daggerboards are housed under the deck.

Best bluewater sailboats for families

It’s unsurprising that, for many families, it’s a catamaran that meets their requirements best of increased space – both living space and separate cabins for privacy-seeking teenagers, additional crew or visiting family – as well as stable and predictable handling.


Photo: Nicholas Claris

Undoubtedly one of the biggest success stories has been the Lagoon 450, which, together with boats like the Fountaine Pajot 44, helped drive up the popularity of catamaran cruising by making it affordable and accessible. They have sold in huge numbers – over 1,000 Lagoon 450s have been built since its launch in 2010.

The VPLP-designed 450 was originally launched with a flybridge with a near central helming position and upper level lounging areas (450F). The later ‘sport top’ option (450S) offered a starboard helm station and lower boom (and hence lower centre of gravity for reduced pitching). The 450S also gained a hull chine to create additional volume above the waterline. The Lagoon features forward lounging and aft cockpit areas for additional outdoor living space.

Besides being a big hit among charter operators, Lagoons have proven themselves over thousands of bluewater miles – there were seven Lagoon 450s in last year’s ARC alone. In what remains a competitive sector of the market, Lagoon has recently launched a new 46, with a larger self-tacking jib and mast moved aft, and more lounging areas.


Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget

Fountaine Pajot Helia 44

The FP Helia 44 is lighter, lower volume, and has a lower freeboard than the Lagoon, weighing in at 10.8 tonnes unloaded (compared to 15 for the 450). The helm station is on a mezzanine level two steps up from the bridgedeck, with a bench seat behind. A later ‘Evolution’ version was designed for liveaboard cruisers, featuring beefed up dinghy davits and an improved saloon space.

Available in three or four cabin layouts, the Helia 44 was also popular with charter owners as well as families. The new 45 promises additional volume, and an optional hydraulically lowered ‘beach club’ swim platform.


Photo: Arnaud De Buyzer /

The French RM 1370 might be less well known than the big brand names, but offers something a little bit different for anyone who wants a relatively voluminous cruising yacht. Designed by Marc Lombard, and beautifully built from plywood/epoxy, the RM is stiff and responsive, and sails superbly.

The RM yachts have a more individual look – in part down to the painted finish, which encourages many owners to personalise their yachts, but also thanks to their distinctive lines with reverse sheer and dreadnought bow. The cockpit is well laid out with the primary winches inboard for a secure trimming position. The interior is light, airy and modern, although the open transom won’t appeal to everyone.

For those wanting a monohull, the Hanse 575 hits a similar sweet spot to the popular multis, maximising accommodation for a realistic price, yet with responsive performance.

The Hanse offers a vast amount of living space thanks to the ‘loft design’ concept of having all the living areas on a single level, which gives a real feeling of spaciousness with no raised saloon or steps to accommodation. The trade-off for such lofty head height is a substantial freeboard – it towers above the pontoon, while, below, a stepladder is provided to reach some hatches.

Galley options include drawer fridge-freezers, microwave and coffee machine, and the full size nav station can double up as an office or study space.

But while the Hanse 575 is a seriously large boat, its popularity is also down to the fact that it is genuinely able to be handled by a couple. It was innovative in its deck layout: with a self-tacking jib and mainsheet winches immediately to hand next to the helm, one person could both steer and trim.

Direct steering gives a feeling of control and some tangible sailing fun, while the waterline length makes for rapid passage times. In 2016 the German yard launched the newer Hanse 588 model, having already sold 175 of the 575s in just four years.


Photo: Bertel Kolthof

Jeanneau 54

Jeanneau leads the way among production builders for versatile all-rounder yachts that balance sail performance and handling, ergonomics, liveaboard functionality and good looks. The Jeanneau 54 , part of the range designed by Philippe Briand with interior by Andrew Winch, melds the best of the larger and smaller models and is available in a vast array of layout options from two cabins/two heads right up to five cabins and three heads.

We’ve tested the Jeanneau 54 in a gale and very light winds, and it acquitted itself handsomely in both extremes. The primary and mainsheet winches are to hand next to the wheel, and the cockpit is spacious, protected and child-friendly. An electric folding swim and sun deck makes for quick fun in the water.


Nautitech Open 46

This was the first Nautitech catamaran to be built under the ownership of Bavaria, designed with an open-plan bridgedeck and cockpit for free-flowing living space. But with good pace for eating up bluewater miles, and aft twin helms rather than a flybridge, the Nautitech Open 46 also appeals to monohull sailors who prefer a more direct sailing experience.


Made by Robertson and Caine, who produce catamarans under a dual identity as both Leopard and the Sunsail/Moorings charter cats, the Leopard 45 is set to be another big seller. Reflecting its charter DNA, the Leopard 45 is voluminous, with stepped hulls for reduced waterline, and a separate forward cockpit.

Built in South Africa, they are robustly tested off the Cape and constructed ruggedly enough to handle heavy weather sailing as well as the demands of chartering.


Photo: Olivier Blanchet

If space is king then three hulls might be even better than two. The Neel 51 is rare as a cruising trimaran with enough space for proper liveaboard sailing. The galley and saloon are in the large central hull, together with an owner’s cabin on one level for a unique sensation of living above the water. Guest or family cabins lie in the outer hulls for privacy and there is a cavernous full height engine room under the cabin sole.

Performance is notably higher than an equivalent cruising cat, particularly in light winds, with a single rudder giving a truly direct feel in the helm, although manoeuvring a 50ft trimaran may daunt many sailors.


Beneteau Oceanis 46.1

A brilliant new model from Beneteau, this Finot Conq design has a modern stepped hull, which offers exhilarating and confidence-inspiring handling in big breezes, and slippery performance in lighter winds.

The Beneteau Oceanis 46.1 was the standout performer at this year’s European Yacht of the Year awards, and, in replacing the popular Oceanis 45, looks set to be another bestseller. Interior space is well used with a double island berth in the forepeak. An additional inboard unit creates a secure galley area, but tank capacity is moderate for long periods aboard.


Beneteau Oceanis 473

A popular model that offers beam and height in a functional layout, although, as with many boats of this age (she was launched in 2002), the mainsheet is not within reach of the helmsman.


Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 49

The Philippe Briand-designed Sun Odyssey range has a solid reputation as family production cruisers. Like the 473, the Sun Odyssey 49 was popular for charter so there are plenty of four-cabin models on the market.


Nautitech 441

The hull design dates back to 1995, but was relaunched in 2012. Though the saloon interior has dated, the 441 has solid practical features, such as a rainwater run-off collection gutter around the coachroof.


Atlantic 42

Chris White-designed cats feature a pilothouse and forward waist-high working cockpit with helm position, as well as an inside wheel at the nav station. The Atlantic 42 offers limited accommodation by modern cat standards but a very different sailing experience.

Best bluewater sailing yachts for expeditions

Bestevaer 56.

All of the yachts in our ‘expedition’ category are aluminium-hulled designs suitable for high latitude sailing, and all are exceptional yachts. But the Bestevaer 56 is a spectacular amount of boat to take on a true adventure. Each Bestevaer is a near-custom build with plenty of bespoke options for owners to customise the layout and where they fall on the scale of rugged off-grid adventurer to 4×4-style luxury fit out.


The Bestevaer range began when renowned naval architect Gerard Dijkstra chose to design his own personal yacht for liveaboard adventure cruising, a 53-footer. The concept drew plenty of interest from bluewater sailors wanting to make longer expeditions and Bestevaers are now available in a range of sizes, with the 56-footer proving a popular mid-range length.

The well-known Bestevaer 56 Tranquilo  (pictured above) has a deep, secure cockpit, voluminous tanks (700lt water and over 1,100lt fuel) and a lifting keel plus water ballast, with classically styled teak clad decks and pilot house. Other owners have opted for functional bare aluminium hull and deck, some choose a doghouse and others a pilothouse.


Photo: Jean-Marie Liot

The Boreal 52 also offers Land Rover-esque practicality, with utilitarian bare aluminium hulls and a distinctive double-level doghouse/coachroof arrangement for added protection in all weathers. The cockpit is clean and uncluttered, thanks to the mainsheet position on top of the doghouse, although for visibility in close manoeuvring the helmsman will want to step up onto the aft deck.

Twin daggerboards, a lifting centreboard and long skeg on which she can settle make this a true go-anywhere expedition yacht. The metres of chain required for adventurous anchoring is stowed in a special locker by the mast to keep the weight central. Down below has been thought through with equally practical touches, including plenty of bracing points and lighting that switches on to red light first to protect your night vision.


Photo: Morris Adant / Garcia Yachts

Garcia Exploration 45

The Garcia Exploration 45 comes with real experience behind her – she was created in association with Jimmy Cornell, based on his many hundreds of thousands of miles of bluewater cruising, to go anywhere from high latitudes to the tropics.

Arguably less of a looker than the Bestevaer, the Garcia Exploration 45 features a rounded aluminium hull, centreboard with deep skeg and twin daggerboards. The considerable anchor chain weight has again been brought aft, this time via a special conduit to a watertight locker in front of the centreboard.

This is a yacht designed to be lived on for extended periods with ample storage, and panoramic portlights to give a near 360° view of whichever extraordinary landscape you are exploring. Safety features include a watertight companionway door to keep extreme weather out and through-hull fittings placed above the waterline. When former Vendée Globe skipper Pete Goss went cruising , this was the boat he chose to do it in.



A truly well-proven expedition design, some 1,500 Ovnis have been built and many sailed to some of the most far-flung corners of the world. (Jimmy Cornell sailed his Aventura some 30,000 miles, including two Drake Passage crossings, one in 50 knots of wind).


Futuna Exploration 54

Another aluminium design with a swinging centreboard and a solid enclosed pilothouse with protected cockpit area. There’s a chunky bowsprit and substantial transom arch to house all manner of electronics and power generation.

Previous boats have been spec’d for North West Passage crossings with additional heating and engine power, although there’s a carbon rig option for those that want a touch of the black stuff. The tanks are capacious, with 1,000lt capability for both fresh water and fuel.

If you enjoyed this….

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Sailboat Parts Explained: Illustrated Guide (with Diagrams)

When you first get into sailing, there are a lot of sailboat parts to learn. Scouting for a good guide to all the parts, I couldn't find any, so I wrote one myself.

Below, I'll go over each different sailboat part. And I mean each and every one of them. I'll walk you through them one by one, and explain each part's function. I've also made sure to add good illustrations and clear diagrams.

This article is a great reference for beginners and experienced sailors alike. It's a great starting point, but also a great reference manual. Let's kick off with a quick general overview of the different sailboat parts.

General Overview

The different segments

You can divide up a sailboat in four general segments. These segments are arbitrary (I made them up) but it will help us to understand the parts more quickly. Some are super straightforward and some have a bit more ninja names.

Something like that. You can see the different segments highlighted in this diagram below:

Diagram of the four main parts categories of a sailboat

The hull is what most people would consider 'the boat'. It's the part that provides buoyancy and carries everything else: sails, masts, rigging, and so on. Without the hull, there would be no boat. The hull can be divided into different parts: deck, keel, cabin, waterline, bilge, bow, stern, rudder, and many more.

I'll show you those specific parts later on. First, let's move on to the mast.

sailing yacht types

Sailboats Explained

The mast is the long, standing pole holding the sails. It is typically placed just off-center of a sailboat (a little bit to the front) and gives the sailboat its characteristic shape. The mast is crucial for any sailboat: without a mast, any sailboat would become just a regular boat.

I think this segment speaks mostly for itself. Most modern sailboats you see will have two sails up, but they can carry a variety of other specialty sails. And there are all kinds of sail plans out there, which determine the amount and shape of sails that are used.

The Rigging

This is probably the most complex category of all of them.

Rigging is the means with which the sails are attached to the mast. The rigging consists of all kinds of lines, cables, spars, and hardware. It's the segment with the most different parts.

The most important parts

If you learn anything from this article, here are the most important parts of any sailboat. You will find all of these parts in some shape or form on almost any sailboat.

Diagram of Parts of a sailboat - General overview

Okay, we now have a good starting point and a good basic understanding of the different sailboat parts. It's time for the good stuff. We're going to dive into each segment in detail.

Below, I'll go over them one by one, pointing out its different parts on a diagram, listing them with a brief explanation, and showing you examples as well.

After reading this article, you'll recognize every single sailboat part and know them by name. And if you forget one, you're free to look it up in this guide.

Diagram of the Hull Parts of a sailboat

On this page:

The hull is the heart of the boat. It's what carries everything: the mast, the sails, the rigging, the passengers. The hull is what provides the sailboat with its buoyancy, allowing it to stay afloat.

Sailboats mostly use displacement hulls, which is a shape that displaces water when moving through it. They are generally very round and use buoyancy to support its own weight. These two characteristics make sure it is a smooth ride.

There are different hull shapes that work and handle differently. If you want to learn more about them, here's the Illustrated Guide to Boat Hull Types (with 11 Examples ). But for now, all we need to know is that the hull is the rounded, floating part of any sailboat.

Instead of simply calling the different sides of a hull front, back, left and right , we use different names in sailing. Let's take a look at them.

Diagram of the Hull Parts of a sailboat

The bow is the front part of the hull. It's simply the nautical word for 'front'. It's the pointy bit that cuts through the water. The shape of the bow determines partially how the boat handles.

The stern is the back part of the hull. It's simply the nautical word for 'back'. The shape of the stern partially determines the stability and speed of the boat. With motorboats, the stern lies deep inside the water, and the hull is flatter aft. Aft also means back. This allows it to plane, increasing the hull speed. For sailboats, stability is much more important, so the hull is rounded throughout, increasing its buoyancy and hydrodynamic properties.

The transom is the backplate of the boat's hull. It's the most aft (rear) part of the boat.

Port is the left side of a sailboat.

Starboard is the right side of a sailboat

The bilges are the part where the bottom and the sides of the hull meet. On sailboats, these are typically very round, which helps with hydrodynamics. On powerboats, they tend to have an angle.

The waterline is the point where the boat's hull meets the water. Generally, boat owners paint the waterline and use antifouling paint below it, to protect it from marine growth.

The deck is the top part of the boat's hull. In a way, it's the cap of the boat, and it holds the deck hardware and rigging.

Displacement hulls are very round and smooth, which makes them very efficient and comfortable. But it also makes them very easy to capsize: think of a canoe, for example.

The keel is a large fin that offsets the tendency to capsize by providing counterbalance. Typically, the keel carries ballast in the tip, creating a counterweight to the wind's force on the sails.

The rudder is the horizontal plate at the back of the boat that is used to steer by setting a course and maintaining it. It is connected to the helm or tiller.

Tiller or Helm

  • The helm is simply the nautical term for the wheel.
  • The tiller is simply the nautical term for the steering stick.

The tiller or helm is attached to the rudder and is used to steer the boat. Most smaller sailboats (below 30') have a tiller, most larger sailboats use a helm. Large ocean-going vessels tend to have two helms.

The cockpit is the recessed part in the deck where the helmsman sits or stands. It tends to have some benches. It houses the outside navigation and systems interfaces, like the compass, chartplotter, and so on. It also houses the mainsheet traveler and winches for the jib. Most boats are set up so that the entire vessel can be operated from the cockpit (hence the name). More on those different parts later.

Most larger boats have some sort of roofed part, which is called the cabin. The cabin is used as a shelter, and on cruising sailboats you'll find the galley for cooking, a bed, bath room, and so on.

The mast is the pole on a sailboat that holds the sails. Sailboats can have one or multiple masts, depending on the mast configuration. Most sailboats have only one or two masts. Three masts or more is less common.

The boom is the horizontal pole on the mast, that holds the mainsail in place.

The sails seem simple, but actually consist of many moving parts. The parts I list below work for most modern sailboats - I mean 90% of them. However, there are all sorts of specialty sails that are not included here, to keep things concise.

Diagram of the Sail Parts of a sailboat

The mainsail is the largest sail on the largest mast. Most sailboats use a sloop rigging (just one mast with one bermuda mainsail). In that case, the main is easy to recognize. With other rig types, it gets more difficult, since there can be multiple tall masts and large sails.

If you want to take a look at the different sail plans and rig types that are out there, I suggest reading my previous guide on how to recognize any sailboat here (opens in new tab).

Sail sides:

  • Leech - Leech is the name for the back side of the sail, running from the top to the bottom.
  • Luff - Luff is the name for the front side of the sail, running from the top to the bottom.
  • Foot - Foot is the name for the lower side of the sail, where it meets the boom.

Sail corners:

  • Clew - The clew is the lower aft (back) corner of the mainsail, where the leech is connected to the foot. The clew is attached to the boom.
  • Tack - The tack is the lower front corner of the mainsail
  • Head - The head is the top corner of the mainsail

Battens are horizontal sail reinforcers that flatten and stiffen the sail.

Telltales are small strings that show you whether your sail trim is correct. You'll find telltales on both your jib and mainsail.

The jib is the standard sized headsail on a Bermuda Sloop rig (which is the sail plan most modern sailboats use).

As I mentioned: there are all kinds, types, and shapes of sails. For an overview of the most common sail types, check out my Guide on Sail Types here (with photos).

The rigging is what is used to attach your sails and mast to your boat. Rigging, in other words, mostly consists of all kinds of lines. Lines are just another word for ropes. Come to think of it, sailors really find all kinds of ways to complicate the word rope ...

Two types of rigging

There are two types of rigging: running and standing rigging. The difference between the two is very simple.

  • The running rigging is the rigging on a sailboat that's used to operate the sails. For example, the halyard, which is used to lower and heave the mainsail.
  • The standing rigging is the rigging that is used to support the mast and sail plan.

Standing Rigging

Diagram of the Standing Riggin Parts of a sailboat

Here are the different parts that belong to the standing rigging:

  • Forestay or Headstay - Line or cable that supports the mast and is attached to the bow of the boat. This is often a steel cable.
  • Backstay - Line or cable that supports the mast and is attached to the stern of the boat. This is often a steel cable.
  • Sidestay or Shroud - Line or cable that supports the mast from the sides of the boat. Most sailboats use at least two sidestays (one on each side).
  • Spreader - The sidestays are spaced to steer clear from the mast using spreaders.

Running Rigging: different words for rope

Ropes play a big part in sailing, and especially in control over the sails. In sailboat jargon, we call ropes 'lines'. But there are some lines with a specific function that have a different name. I think this makes it easier to communicate with your crew: you don't have to define which line you mean. Instead, you simply shout 'mainsheet!'. Yeah, that works.

Running rigging consists of the lines, sheets, and hardware that are used to control, raise, lower, shape and manipulate the sails on a sailboat. Rigging varies for different rig types, but since most sailboats are use a sloop rig, nearly all sailboats use the following running rigging:

Diagram of the Running Rigging Parts of a sailboat

  • Halyards -'Halyard' is simply the nautical name for lines or ropes that are used to raise and lower the mainsail. The halyard is attached to the top of the mainsail sheet, or the gaffer, which is a top spar that attaches to the mainsail. You'll find halyards on both the mainsail and jib.
  • Sheets - 'Sheet' is simply the nautical term for lines or ropes that are used to set the angle of the sail.
  • Mainsheet - The line, or sheet, that is used to set the angle of the mainsail. The mainsheet is attached to the Mainsheet traveler. More on that under hardware.
  • Jib Sheet - The jib mostly comes with two sheets: one on each side of the mast. This prevents you from having to loosen your sheet, throwing it around the other side of the mast, and tightening it. The jib sheets are often controlled using winches (more on that under hardware).
  • Cleats are small on-deck hooks that can be used to tie down sheets and lines after trimming them.
  • Reefing lines - Lines that run through the mainsail, used to put a reef in the main.
  • The Boom Topping Lift is a line that is attached to the aft (back) end of the boom and runs to the top of the mast. It supports the boom whenever you take down the mainsail.
  • The Boom Vang is a line that places downward tension on the boom.

There are some more tensioning lines, but I'll leave them for now. I could probably do an entire guide on the different sheets on a sailboat. Who knows, perhaps I'll write it.

This is a new segment, that I didn't mention before. It's a bit of an odd duck, so I threw all sorts of stuff into this category. But they are just as important as all the other parts. Your hardware consists of cleats, winches, traveler and so on. If you don't know what all of this means, no worries: neither did I. Below, you'll find a complete overview of the different parts.

Deck Hardware

Diagram of the Deck Hardware Parts of a sailboat

Just a brief mention of the different deck hardware parts:

  • Pulpits are fenced platforms on the sailboat's stern and bow, which is why they are called the bow pulpit and stern pulpit here. They typically have a solid steel framing for safety.
  • Stanchons are the standing poles supporting the lifeline , which combined for a sort of fencing around the sailboat's deck. On most sailboats, steel and steel cables are used for the stanchons and lifelines.

Mainsheet Traveler

The mainsheet traveler is a rail in the cockpit that is used to control the mainsheet. It helps to lock the mainsheet in place, fixing the mainsails angle to the wind.

sailing yacht types

If you're interested in learning more about how to use the mainsheet traveler, Matej has written a great list of tips for using your mainsheet traveler the right way . It's a good starting point for beginners.

Winches are mechanical or electronic spools that are used to easily trim lines and sheets. Most sailboats use winches to control the jib sheets. Modern large sailing yachts use electronic winches for nearly all lines. This makes it incredibly easy to trim your lines.

sailing yacht types

You'll find the compass typically in the cockpit. It's the most old-skool navigation tool out there, but I'm convinced it's also one of the most reliable. In any way, it definitely is the most solid backup navigator you can get for the money.

sailing yacht types

Want to learn how to use a compass quickly and reliably? It's easy. Just read my step-by-step beginner guide on How To Use a Compass (opens in new tab .


Most sailboats nowadays use, besides a compass and a map, a chartplotter. Chartplotters are GPS devices that show a map and a course. It's very similar to your normal car navigation.

sailing yacht types

Outboard motor

Most sailboats have some sort of motor to help out when there's just the slightest breeze. These engines aren't very big or powerful, and most sailboats up to 32' use an outboard motor. You'll find these at the back of the boat.

sailing yacht types

Most sailboats carry 1 - 3 anchors: one bow anchor (the main one) and two stern anchors. The last two are optional and are mostly used by bluewater cruisers.

sailing yacht types

I hope this was helpful, and that you've gained a good understanding of the different parts involved in sailing. I wanted to write a good walk-through instead of overwhelming you with lists and lists of nautical terms. I hope I've succeeded. If so, I appreciate any comments and tips below.

I've tried to be as comprehensive as possible, without getting into the real nitty gritty. That would make for a gigantic article. However, if you feel I've left something out that really should be in here, please let me know in the comments below, so I can update the article.

I own a small 20 foot yacht called a Red witch made locally back in the 70s here in Western Australia i found your article great and enjoyed reading it i know it will be a great help for me in my future leaning to sail regards John.

David Gardner

İ think this is a good explanation of the difference between a ”rope” and a ”line”:

Rope is unemployed cordage. In other words, when it is in a coil and has not been assigned a job, it is just a rope.

On the other hand, when you prepare a rope for a specific task, it becomes employed and is a line. The line is labeled by the job it performs; for example, anchor line, dock line, fender line, etc.

Hey Mr. Buckles

I am taking on new crew to race with me on my Flying Scot (19ft dingy). I find your Sailboat Parts Explained to be clear and concise. I believe it will help my new crew learn the language that we use on the boat quickly without being overwhelmed.

PS: my grandparents were from Friesland and emigrated to America.

Thank you Shawn for the well written, clear and easy to digest introductory article. Just after reading this first article I feel excited and ready to set sails and go!! LOL!! Cheers! Daniel.

steve Balog

well done, chap

Great intro. However, the overview diagram misidentifies the cockpit location. The cockpit is located aft of the helm. Your diagram points to a location to the fore of the helm.

William Thompson-Ambrose

An excellent introduction to the basic anatomy and function of the sailboat. Anyone who wants to start sailing should consider the above article before stepping aboard! Thank-you

James Huskisson

Thanks for you efforts mate. We’ve all got to start somewhere. Thanks for sharing. Hoping to my first yacht. 25ft Holland. Would love to cross the Bass Strait one day to Tasmania. 👌 Cheers mate

Alan Alexander Percy

thankyou ijust aquired my first sailboat at 66yrs of age its down at pelican point a beautifull place in virginia usa my sailboat is a redwing 30 if you are ever in the area i wouldnt mind your guidance and superior knowledge of how to sail but iam sure your fantastic article will help my sailboat is wings 30 ft

Thanks for quick refresher course. Having sailed in California for 20+ years I now live in Spain where I have to take a spanish exam for a sailboat license. Problem is, it’s only in spanish. So a lot to learn for an old guy like me.

Very comprehensive, thank you

Your article really brought all the pieces together for me today. I have been adventuring my first sailing voyage for 2 months from the Carolinas and am now in Eleuthera waiting on weather to make the Exumas!!! Great job and thanks

Helen Ballard

I’ve at last found something of an adventure to have in sailing, so I’m starting at the basics, I have done a little sailing but need more despite being over 60 life in the old dog etc, thanks for your information 😊

Barbara Scott

I don’t have a sailboat, neither do l plan to literally take to the waters. But for mental exercise, l have decided to take to sailing in my Bermuda sloop, learning what it takes to become a good sailor and run a tight ship, even if it’s just imaginary. Thank you for helping me on my journey to countless adventures and misadventures, just to keep it out of the doldrums! (I’m a 69 year old African American female who have rediscovered why l enjoyed reading The Adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson as well as his captivating description of sea, wind, sailboat,and sailor).

Great article and very good information source for a beginner like me. But I didn’t find out what I had hoped to, which is, what are all those noisy bits of kit on top of the mast? I know the one with the arrow is a weather vane, but the rest? Many thanks, Jay.

Louis Cohen

The main halyard is attached to the head of the mainsail, not the to the mainsheet. In the USA, we say gaff, not gaffer. The gaff often has its own halyard separate from the main halyard.

Other than that it’s a nice article with good diagrams.

A Girl Who Has an Open Sail Dream

Wow! That was a lot of great detail! Thank you, this is going to help me a lot on my project!

Hi, good info, do u know a book that explains all the systems on a candc 27,

Emma Delaney

As a hobbyist, I was hesitant to invest in expensive CAD software, but CADHOBBY IntelliCAD has proven to be a cost-effective alternative that delivers the same quality and performance.

Leave a comment

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Everything you need to know about MSC Cruises cabins and suites

A relative newcomer in the North American market, MSC Cruises is equal parts elegant and kitschy. The line tends to appeal to a wide swath of cruisers, from Europeans who like to party into the wee hours of the morning to American families who book because of affordable fares and "kids sail free" pricing.

To satisfy its diverse passenger base, MSC offers accommodations to fit all types of travelers. Rooms include inexpensive inside cabins that sleep two people, midlevel staterooms with windows and balconies, and high-end suites that offer cruisers with larger budgets a private oasis in the form of the MSC Yacht Club .

A variety of connecting rooms and cabins with extra bunks accommodate larger groups and families who wish to share space.

Because your cruise cabin will be your home away from home for several days, it's important to book one that fits your needs. That's especially true if you're sharing it with several people.

Whether you're looking at an inside cabin for a cruise with friends, balcony accommodations for you and your significant other or a suite for your family, here TPG breaks down what you can expect when you book a room on one of MSC's ships.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

MSC Cruises cabin primer

MSC Cruises has become one of the fastest-growing lines in the cruise industry, with about two dozen ships in its fleet. The vessels fall into six classes : Lirica, Musica, Fantasia, Meraviglia, Seaside and World.

Although cabin offerings can vary from ship to ship and class to class, the standard types remain the same: inside, outside, balcony and suite.

Additionally, you'll find the same basic amenities in each room, unless otherwise noted below. They include two twin beds that can be joined to form a queen- or king-size bed; an in-cabin bathroom with a shower, a sink, a toilet and basic soap, shower gel and shampoo; a couple of nightstands; a chair or sofa; a desk/vanity; a closet; a safe; a hair dryer; a minifridge; a phone; USB outlets and a selection of both North American and European outlets.

On all ships except MSC Lirica, MSC Opera, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Armonia, you'll also find an interactive TV that allows you to view the daily schedule, check your onboard account and choose from a selection of live TV programs and movies.

Twice-daily room tidying is provided by a room steward assigned to each cabin, and room service is available throughout the day for an added fee.

One confusing aspect of MSC's bookings is that you'll have to select an experience package in addition to a cabin type. Package tiers determine things like your ability to choose a specific cabin and preferred dining time and whether you'll receive welcome amenities in your room. Certain cabin types are only available in conjunction with certain package experiences and vice versa. Those are noted in each respective section below.

Accessible cabins , including accommodations for wheelchair users, are available on every ship in MSC's fleet. In addition to more space, they feature wider doorways and lowered sinks and toilets in the bathrooms, as well as grab bars.

MSC Cruises' experience packages

Here's what you get when you book each of MSC's three experience packages, which determine the perks you'll receive on your sailing.

  • Accommodations
  • Complimentary food in the dining room and buffet
  • Broadway-style theater entertainment
  • Access to the onboard gym, pool and kids club
  • MSC Voyagers Club points
  • One for-fee change to your cruise booking (with some restrictions)
  • Drink package discount at time of booking
  • All Bella perks
  • Choice of specific cabin and location
  • One free change to your cruise booking (with some restrictions)
  • Ability to choose between early and late seating for dinner
  • Room service (complimentary for breakfast, but fees apply for other meals)
  • Discount on pre-cruise specialty dining package
  • All Fantastica and Bella perks
  • Flexible My Choice dining, which lets you eat at any time you choose between set hours
  • Free 24-hour room service delivery
  • Pillow menu
  • A welcome package, including Prosecco and chocolates
  • Complimentary access to your ship's solarium and thermal area
  • A 10% discount on all spa treatments purchased on board
  • Special Balinese massage offer when booked pre-cruise
  • Complimentary use of bathrobe and slippers
  • Priority boarding and luggage drop-off

Inside cabins on MSC Cruises ships

Inside cabins — rooms with no windows — are available on all ships in the MSC fleet. Ranging from 140 to 301 square feet (depending on the ship), they make for great sleeping because they're so dark. They're also ideal for passengers who are on a budget.

In addition to the standard amenities mentioned above, they provide room for anywhere from two to four passengers to sleep. (Rooms that sleep more than two feature bunks that pull down from the ceiling.)

These cabins are available with the line's Bella and Fantastica experiences.

If you're sailing solo, some MSC vessels offer cabins for one outfitted with a twin bed that converts into a couch. These interior studio accommodations are only available with the Bella package on MSC Meraviglia , MSC Bellissima and the line's World Class ships.

Ocean-view cabins on MSC Cruises ships

Ocean-view rooms are similar to insides in that they provide basic amenities — but with a view.

Offering 129 to 269 square feet of space (depending on the specific ship and ocean-view category), these staterooms allow you to see outside through a porthole or a window that doesn't open.

MSC's outside cabins are available to passengers who book Bella and Fantastica packages.

Additionally, if you're traveling with your family or another group, several of MSC Cruises' ships — particularly those in the Meraviglia and Seaside classes — feature space for as many as 10 passengers via a series of connecting rooms. Options are available at the ocean-view and balcony levels.

Balcony cabins on MSC Cruises ships

You might be surprised to discover that most of MSC Cruises' balcony cabins provide less interior square footage than what's available in inside or ocean-view staterooms.

Balcony rooms run anywhere from 129 to 205 square feet, but their key feature is, of course, a private balcony, which does add an extra 32 to 129 square feet, depending on the vessel and specific type of balcony room booked. These cabins are bookable in conjunction with MSC's Bella, Fantastica and Aurea experiences.

Although balcony cabins offer upgraded amenities, including MSC's brand of hand lotion and toiletries, they are largely the same as inside and ocean-view accommodations.

MSC's newest ships — including those in the Meraviglia, Seaside and World Classes — house connecting balcony rooms that can sleep up to 10 in the same group traveling together.

Additionally, on its World Class ships, the line has introduced inward-facing balconies, similar to the ones Royal Caribbean pioneered in 2009 with the debut of its Oasis Class vessels . On World Europa, for example, they overlook the ship's promenade, offering views of the activity below, rather than the ocean.

MSC Cruises suites

All ships in MSC's fleet have suites that can be booked as part of the Fantastica and Aurea packages, but it's Aurea that offers the largest number of perks, as outlined above.

The several types of suites vary by ship in terms of size and amenities. Some come with balconies, while others only offer floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows.

Junior Suites

Although this room type is listed as a suite, it's essentially a balcony cabin with a bit more space — 183 square feet of interior accommodation with a balcony that ranges from 140 to 183 square feet.

Standard suites include rooms with huge balconies larger than the cabin's interior space and ones with private whirlpool tubs. They run from 269 to 355 square feet, with balconies measuring 32 to 409 square feet.

Grand Suites

Coming in between 377 and 420 square feet, with balconies spanning from 32 to 495 square feet, Grand Suites — found on Seaside and World Class ships — come in two types. They include standard one-bedroom Grand Suites, as well as two-bedroom varieties.

The latter has one bedroom with a queen-size bed and another with two twins. It sleeps up to five passengers and offers two bathrooms — one with a shower and the other with a bathtub.

While most suites are designed for double occupancy, some suite accommodations on MSC Bellissima, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Virtuosa and MSC Magnifica can sleep up to five people.

MSC Yacht Club suites on MSC ships

All cabins located in the MSC Yacht Club — an exclusive, gated area on select ships — are called suites, even the smallest and least expensive, which don't have windows or balconies.

Yacht Club suite types range from insides to two-deck duplexes, all of which come with butler and concierge services, luxuriously appointed furnishings (such as real marble finishes, memory foam mattresses and Egyptian cotton sheets) and access to members-only restaurants, bars (alcohol is free there), lounges, pools and sun decks.

The Yacht Club features seven different types of rooms. Ships that have the MSC Yacht Club on board include MSC Bellissima, MSC Divina, MSC Fantasia, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Meraviglia, MSC Preziosa, MSC Seaside, MSC Seascape, MSC Seaview, MSC Seashore, MSC Splendida, MSC Virtuosa and MSC World Europa.

Note: Not all Yacht Clubs have the same suite types available.

MSC Yacht Club Interior Suites

Although these 161- to 226-square-foot cabins don't offer a view or fresh air, they are elegantly decorated and include all the Yacht Club benefits mentioned above.

MSC Yacht Club Deluxe Suites

These Yacht Club digs are the equivalent of a balcony cabin — but in a dedicated area that includes all the exclusive perks. They run 236 to 366 square feet and have balconies ranging from 54 to 86 square feet, so they also come with a bit more space, both inside and outdoors.

MSC Yacht Club Deluxe Grand Suites

Similarly, Deluxe Grand Suites are like the Yacht Club equivalent of booking a Grand Suite with more perks. Depending on the ship, they offer anywhere from 269 to 463 square feet of space, plus 65- to 129-square-foot balconies. Some Grand Suites also have two bedrooms instead of one. Further, these rooms on Seaside Class ships include bathrooms with bathtubs, as well as separate living areas.

MSC Yacht Club Duplex Suites

Rising two decks, MSC's duplex staterooms measure 495 to 635 square feet and come with 65- to 334-square-foot balconies. They feature living rooms with two-person sofa beds downstairs and master bedrooms upstairs, which also sleep two passengers.

Each of these accommodations comes complete with two walk-in closets and two bathrooms — one with a bathtub and one with a shower. Most duplexes on Meraviglia and World Class ships also have their own private whirlpool tubs.

MSC Yacht Club Executive and Family Suites

The line's Executive and Family Suites, available only on Fantasia Class vessels, are an excellent choice for anyone who wants to stay in the Yacht Club with a family or other group of more than two people.

This option, which is one type of suite (despite its confusing name), has space for up to five cruisers via a combination of bunk beds, sofa beds and beds that pull down from the ceiling, depending on the ship. The suites clock in at around 431 to 549 square feet, depending on the vessel.

The only drawback is that these staterooms have no balconies and no in-room dining areas, but they do include all the perks you'd find in Yacht Club cabins.

MSC Yacht Club Royal Suites

Although they only occupy one level, at 388 to 667 square feet, MSC's Yacht Club Royal Suites are right up there with the Duplex Suites in terms of space. They offer the second-largest amount of square footage after the Owner's Suites. They come with huge balconies comprising 355 to 753 square feet of outdoor area.

Additionally, bathrooms in these suites offer bathtubs on Fantasia, Meraviglia, Seaside and World Class ships, and the latter three have private whirlpool tubs, as well. All four classes' Royal Suites also include separate living room areas.

MSC Yacht Club Owner's Suites

The largest and most impressive of all MSC's cabins are the Owner's Suites found in the Yacht Club. Offering an impressive 840 to 1,119 square feet — larger than some land-based apartments — plus 269- to 670-square-foot balconies, they're some of the most luxurious rooms afloat.

Specific amenities vary by ship, but as an example, Owner's Suites on MSC World Europa offer floor-to-ceiling windows and walk-in closets. These accommodations on both the line's Seaside and World Class vessels also feature bathrooms with separate showers and bathtubs, as well as private whirlpool tubs and separate living room areas.

Bottom line

Although MSC Cruises' cabin types are straightforward, the line's add-on experiences can complicate things a bit.

Overall, what's key to remember is that MSC Cruises offers a wide variety of rooms and pricing to meet just about any budget or style of cruising. Each ship will offer accommodation choices from the least expensive, bare-bones interior rooms to the priciest suites, which come with butler and concierge services.

When you sail with MSC Cruises, you can expect function, style and comfort, regardless of the cabin type you book.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

  • The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
  • A beginners guide to picking a cruise line
  • The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
  • The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise
  • A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
  • 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
  • Top ways cruisers waste money
  • The ultimate guide to choosing a cruise ship cabin

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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