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40 Best Sailboats

  • By Cruising World Editors
  • Updated: April 18, 2019

Sailors are certainly passionate about their boats, and if you doubt that bold statement, try posting an article dubbed “ 40 Best Sailboats ” and see what happens.

Barely had the list gone live, when one reader responded, “Where do I begin? So many glaring omissions!” Like scores of others, he listed a number of sailboats and brands that we were too stupid to think of, but unlike some, he did sign off on a somewhat upbeat note: “If it weren’t for the presence of the Bermuda 40 in Cruising World’s list, I wouldn’t even have bothered to vote.”

By vote, he means that he, like hundreds of other readers, took the time to click through to an accompanying page where we asked you to help us reshuffle our alphabetical listing of noteworthy production sailboats so that we could rank them instead by popularity. So we ask you to keep in mind that this list of the best sailboats was created by our readers.

The quest to building this list all began with such a simple question, one that’s probably been posed at one time or another in any bar where sailors meet to raise a glass or two: If you had to pick, what’re the best sailboats ever built?

In no time, a dozen or more from a variety of sailboat manufacturers were on the table and the debate was on. And so, having fun with it, we decided to put the same question to a handful of CW ‘s friends: writers and sailors and designers and builders whose opinions we value. Their favorites poured in and soon an inkling of a list began to take shape. To corral things a bit and avoid going all the way back to Joshua Slocum and his venerable Spray —Hell, to Noah and his infamous Ark —we decided to focus our concentration on production monohull sailboats, which literally opened up the sport to anyone who wanted to get out on the water. And since CW is on the verge or turning 40, we decided that would be a nice round number at which to draw the line and usher in our coming ruby anniversary.

If you enjoy scrolling through this list, which includes all types of sailboats, then perhaps you would also be interested in browsing our list of the Best Cruising Sailboats . Check it out and, of course, feel free to add your favorite boat, too. Here at Cruising World , we like nothing better than talking about boats, and it turns out, so do you.

40. Moore 24

39. pearson vanguard, 38. dufour arpege 30, 37. alerion express 28, 36. mason 43/44, 35. jeanneau sun odyssey 43ds, 34. nor’sea 27, 33. freedom 40, 32. beneteau sense 50, 31. nonsuch 30, 30. swan 44, 29. c&c landfall 38, 28. gulfstar 50, 27. sabre 36, 26. pearson triton, 25. islander 36, 24. gozzard 36, 23. bristol 40, 22. tartan 34, 21. morgan out island 41, 20. hylas 49, 19. contessa 26, 18. whitby 42, 17. columbia 50, 16. morris 36, 15. hunter 356, 13. beneteau 423, 12. westsail 32, 10. alberg 30, 9. island packet 38, 8. passport 40, 7. tayana 37, 6. peterson 44, 5. pacific seacraft 37, 4. hallberg-rassy 42, 3. catalina 30, 2. hinckley bermuda 40, 1. valiant 40.

  • More: monohull , Sailboats
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Thinking of a shift to power, tradewinds debuts 59-foot twe6 smart electric yacht, sailboat preview: dufour 44, good bread for good health, center of effort, the halfway point: sailing to bermuda.

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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

sailboats in water

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…

sailboats in water

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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

sailboats in water

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 / graphikup.com

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.


Photo: svnaima.com

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.

The best bluewater sailboats (we analyzed 2,000 boats to find out)

By Author Fiona McGlynn

Posted on Last updated: May 16, 2023

We analyzed two-thousand bluewater sailboats to bring you a list of proven offshore designs


What are the best bluewater sailboats?

This was a question we asked a lot of experienced cruisers when we decided to sail across the Pacific. We needed a boat after all, and we wanted to buy the best bluewater sailboat we could afford.

We heard a lot of strong opinions.

Some sailors thought it was reckless to go offshore in any boat that didn’t have a full keel.

Others prioritized performance, and wouldn’t dream of going anywhere in a slow boat like the Westsail 32 (a.k.a. a “Wet Snail 32”).

Opinions like these left us feeling confused like we had to choose between safety and performance.  

If we learned anything from these conversations, it’s that what makes a bluewater boat is a hotly debated topic!

However, there’s a way to cut through all the opinions and get to the bottom of it. The solution is….

We analyzed just under 2,000 boats embarking on ocean crossings (over a 12 year time period) and came up with a list of the ten best bluewater sailboats.

Where did we get our data?

The data for our best bluewater sailboats list comes from 12 years of entries in the Pacific Puddle Jump (PPJ), an annual cross-Pacific rally. We took part in 2017 and had a ball!

You can read about the methodology we used to analyze this data at the bottom of the post.

What do we mean by “best”?

We know, that word is overused on the internet!

Simply, based on our data set, these were the most common makes and models entered in the PPJ cross-Pacific rally. There were at least 10 PPJ rally entries for every make of boat on our top 10 list.

So, these boats are 100% good to go?

No! A bluewater boat isn’t necessarily a seaworthy boat. Almost every cruiser we know made substantial repairs and additions to get their offshore boat ready, adding watermakers , life rafts, solar panels, and more.

Also, you should always have a boat inspected by a professional and accredited marine surveyor before buying it or taking it offshore.

But my bluewater baby boat isn’t on this list!?

There are hundreds of excellent bluewater yachts that are not on this list. For instance, we sailed across the Pacific in a Dufour 35, which didn’t even come close to making our top 10 list.

Choosing the right boat is very much an individual journey.

Where can I find these bluewater boats for sale?

We recognize that a top 10 list won’t get you very far if you’re shopping for a bluewater boat (especially if you’re looking in the used market).

So, to help you find your perfect boat, we’re going to create a big list of bluewater boats that you can use to refine your search on Yachtworld, Craigslist, or any other places to buy a used boat .

Sign up for our newsletter to get our big list of bluewater boats list as soon as it comes out.

We’re also working on a series of posts by size class. For example, if you’re looking for a smaller boat, you can narrow it down to the best bluewater sailboats under 40 feet .

Takeaways from our analysis

There were no big surprises on an individual boat level. All of these makes are considered good cruisers, some of them are even best-selling designs! However, there were a few things that caught our eye.

“Go simple, go small, go now” still holds water

We were thrilled to see the smallest boat in our roundup at the very top of the list! Westsail 32 owners can take pride in their small but mighty yachts (and ignore all those snail-sayers).

While undoubtedly there’s been a trend towards bigger bluewater cruisers in recent years, small cruising sailboats seem to be holding their own. 60% of the monohulls on this list were under 40 feet (if you count the Valiant 40 which sneaks just under at 39.92 feet).

Cat got our tongue

So, we knew catamarans were a thing, but we didn’t fully appreciate HOW popular they’d become!

50% of our top 10 bluewater boat list consists of catamarans—a good fact to toss out the next time you’re trying to garner a happy hour invite on the party boat next door (which will undoubtedly be a catamaran).

Still got it!

We’ve got good news for all you good old boat lovers! 60% of the boats on our list were first built before 2000.

While these older models are less performance-oriented than modern designs, cruisers value these boats for their ability to stand up to rough seas and heavy weather. It just goes to show that solid bones and classic looks never go out of style.

Alright, without further ado, let’s dive into our list of the 10 best bluewater boats!

The 10 best bluewater boats

best bluewater sailboats

1. Westsail 32

The Westsail 32 is an iconic bluewater sailboat

The Westsail 32 is one of the most iconic bluewater cruisers and 19 have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009.

In 1973, this small cruising sailboat garnered a 4-page spread in Time magazine. The article inspired many Americans to set sail and the Westsail 32, with its double-ender design, set the standard for what a real bluewater cruiser should look like.

There were approximately 830 built between 1971 and 1980.

This small boat has taken sailors on ocean crossings and circumnavigations. Though considered “slow” by some, the heavily-built Westsail 32 has developed a loyal following for her other excellent offshore cruising characteristics.

If you’re interested in small bluewater sailboats, check out our post on the best small sailboats for sailing around the world .

2. Lagoon 380

Lagoon 380

The Lagoon 380 is a reliable, solidly built catamaran and considered roomy for its size. We counted 18 of them in our data set. With over 800 boats built , it may be one of the best-selling catamarans in the world. Like the other boats on this list, the Lagoon 380 has proven itself on long passages and ocean crossings, winning it many loyal fans.

3. Lagoon 440

Lagoon 440 is a bluewater catamaran

18 Lagoon 440s have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009.

Why leave the comforts of home, when you can take them with you? The Lagoon 440 is a luxurious long-range cruiser, offering beautiful wood joinery, spacious accommodations, and a deluxe galley. Oh, and you have the option of an electric boat motor !

SAIL and Sailing Magazine have both done in-depth reviews of the Lagoon 440 if you want to learn more.

4. Amel Super Maramu (incl. SM 2000)

Amel Super Maramu is a popular bluewater sailboat

If you follow the adventures of SV Delos on YouTube, you probably know that the star of the show (SV Delos— in case the title didn’t give it away ) is an Amel Super Maramu. These classic bluewater sailboats can be found all over the world, proof they can go the distance.

We counted 16 Amel Super Maramus and Super Maramu 2000s in our list of PPJ entries.

Ready to join the cult of Amel? Read more about the iconic brand in Yachting World.

5. Valiant 40

The Valiant 40 is an iconic bluewater cruiser

When I interviewed legendary yacht designer, Bob Perry, for Good Old Boat in 2019, he told me that the Valiant 40 was one of the boats that most defined him and marked the real start of his career.

At the time, heavy displacement cruisers were considered sluggish and slow, especially in light winds.

Perry’s innovation with the Valiant 40 was to combine a classic double ender above the waterline, with an IOR racing hull shape below the waterline. The result was the first “performance cruiser”, a blockbuster hit, with over 200 boats built in the 1970s.

It’s no surprise we counted 16 Valiant 40s in our data set.

Cruising World magazine dubbed it “a fast, comfortable, and safe cruising yacht,” and there’s no doubt it’s covered some serious nautical miles.

It’s worth noting that there were blistering problems with hull numbers 120-249 (boats built between 1976 and 1981). Later models did not have this problem. Despite the blistering issues, the Valiant 40 remains one of the most highly thought of bluewater designs.

6. TAYANA 37

The Tayana 37 is a top bluewater boat

The Tayana 37 is another hugely popular Perry design. The first boat rolled off the production line in 1976 and since then, nearly 600 boats have been built. Beautiful classic lines and a proven track record have won the Tayana 37 a devoted following of offshore enthusiasts.

12 Tayana 37s have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009. Read more about the Tayana 37 in this Practical Sailor review .

7. Lagoon 450

The Lagoon 450 is one of the best bluewater sailboats

If this list is starting to sound like a paid advertisement, I swear we’re not on Lagoon’s payroll! This is the third Lagoon on our list, but the data doesn’t lie. Lagoon is making some of the best cruising sailboats.

The 450 has been a hot seller for Lagoon, with over 800 built since its launch in 2014. While not a performance cat, the Lagoon 450 travels at a reasonable speed and is brimming with luxury amenities.

At least 12 owners in the PPJ rally chose the Lagoon 450 to take them across the Pacific. It’s no wonder SAIL had so many good things to say about it.

8. Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46

Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46 Bluewater Sailboat

There were 11 Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46s in our data set.

Fountaine Pajot released the Bahia 46 in 1997, a sleek design for traveling long distances. Its generously-sized water and fuel tanks along with ample storage for cruising gear are a real plus for the self-sufficient sailor.

According to Cruising World , “Cruising-cat aficionados should put the Bahia 46 on their “must-see” list.”

9. Catalina 42 (MKI, MKII)

Catalina 42 bluewater boat

10 Catalina 42s (MKI and MKII) have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009.

The Catalina 42 was designed under the guidance of the legendary yacht designer and Catalina’s chief engineer, Gerry Douglas.

One of Catalina’s philosophies is to offer “as much boat for the money as possible,” and the Catalina 42 is no exception. According to Practical Sailor , Catalina aims to price its boats 15% to 20% below major production boats like Hunter and Beneteau.

Practical Sailor has a great in-depth review of the Catalina 42 .

10. Leopard 46

Leopard 46 bluewater sailboat

Since 2009, 10 Leopard 46s have embarked on Pacific crossings in the PPJ rally.

Leopards have won legions of fans for their high build quality, robust engineering, and excellent performance.

The Leopard 46 also boasts something of a racing pedigree. It was built in South Africa by Robertson and Caine and designed by Gino Morelli and Pete Melvin, who came up with the record-breaking catamaran Playstation / Cheyenne 125 .

Read more about the Leopard 46 in this Cruising World review .


What the data is and isn’t.

The PPJ data was a real boon because it reflects a wide range of cruising boats: small, big, old, new, expensive, and affordable. We think this may be because the PPJ is a very financially accessible rally—the standard entry cost is $125 or $100 if you’re under 35 (age or boat length!).

We did look at data from other (pricier) rallies but found that the results skewed towards more expensive boats.

Needless to say, the data we used is just a sample of the bluewater boats that crossed the Pacific over the last 10+ years. Many cruisers cross oceans without participating in a rally!

Entries vs. completions

The data we used is a list of the PPJ entries, not necessarily the boats that completed the rally. In instances where we saw the same boat entered multiple years in a row, we assumed they’d postponed their crossing and deleted all but the latest entry to avoid double counting.

Boat make variations

The world of boat building and naming can get pretty complicated. Sometimes a manufacturer changes a boat’s name a year or two into production, other times the name remains the same but the boat undergoes a dramatic update.

For the most part, we’ve used SailboatData.com’s classification system (if they list the boats separately, then we have also), except where there are two separately listed models that have the same LOA, beam, and displacement.

Fiona McGlynn

Fiona McGlynn is an award-winning boating writer who created Waterborne as a place to learn about living aboard and traveling the world by sailboat. She has written for boating magazines including BoatUS, SAIL, Cruising World, and Good Old Boat. She’s also a contributing editor at Good Old Boat and BoatUS Magazine. In 2017, Fiona and her husband completed a 3-year, 13,000-mile voyage from Vancouver to Mexico to Australia on their 35-foot sailboat.

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How Sailboats Work

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sailboats in water

Sailboats are one of humankind's first and most revolutionary transportation inventions. Powered mainly by the wind, these simple but incredible machines opene­d up new pathways for international trade, exploration and cultural exchange, which shaped the modern world.

Although no one knows when the first sailboat was built, archeologists have found remains of primitive canoe-like vessels dating back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Since then, boat design has developed steadily to enhance speed, ma­neuverability and cargo load, reflecting unique aesthetic and technological innovations.

­For example, to construct their signature dragon-headed boats, Vikings used axes rather than saws to cut longer, lighter pieces of wood that allowed for faster travel. These longboats, called drakkar , dominated the seas by taking advantage of wind in their square sail for long distances and of oarsmen for swift attacks [source: Hadingham]. Later, 15th-century Chinese junk boats with their distinct scalloped sails were so well-crafted to withstand regional typhoons that they reached the east coast of Africa and the Persian Gulf more than 50 years before European explorers [source: University of Calgary ]. Today, specialized racing yachts slice through the water at speeds faster than the wind.

While these amazing ships range in size and capability, all are linked by the fundamental elements of the common sailboat. Whether large or small, vessels of the past and present share the same flotation and movement abilities. In this article, we are ­going to explore how the basic parts of a sailboat work together, how physics principles allow them to float and move and how sailboat design continues to evolve.

Basic Parts of a Sailboat

How sailboats float, how sailboats move in the water, the physics of lift, a closer look at the sailboat keel, sailboat speed, modern sailboat design.

sailboats in water

The common sailboat comprises eight essential parts: hull, tiller, rudder, mainsail, mast, boom, jib and keel. The hull is the shell of the boat, which contains all the internal components. Its symmetrical shape balances the sailboat and reduces drag , or the backward pull caused by friction, as it moves in the water. Inside of the hull in the stern , or back of the boat, is the tiller, which is attached to the rudder in the water. Think of the tiller as the boat's steering wheel and the rudder as the tire. To maneuver a sailboat to the right, for example, you pull the tiller to the right side of the boat, causing the rudder to alter its direction.

If you think of the tiller as the steering wheel, then the sails and the keel are the engines. The mainsail is the larger sail that captures the bulk of the wind power necessary to propel the sailboat. Its vertical side attaches to the mast , a long upright pole, and its horizontal side secures to the boom, a long pole parallel to the deck. Sailors can rotate the boom 360 degrees horizontally from the mast to allow the mainsail to harness as much wind as possible. When they pivot the boom perpendicular to the wind, the mainsail puffs outward. Conversely, it goes slack when swung parallel to the wind. This freedom of movement allows sailors to catch the wind at whatever angle it blows. The jib is the smaller, fixed triangular sail that adds additional power for the mainsail. The keel , a long, slim plank that juts out from the bottom of the hull, provides an underwater balancing force that keeps the boat from tipping over. In smaller sailboats, a centerboard or daggerboard serves the same purpose as the keel, but can be raised or lowered into the water to allow for shallow water sailing.

Before a boat can move in the water, it first must be able to float. In the next section, we'll discover how something as heavy as a sailboat can stay afloat.

If the Jetsons owned a yacht, it would probably look a lot like the Maltese Falcon. The prized possession of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tom Perkins, the Maltese Falcon is like a sailing computer, equipped with fiber-optic networks, microprocessors and touch screens that have converted the brain and muscle of sailing into a computerized control panel. Now, the only manpower required to hoist and lower its 26,000 square feet of sails is a touch of a button. Likewise, the football-field-sized yacht completed in spring of 2006 is the most expensive and technologically advanced of its kind today. With a price tag hovering around $130 million, the Maltese Falcon navigates more like a video game than a 1,367-ton boat. But Perkins isn't stopping there. He's working on a sports submarine to house on the Maltese Falcon in case he ever wants to play with some whales or manatees deep in the ocean. Think of it as his version of a jet ski.

Floating depends on two things: displacement and density . Archimedes' principle , which explains the concept of buoyancy, states that in order for an object to float, it must displace an amount of water equal to its weight. As a sailboat's weight pushes downward and displaces water beneath it, an upward force equal to that weight holds the boat up.

Here's where density comes into play. To displace enough water to remain afloat without becoming submerged, a boat must have an average density less than water. For that reason, the hull of the boat is hollow. Whether the boat is made of concrete or fiberglass, its average density is less than water. Think about it: If you put a basketball and a bowling ball in a swimming pool, the air-filled basketball has an average density much less than that of water, so it will float. The solid bowling ball, however, will sink immediately. This is how anything from a small sailboat to an aircraft carrier can manage to stay on top of the water.

Surface area also helps to keep the boat afloat. More surface area gives an object a better chance to displace enough water to offset its own weight. For instance, a small ball of clay likely will sink before it can displace the amount of water equal to its weight. But if you flatten the ball into a thin pancake, there is more surface area to distribute the weight across and displace the water, so it will float. For more information on precisely how a steel ship can float, read how boats made of steel float on water when a bar of steel sinks.

Now that we know how sailboats can float, we can learn how they zip through the water.

Simple. Look at the nutrition facts . An average can of regular soda contains about 40 grams, or 20 teaspoons, of sugar, which increases its average density. The diet soda only contains artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners are much more concentrated than sugar so it takes less to sweeten the soda. As a result, the diet soda's average density is less than the regular soda's. That lighter average density allows the diet soda to float.

sailboats in water

Sailing a boat is simple when you're navigating downwind with the wind at your back. You let out the mainsail perpendicular to the wind to capture the most energy. As the wind presses directly into the sails to make them puff out, that natural force propels the boat forward.

Plotting an upwind course, against the wind, is much harder. Compare the difference between running with the wind behind you and running with the wind gusting at you. You exert more energy to run into it, rather than enjoying the gentle push of it at your back. In fact, it is impossible to sail directly upwind. Either the opposing force of the wind will push the boat backward if the sails are let out, or it will stall the boat if the sails are pulled in and slack. Sailors refer to this as being in irons . Instead, to reach an upwind destination, crews use a method calling tacking .

While the wind pushes the boat when going away from it (downwind) the opposite happens when going toward it (upwind). "When you sail upwind, the boat is actually being pulled rather than pushed by the force of the wind," says Bryan Kelly, sailing instructor at Sail Newport and membership assistant with US Sailing , the national governing body of sailing in the United States. That forward pull is referred to as lift . For that reason, sailors steering upwind must take a zigzagging path called tacking. By doing so, the wind approaches at an angle rather than head-on.

When tacking, the sails act as the engine of the boat, harnessing wind power. However, since the boat is moving angled to the wind, that wind power pushes the boat sideways. But remember that the wind isn't the only element the boat interacts with. There's also the water. As the boat tips to one side, the long, flat keel submerged underneath the hull, pivots upward with the motion of the boat, creating a sideways force in the opposite direction because of the amount of water it displaces as it moves.

When tacking successfully, these equal, opposing sideways forces cancel each other out. However, that collected wind power must go somewhere, so it is released in a forward thrust -- there is nowhere else it can go. This is the same type of effect that happens when you shoot a marble. Your finger and thumb press equally hard on either side of the marble, causing it to zip forward.

After this happens, the sailor would alter course and tack again toward the opposite direction to gradually move upwind.

In the next section, we'll dissect the physics of lift that pull sailboats forward into the wind and what they have in common with kites.

[Source: Cox ]

  • Starboard - on the right side
  • Port - on the left side
  • Stern - back of the boat
  • Bow - front of the boat
  • In irons - when the boat is going directly upwind and can't catch wind in the sails
  • Luff up - direct the sailboat into the wind
  • True wind - the speed and direction of the wind as felt by a bystander on shore
  • Apparent wind - what you feel while the ship's moving; a combination of the true wind and the wind that the boat's motion creates.
  • Trim sails - setting sails for maximum efficiency

sailboats in water

When you see a kite catch the wind and swoop up into the air, you're witnessing lift . You can feel the forward acceleration in the pull on your end of the string. Likewise, the mainsail and jib harness wind energy with their aerodynamic shapes that puff out on one side when the wind hits them. You also might notice that the kite flies angled to the wind, just as the mainsail and jib capture wind when tacking.

Sailing aficionados use two prominent -- yet often disputed -- theories to explain how exactly the wind interaction generates lift: Bernoulli's theorem and Newton's Third Law.

Bernoulli's theorem, also called the Longer Path Explanation , explains lift in terms of high and low air pressures on either side of the sail. Imagine the front of the boat angled upwind, or into the wind. As the breeze hits the sails, the air particles rush over both sides. Theoretically, the air particles moving across the outer, convex side of the sail have a longer distance to travel in the same amount of time as the particles moving across the inner, concave side.

If the particles on the outer side are traveling farther in the same amount of time, they must have a higher velocity, or speed, than the particles on the other side. These higher-velocity particles have more room to spread out, forming a low-pressure area. On the inside of the sail, the slower air particles are packed together more densely, creating a higher-pressure area. This difference in the pressure on the sails acts as a forward suction, producing lift.

Lift also applies to airplane flight. For a more detailed explanation of lift and the Bernoulli and Newtonian theories, read How Airplanes Work.

sailboats in water

Newton's Third Law describes lift in terms of the reaction of the wind's air particles to the mainsail and jib. The law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. As the wind hits the sails from an opposing direction (remember, you're sailing upwind to tack), it generates drag , or backward pull. Drag is parallel to the original wind current [source: Swimmers wear specialized suits and caps to reduce drag as much as possible in the water.

Examining lift through the Newtonian lens, the air particles' movement creates an equal, opposite reaction -- or forward pull. It can also be applied to the interaction of the sails and the keel, described in the previous section. The sails and the keel create equal and opposite reactions to focus the boat's energy forward rather than sideways.

Now we'll examine the keel more in depth to see how it contributes to lift and keeps the boat from tipping over when tacking.­

Although the date the world's first sailboat was built is unclear, in 2002 British and Kuwaiti archeologists discovered what they believe to be the oldest known boat remains in As-Sabiyah, Kuwait. The remains date back to around 5400 B.C., according to a Science Magazine article by Andrew Lawler. The supposed vessel is plank-shaped and constructed from reeds and bitumen, a gummy substance similar to tar. While carbon dating has verified its age, some researchers remain dubious about whether the object was indeed a boat.

sailboats in water

The keel has two main functions: to keep the boat from being blown sideways in the wind (lateral resistance) and to hold the ballast. The ballast is a weight traditionally at the bottom of the keel that keeps the boat right-side up.

When the sails interact with the wind, a lot is also happening underwater to help create lift and allow the craft to recover from tacking. When a boat heels , or tips sideways in one direction when tacking, the ballast prevents it from going completely over. Positioned beneath the sailboat toward the center of the hull's underbelly, the keel's broad, flat surface creates sideways force by displacing water in the opposite direction that the boat is tipping. Although the keel has a much smaller surface area than the sails, the density of the water allows it to initiate a force strong enough to cancel out the heeling motion. That resulting equilibrium is called the righting moment .

You're probably familiar with the strong force of the keel if you've used a canoe paddle to change a canoe's direction. Although the paddle has a relatively small surface area, when turned against the current, you can feel the strength of its resistance as it becomes harder to hold.

Given this delicate balance among the wind, water and boat, sailors must tack carefully to avoid capsizing the boat, monitoring the angle at which they tack. If they tack the boat at too tight of an angle, the force of the wind will be too great for the keel and the water to overcome.

The maximum angle that a boat can tack and recover from is 30 degrees [source: US Sailing]. Sailors can tell the angle at which they approach the wind thanks to telltales , or strands of yarn-like material attached to the mainsail. Depending on how they blow when the sails are pulled tightly, they reveal the angle to the wind. Ideally, they will blow straight out, indicating even airflow across the sails and the optimum tacking angle. This is referred to as banging the corners , or sailing efficiently.

Read on to learn just how fast these wind machines move.

Here are a few sailing-related sayings in case you ever find yourself tongue-tied at sea.

Toe the line : Planks in wooden ships were sealed with a dark substance, giving the appearance of a striped deck. When ordered to line up, crews would keep themselves aligned by stepping their toes directly up to one of those stripes.

Boot camp : A training camp for Navy or Marine recruits. The term originated from sailors fighting in the Spanish-American War who wore leggings called boots.

Down the hatch : Comes from the idea of cargo being loaded down into the hatch below the deck.

Show one's true colors : Warships would try to deceive their enemies by hanging different countries' flags. However, to open fire on an enemy, the civilized rules of war required them to fly their nation's true flag.

sailboats in water

Now that we understand how the boat moves, let's get to the good stuff: speed. A vessel's top speed will vary, depending on its size and purpose. For instance, sleek racing sailboats are designed specifically to maximize speed, but larger, bulkier ships will plod along more slowly due to drag and friction.

The nautical measurement of speed is the knot. One knot is equal to about 1.15 mph. According to the Earth. You can read more about how nautical miles compare to miles and kilometers by reading What is a nautical mile?.

Since Thebault was going 48 mph, you may be wondering if that means the wind was blowing that fast. Probably not. Thebault likely was moving faster than the wind because when sailboats create lift, as we discussed earlier, they create their own additional wind, called apparent wind .

It's important to understand that there are two types of wind at work when sailing: true wind and apparent wind. You feel true wind when you're standing on the dock or if the boat anchors. This wind makes the waves in the water. Apparent wind is what you feel while the ship's moving -- a combination of the true wind and the wind that the boat's motion creates. This is the wind that powers the ship.

So it is possible for some boats to beat the wind, particularly slimmer, more aerodynamic models that have less drag or friction in the water, such as yachts and catamarans . But remember, to sail faster than the wind, these types of boats must travel at an angle to it, rather than straight downwind or upwind, to stimulate lift and accelerate apparent wind.

As sailing technology advances, boats are becoming faster and more efficient than ever before.

sailboats in water

Modern sailboat design has evolved overall to create a wider, yet sleeker, structure. While the width increases stability, other basic components have been refined to improve sailing efficiency.

Keels are often longer and leaner, allowing for a closer, quicker tack . Their larger surface area displaces more water for a tighter tack. The hydrodynamic, slender design cuts through the water with less drag . Likewise, designers have honed the hull to reduce pull in the water. New materials such as energy. Sail shape also has been continually fine-tuned to harness wind.

Due to such innovations, some sailboats, as previously noted, can actually exceed the speed of the wind. Hydrofoils , which elevate the hull above the water, drastically reduce friction between the boat and the water to maximize speed. In short, hydrofoils act like airplane wings on the bottom of boats [source: Getchall]. They have four appendages that resemble water skis with a rounded top attached to each corner of the boat. When stationary, the hydrofoils remain underwater. But as the boat speeds up, they create lift that eventually raises the hull completely above water, leaving only the lighter aerodynamic foils in the water. The same lift principles discussed earlier with the wind and the sails apply as the water rushes over the curved hydrofoils to create the same effect.

sailboats in water

In addition, specialized iceboats that sail on top of ice can travel up to three times faster than the speed of the wind. A Blade Runner iceboat, for instance, can move as fast as 75 mph [source: Blade Runner Ice Boat Company ]. Like a boat on ice skates with a simple hull and sails, iceboats have very little drag as they glide across frozen bodies of water. Not surprisingly, they're especially popular in colder climates such as New England, Canada and Russia.

As the evolution continues as it has for centuries, sailboats will undoubtedly hold their integral place in human life, whether for utilitarian purposes or pure windblown pleasure.

Lots More Information

Related articles.

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More Great Links

  • National Geographic Sailing Simulator
  • Bernoulli and Newton
  • Boatsafe Kids
  • Boat Safe Kids. (Feb. 12, 2008) http://www.boatsafe.com/kids/033199kidsques.htm
  • Cox, David. "The Sailing Handbook." Stackpole Books. 1999.
  • Getchall, David R. "The Outboard Boater's Handbook: Advanced Seamanship and Practical Skills." McGraw Hill. 1994. (Feb. 12, 2008) http://books.google.com/books?id=YpMTd7-Mb3sC&pg=PA103&lpg=PA103&dq=hydrofoils+how+do+they+work&source=web&ots=wPcwsdSncw&sig=-Pvjyd6fSF7EHNJrZ2ZJmKSrU84#PPA104,M1
  • Glenn Research Center. "Bernoulli and Newton." (Feb. 12, 2008) http://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/K-12/airplane/bernnew.html
  • Hadingham, Evan. "Secrets of Norse Ships." NOVA Online. (Feb. 12, 2008) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/vikings/ships.html
  • Hodanbosi, Carol. "Buoyancy: Archimedes Principle." August 1996. Glenn Research Center.
  • Hyperphysics. "Bernoulli Principle." (Feb. 12, 2008) http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/hframe.html
  • Kelley, Bryan. Personal interview. Conducted Dec. 14, 2007.
  • Lawler, Andrew. "Report of Oldest Boat Hints at Early Trade Routes." Science Magazine. June 7, 2002.
  • MacMillan, Douglas. "The Making of the $30 million sailboat." BusinessWeek Online. Oct. 17, 2006.
  • Naval Historical Center. "Nautical Terms and Phrases…Their Meaning and Origin." May 5, 2005. (Feb. 12, 2008) http://www.history.navy.mil/trivia/trivia03.htm
  • Pickthall, Barry. "The Color Guide to Sailing." London, Castle & Co. 1980.
  • Schryver, Doug. "Sailing School." McDonald/Queen Anne Press.1987.
  • University of Calgary. "European Voyages of Exploration: Asia." (Feb. 12, 2008) http://www.ucalgary.ca/applied_history/tutor/eurvoya/asia.html
  • US Sailing. "Points of Sail." (Feb. 12, 2008) http://www.smallboat.sailingcourse.com/points_of_sail.htm
  • Vawter, Richard. "Floating Diet Coke QT Movie." Western Washington University Physics Department. (Feb. 12, 2008) http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~vawter/PhysicsNet/QTMovies/PressureFluids/FloatingDietCokeMain.html
  • Wolf, Joe. "The Physics of Sailing." University of New South Wales. (Feb. 12, 2008) http://www.physclips.unsw.edu.au/jw/sailing.html
  • World Sailing Speed Record Council. "Nautical Mile Records." (Feb. 12, 2008)http://www.sailspeedrecords.com/

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A Complete Guide to Sailboats: All You Need to Know!

John Sampson

While motorboats are the preferred choice for watersports , they are loud, noisy, and don’t offer you the best experience for a clam boating experience. However, the sailboat provides a serene sailing experience that’s quiet, relaxing, offering you plenty of fun on the water.

Sailboats come in a wide variety of configurations, lengths, and features, giving you passenger capacities from one person to 15-people or more, depending on the size of the model. Learning to sail is a skill all watermen should have in their repertoire; it’s the original form of boating and a highly sought-after skill.

This brief guide to sailboats gives you everything you need to know about choosing the right sailboat for your aquatic adventures.


What is a Sailboat?

A sailboat is a broad term defining many different boats. There are several categories of sailboats with plenty of sail options. The types of sails define your boat, and here are the most popular choices for these watercraft.

  • The modern sloop, featuring a single mast and two sails.
  • The macaroni or Bermuda rig offers tall triangular-shaped sails.
  • A racing sloop for higher speeds and competitive sailing.
  • The masthead sloop, with the jib reaching to the end of the masthead.
  • The fractional sloop rig features a proportionately larger mainsail and smaller jib.
  • The single-sail cat rig.
  • The ketch rig features a smaller mast aft, also known as a mizzenmast.
  • The yawl is similar in design to a ketch rig.
  • The schooner featuring two to four masts positioned further forward in the boat.

While these are the most common sail types, several others are less common with modern sailing techniques. The topsail featuring multi-flying jibs are better suited to long journeys, and many recreational sailors aren’t going to be out on the water for months at a time.

The rule of thumb is that the larger the sail and the more sails you have, the bigger the crew required to operate the boat. However, if you’re looking for a solo rig, there are plenty of smaller options available.

The Laser is an excellent example of a popular single-person sailboat designed for recreational and competitive use. These boats make the ideal starter vessel for someone who’s learning the ropes of sailing.


Different Types of Sailboats

Sailboats rely on the wind to power the vessel through the water. However, there are those days on the lake or ocean where the wind is flat. As a result, most sailboats come with small outboard or trolling motors to power them through the water on windless days.

You have several options for sailboat design, with the most popular options being the following.

The catamaran uses two hulls to power the boat through the water, offering less drag and faster sailing speeds. They are often the choice for professional racing boats, allowing the vessel to cut through rough seas.

These boats also come in luxury models allowing for spending days or weeks out on the water. The most advanced models will also feature hydrofoils that lift the hull out of the water at high speeds, providing more stability, less drag, and higher cruising speeds.

The beach catamaran operates with a sail, while the cruising model relies on an outboard motor for a backup to the sail on calm days.


Cruising Sailboat

The cruising sailboat features a design for covering long distances on the ocean. The cruiser will offer you the benefits of long-term liveaboard conditions, featuring luxury accommodations and amenities like full kitchens, heads, and bedrooms.

As the name implies, the daysailer is suitable for day trips out on the ocean or the lake. These models feature a multi-hull or monohull design, and some come with sleeping accommodations.

Due to the smaller size of these vessels, they are often trailerable, providing easy transport between launch locations. The motorsailer gives you the advantages of the daysailer, with an additional engine for powering the boat on windless days out on the water.

The daysailer will also feature amenities like a kitchen and head, and they often come with sleeping accommodation.

Racing Sailboat

The racing sailboat or yacht offers you a competitive vessel focusing on speed and maneuverability. Many models come with lightweight carbon fiber designs for higher speeds and hull stability when cutting through the water.

Most models also feature hydrofoils that lift the hull from the water, providing stable cruising speeds and fast sailing.

These boats are not suitable for beginners, and they require a competent, experienced team. You get full amenities, but they are more bare-bones, and don’t expect any luxury features because they need to save on weight with the design.

Sailing Dinghy

The sailing dinghy is a small sailboat suitable for one or two people. They are not ideal for open-ocean use as they present a sinking risk in rough water conditions.

However, they are great for learning how to sail, and many models come with a single-person operation for easy sailing. It’s a great boat for building your sailing skills in preparation for a larger model.

Kiteboards and Windsurfers

Kiteboards and windsurfers aren’t technically boats, but they rely on wind power for operation. They are a great choice for a sporty time out on the water and suitable for freshwater and ocean use.


The Fastest Sailing Boats

While they don’t have motors, and can’t reach the same speeds as powerboats, sailing yachts can reach high speeds in favorable wind conditions. If you have the need for speed with your sailing, then try one of the following models for a thrilling experience on the water.

The fastest sailboats include the following models.

  • Specialized high-performance boats (up to 65-knots)
  • Kiteboards and Windsurfers (50-knots)
  • Hydrofoil monohulls (50-knots)
  • Hydrofoil multi-hulls (44-knots)
  • High-performance multi-hull boats (20-knots)
  • Offshore racer monohulls (less than 20-knots)

The hydrofoil technology found in more expensive models lifts the hull from the water as the boat engages its top-end speed. The foil adds a smooth sailing experience that’s unlike any other hull type when engaged.

How Much Does a Sailboat Cost?

Sailboats come in various models, from small single-person models to boats requiring a full crew to operate. The cost of the vessel depends on the design materials (carbon fiber models are the most expensive), the length of the boat, the sail design, accessories and amenities, and the manufacturing brand.

Small to mid-sized boast can cost anything from $10,000 to $80,000, with sports models costing up to $150,000. Luxury models with longer lengths and sports cats can cost you anywhere up to $500,000 or more, depending on the features.


Benefits of Sailboats

The sailboat has plenty of advantages out on the water. Here are some of the top benefits of sailboats.

Quiet Sailing

Sailboats rely on the sail to power the vessel. As a result, you get no motor noise, and you can enjoy the sound of the ocean as you sail along. Some models come with motors to propel the boat if it’s a calm day with low winds.

Live Aboard

Most larger models come with V-berths and living accommodations for spending several days out on the water. The type of accommodations varies from basic in racing models to pure luxury in cruisers. However, the luxury models will add dollars to the price tag, depending on your customizations.

Sailboat Cabin


The smaller models of sailing boats are easy to trailer. The Laser is a good example, with easy trailering suitable for a single person to navigate.

Multiple Sizing Options

Sailboats come in designs and lengths to suit any activity out on the water. Whether you want a boat to cruise the lakes by yourself or tackle the oceans with a crew, there is a model to suit your needs.

Disadvantages of Sailboats

The sailboat offers you a fantastic cruising experience out on the water. However, these boats do come with a few drawbacks.

Smaller Motors

Since the boat relies on the sail to do the work, most models don’t come with large backup motors. You can expect low-power outboards or trolling motors to power the vessel when the wind is low.

Large Models Don’t Suit Trailers

The large sailboats over 30-feet don’t suit trailers. The larger keels and foils on these boats mean that they can’t reach shallow waters. As a result, you need a professional towing service to take the boat from the marina to the shipyard for repairs or alterations.


Not Suitable for Watersports

While some sailboats might be okay for diving, they are not suitable for watersports like skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding.

Expensive Customizations

Some of the high-end luxury models come with so many customizations your head will spin. It’s important to set your budget when looking at sailboats, or you could end up spending more than you expect on the customizations and accessories for these boats.

Sail Repairs

If your sail is up in stormy conditions, you run the risk of tearing the material. Sails can be costly to replace or repair, and it may take weeks to find the right sailor to make the repair, keeping your boat out of the water.

Top Sailboat Brands & Models

There are dozens of sailboat brands and hundreds of models available. We chose the following sailboats as the best option for your first boat.

Bavaria C57

The Bavaria C57 is the company’s flagship model, offering you a sleek, streamlined version of the cruiser-line model.

Bavaria C57

This boat features a design from Maurizio Cossutti. It comes with a smooth hull featuring nanotechnology to help the boat glide through the water effortlessly. The vinyl ester resin construction is durable and lightweight, adding speed to the boat in good wind conditions.

You get twin helms and dual rudders, along with a huge drop-down transom. This model comes with some surprising accessories, including a grill and refrigerator in the boat’s aft for fun on the water.

You have three lounges on the deck, with a large cockpit for the crew and captain.

X-Yachts X4.6

The X-Yachts X4.6 model is a performance cruiser offering you a vacuum-sealed epoxy hull for lightweight strength and durability. The boat comes with the signature galvanized steel grid found on X-Yacht models adding strength and rigidity to the frame for use in rough water conditions.

X-Yachts X4.6

The boat features a self-tacking jib for easy coming about and total control of the vessel in turns. You get twin helms and an open cockpit design for racing or cruising. This model also includes a dedicated locker for a life raft under the cockpit bench on the vessel’s starboard side.

Beneteau Oceanis 30.1

The Beneteau Oceanis 30.1 is easy to sail, with a setup that suits any sailing style. This boat is a classic, offering purists a fantastic option for their sailboat. You get twin rudders with a fixed spirit, a plumb bow for fine entry, and a backstay-free rig accommodating a square-top design for easy sailing.

Beneteau Oceanis 30.1

This model is a great choice for overnight sailing trips, offering you two full-size cabins kitted with luxury finishes. There are saloon benches that double as a berth, and you get an astounding 6’6″ of headroom below deck in the berth.

You also have the choice of a tiller or steering wheel for a truly authentic sailing experience purists will appreciate. You also have options for a swing keel version allowing for easy sailing along rivers and canals without the threat of hitting submerged rocks or logs or running the vessel aground.

This sailboat is the best choice for beginners. You get an easy-to-manage sail configuration that teaches you the basics of sailing and enough space on the boat for two people.

This model is a great choice for an affordable entry-level sailboat with a fiberglass design for lightweight movement and speed and the option of sailing the boat along with its user-friendly rigging system.

Wrapping Up

Whether you’re a purist, modern sailor, or competitor, you’ll find that there’s a sailboat model to suit your needs and sailing style. These boats offer you the most authentic experience when out on the water, and you don’t have to worry about filling up the gas tank to get home.

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John is an experienced journalist and veteran boater. He heads up the content team at BoatingBeast and aims to share his many years experience of the marine world with our readers.

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This collection of capable blue water boats features time-tested sailboats with rich histories.

Bluewaterboats.org built an encyclopedia of offshore sailboats for the sailing community. It contains a thorough summary of the history, details of the design and construction, and sailing characteristics on 99 sailboats.

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Alajuela 33

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Columbia 29

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Contessa 32

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Pacific Seacraft Dana 24

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Hans christian 38 mkii.

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Hans Christian 38 Traditional

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Hans Christian 41 Traditional

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Morris 28 Linda

Nor'sea 27.

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Passport 40

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Pearson Triton

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Southern cross 39.

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Tartan 37 (S&S)

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Vancouver 27

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Pretorien 35

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How Do Sailboats Work? (The Complete Guide)

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Ever wondered how a sailboat moves through the water? If so, you’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll explore the science behind sailboats, from what they are to the parts they use to move.

We’ll uncover the basics of how to angle the sails, the role of the rudder, and safety tips that every sailor should know.

Finally, we’ll dive into the many benefits of sailing, from the joy of exploring the open waters to the feeling of accomplishment when you reach your destination.

So, if you’re ready to discover the wonders of sailboats, let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Short Answer

Sailboats use the power of the wind to propel them forward.

The sails are designed to catch the wind, and as the wind passes through the sails, it creates lift which moves the boat forward.

The sails can be adjusted to different angles to maximize the lift and the direction of the boat.

The rudder is used to steer the boat and the keel helps to keep the boat stable in the water.

What is a Sailboat?

A sailboat is a type of boat that uses sails to propel itself through the water.

The sails are usually made of lightweight, durable fabric, such as nylon or polyester, and are attached to a mast which is mounted on the boat.

The sails are designed to catch the wind, which pushes the boat forward.

The sails can be adjusted and angled in order to capture more or less of the wind, allowing for more efficient movement.

The rudder of the boat is a large fin-like structure located at the back of the boat which is used to steer the boat in the desired direction.

With the right skills and understanding of how sailboats work , anyone can enjoy the thrill of sailing.

How Does a Sailboat Work?

sailboats in water

Sailboats use the power of the wind to move through the water, allowing them to be an efficient and eco-friendly way to explore the open seas.

In order to understand how sailboats work, its important to understand the parts that make up a sailboat and how they interact with the wind.

The most important part of a sailboat is the sail, which is typically made of lightweight and durable fabric.

The sail is held up by a mast attached to the boat, and it is designed to capture the wind and use it to push the boat forward.

The sail is able to capture more wind when it is angled in a certain direction, allowing it to move faster and more efficiently.

In addition to the sail, sailboats also have a rudder that helps steer the boat in a desired direction.

The rudder works in conjunction with the sail to allow for precise maneuvering of the boat in any direction.

The rudder is typically located behind the boat and is made of a solid material like wood or metal.

Another important part of a sailboat is the keel, which is a fin-like structure that is attached to the bottom of the boat.

The keel helps stabilize the boat and keep it upright in the water.

It also helps the boat stay in a straight line when sailing in a straight direction.

Finally, the sailboat must have a rigging system, which is made up of ropes and lines that are used to control the sails.

The rigging system is used to adjust the angle of the sail to capture the most amount of wind and move the boat forward.

With the right knowledge and understanding of how sailboats work, anyone can enjoy the thrill of sailing.

Understanding how to use the sails, the keel, the rudder, and the rigging system together will help you become an expert sailboat captain in no time.

The Parts of the Sailboat

Sailboats are propelled by the force of wind on their sails, and the most important part of the sailboat is the sail itself.

The sails are typically made of lightweight, durable fabric and are held up by a mast attached to the boat.

The angle of the sail is what captures the wind, allowing for more efficient movement.

The rudder of the boat helps steer it in the desired direction, working in conjunction with the sails to allow for precise maneuvering.

In addition to the sail and mast, the sailboat also contains a boom, which helps hold the sail out when the wind is blowing.

The boom is connected to the mast and can be adjusted to control the angle of the sail.

Additionally, the sailboat features a keel, which is a fin-like structure that helps keep the boat stable and upright in the water.

The keel also helps the boat move in a straight line when the wind is blowing.

Lastly, the sailboat features a tiller, which is the handle used to steer the rudder.

These are the key parts of a sailboat that allow it to move through the water.

How to Angle the Sails

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Angling the sails is an essential part of sailing a boat effectively.

By adjusting the angle of the sails in relation to the wind, you can capture more of the winds power to propel the boat forward.

To angle the sails correctly, the sailor must first identify the direction of the wind.

This can be done by feeling the air on their face, or by looking for telltale signs like rippling water or flags flapping in the wind.

Once the wind direction is known, the sailor must adjust the angle of the sails so that they will catch more of the winds power and propel the boat forward.

The most efficient angle for the sails depends on the type of boat and the strength of the wind, but in general, the sails should be angled so they are at a 45-degree angle to the wind.

This allows the sails to catch the most wind and propel the boat forward with the most efficiency.

It is also important to make sure that the sails are not too close to the boat, as this can cause them to lose their shape and be less effective.

In addition to angling the sails correctly, the sailor must also be aware of the wind speed and direction.

As the wind speed and direction change, the sailor must adjust the angle of the sails in order to stay on course and maintain the most efficient angle for catching the wind.

By making small adjustments to the sails angle, the sailor can keep the boat moving in the desired direction and maintain the most efficient speed.

Sailors must also be aware of how their body weight can affect the angle of the sails.

If the sailor leans too far to one side of the boat, the angle of the sails will be affected.

This can result in the boat veering off course or the sails not catching the wind efficiently.

To prevent this, the sailor must be aware of their body weight and be mindful of how it affects the sails.

By understanding and being aware of how to angle the sails correctly, sailors can ensure that they are using the power of the wind to propel their boat forward efficiently.

With practice and experience, anyone can become a skilled sailor and enjoy the thrill of sailing.

The Role of the Rudder

The role of the rudder on a sailboat is essential for steering and maneuvering the boat in the desired direction.

The rudder is typically located at the stern of the boat and is a flat piece of metal or wood that is connected to the hull and runs along the bottom of the boat.

By changing the angle of the rudder relative to the hull, the boat can be steered in the desired direction.

When the rudder is angled to the left, the boat will turn to the left and when the rudder is angled to the right, the boat will turn to the right.

The rudder is also used to keep the boat on a straight course when sailing in strong winds.

By angling the rudder slightly, it helps to create a drag on one side of the boat and a lift on the other side, allowing for greater control and stability in high winds.

In addition to the rudder, sails can also be angled to help turn the boat in the desired direction.

Together, the sails and the rudder work together to help the sailor steer and maneuver the boat in the desired direction.

Safety Tips for Sailing

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Sailing is a popular recreational activity, but it can also be dangerous if not practiced safely.

Before setting sail, it is important to be aware of some key safety tips that will help you enjoy your sailing experience without any hiccups.

First, make sure you have the proper safety equipment onboard.

This includes life jackets, flares, a first-aid kit, and a fire extinguisher.

It is also a good idea to carry a radio or GPS device onboard in case of emergency.

Additionally, make sure that the boat has been inspected and is in good working condition before leaving the dock.

It is also important to check the weather before setting sail.

Make sure you are aware of any storms or other hazardous conditions that may be in the forecast.

Make sure to also check the tide and wind conditions before leaving, as these can greatly affect your course and speed.

It is important to wear the proper clothing when sailing.

Choose clothing that is lightweight, breathable, and waterproof.

Make sure to also bring a hat or visor and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.

Additionally, make sure you have plenty of food and water onboard in case of emergency.

Finally, make sure you have a good understanding of the sailing basics, such as sailing terms, the parts of the boat, and how to properly sail.

Knowing these basics, as well as the local rules and regulations, will help ensure a safe and enjoyable sailing experience.

By following these safety tips, you can ensure that your sailing experience is a safe and enjoyable one.

Be sure to always practice good safety habits and use common sense when out on the water.

With the proper preparation and knowledge, sailing can be a fun and enjoyable experience.

The Benefits of Sailing

Sailing is an activity that can provide countless benefits to those who take part in it.

Not only can it be great fun, but it can also be a great way to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Sailing can also increase physical and mental wellbeing, as it provides an opportunity to be out in nature and enjoy the fresh air.

Additionally, sailing can help improve coordination, balance, and focus, as well as provide a unique way to explore the world.

It can also be a great way to build self-confidence, as mastering the art of sailing requires skill and determination.

Finally, sailing can be a great form of exercise, as it can help improve endurance, strength, and flexibility.

All these benefits make sailing a great activity for anyone looking to enjoy the outdoors and have a memorable experience.

Final Thoughts

Sailboats are a fantastic way to enjoy the outdoors and even take part in competitive sailing events.

With the right knowledge of how sailboats work, anyone can get out on the water and enjoy the thrill of sailing.

From understanding the parts of a sailboat to how the sails and rudder work together, sailing is a skill that can be easily learned.

With all the benefits of sailing, it’s an activity that’s sure to bring plenty of fun and memories.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out on the water and experience the magic of sailing!

James Frami

At the age of 15, he and four other friends from his neighborhood constructed their first boat. He has been sailing for almost 30 years and has a wealth of knowledge that he wants to share with others.

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Best Sailboats For Lakes

Best Sailboats For Lakes | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

December 28, 2023

Lake sailing is a popular recreational activity, and it's easy to get started. But which sailboats are best for freshwater lakes?

The best sailboats for lakes are the Optimist dinghy, the Sunfish racing sailboat, the Herreshoff 12 1/2, the West Wight Potter 15, the West Wight Potter 19, and the Cal 20 sloop.

In this article, we'll review six of the best small sailboats for cruising on lakes. Additionally, we'll go over the qualities to look for when choosing a lake sailboat, along with how to choose the right boat size for your sailing destination.

We sourced the information in this article from boat design and identification guides along with our experience sailing American lakes.

Table of contents

‍ What Makes a Sailboat Good for Lakes?

There are a few things that most lake sailboats have in common. For one, they're trailerable—and thus enable the owner to pull them out of the water and store them in a reasonably small space. They must be light enough to fit on a trailer and also have a centerboard or swing keel and collapsible mast.

Additionally, they must be light and nimble on the water and handle well. Lakes don't have consistent wind like oceans do, so lake sailboats must be able to utilize small amounts of wind but also contend with the occasional gust. In a way, lake sailboats have to be more carefully designed than larger ocean-going boats.

The largest lake sailboats have a small cabin with a berth and a place for a stove and possibly a sink. These small cabin cruisers are ideal for camping, and they're the best type of lake sailboat for large lakes and extended cruising.

Smaller recreational boats have open tops and are easy to sail. Their small size makes them relatively safe and also easy for beginners to handle. Many of them are filled with positive flotation foam, which makes them virtually unsinkable. These are the best kinds of open-top boats for lakes.

There's a difference between a practical lake sailboat and a fine lake sailboat. Classic sailboats are considered fine lake sailboats in the sense that they're valuable and fun for experienced sailors. These vessels are less suitable for beginners and recreational sailors, as they require skill to operate and maintain.

The best kind of lake sailboat for most people is a medium-sized lightweight fiberglass sailboat. These boats have been produced by various manufacturers in many configurations, and tens of thousands still exist on lakes and rivers around the country.

Do Lake Sailboats Have to Be Small?

Not necessarily—it all depends on the size of the lake and the intentions of the sailor. Full-size ocean-going sailboats can be found on some of the nation's bigger lakes, such as Lake Michigan and even Lake Cumberland.

But in most cases, the size of lake sailboats is limited to about 22 to 25 feet. A boat in this size range can sail anywhere that ski boats and pontoon boats can operate.

Best Sailboats for Small Lakes

Small lakes have the least flexibility when it comes to sailboat selection, and for obvious reasons. Thankfully, there are tons of great small sailboats that work well on small lakes. Plus, these sailboats can be carried by a couple of people and stored in a garage. Here are two of the best sailboats when navigational space is limited.

1. Optimist "Opti" Dinghy Sailboat

The Optimist is one of the most popular youth and instruction sailboats ever built. It's small, lightweight, and (almost) impossible to capsize under normal circumstances. The boat itself is basically a fiberglass (or wooden) box with a slanted bow and a centerboard.

The Optimist dinghy measures 7 feet 9 inches long and 3 feet 8 inches wide. It weighs just 77 pounds dry and has a 7-foot aluminum mast. It utilizes a spirit rig, which is a simple two-spar system that reduces the height of the mast.

The centerboard, mast, and tiller come off with little effort, and the vessel is essentially unsinkable. This makes it perfect for kids and teenagers who don't know how to sail or for smaller adults who just want a cheap little sailboat to cruise around the lake.

Optimist dinghies are remarkably easy to sail and offer a great platform for learning the basics of tacking, windward sailing, and sailboat recovery. They're available widely on the used market, as over 150,000 have been produced over the years. Plus, it's a popular racing boat, and hundreds of them show up for regattas around the world.

2. Sunfish Sailboat

The Sunfish is the ideal upgrade from an Optimist, and it's much more suitable for adults. Sunfish sailboats are designed for racing, and they're significantly larger than sailing dinghies. They require more skill to operate, but they're a ton of fun on the water and easy to master.

The Sunfish is designed for a crew of one or two adults, though it can be easily operated by just one. The hull is 13 feet 9 inches long and 4 feet 1 inch wide, and it weighs 120 pounds dry. In other words, two adults can easily lift this boat in and out of the water, and it's small enough to navigate small lakes.

The Sunfish has a lateen sail, which is an ancient design that's easy to rig and reduces mast height. For its size, the Sunfish has a very large sail area. This makes it efficient in light winds but also quite squirrelly in gusts. However, careful attention can prevent capsizing—and capsizing the Sunfish isn't actually a big deal. Simply stand on the centerboard, grab the boat and lean back to right the vessel.

Sunfish are common on the used market, as thousands have been produced since 1943. You can still buy a new one from Laser Performance for under $5,000, and used Sunfish are available for much less.

Best Sailboats for Medium-Sized and Large Lakes

People who want to sail on large lakes have a ton of flexibility in the kind of boat they use. Some people sail small sailboats, like the Sunfish or the Optimist, near shore in large lakes. However, large lakes can also accommodate much bigger boats with better accommodations, up to and including full-size cabins. Here are the best sailboats for large lakes.

1. Herreshoff 12 1/2


The Herreshoff 12 1/2 is a beautiful classic boat with incredible handling capabilities and excellent efficiency. The Herreshoff 12 1/2 is essentially a pocket ship, as the hull is designed in the same way that classic full-size ocean-going sailboats were.

The Herreshoff 12 1/2 features a full-length displacement keel and a spacious cockpit, as there's no centerboard trunk in the way. It's also remarkably stable and suitable for use in dodgy weather. This vessel is open-cockpit and doesn't include a cabin, though some people use a boom tent to go camping aboard.

Despite being similar in length to the Sunfish, this vessel is not even in the same class. It's a full gaff rig and includes a headsail and traditional rigging. More experience is required to operate one of these sailboats, as it's a scaled-down version of a full-size cruising boat.

However, once you learn to operate the pulleys, you'll find that sailing a Herreschoff 12 1/2 is a joy in almost all wind conditions. It's small enough to use on medium-sized lakes and to tow on a trailer, and it's stable enough for comfortable and safe sailing for the entire family. Four adults can sit aboard, and it can be piloted by just one.

If you're looking for a beautiful and classic lake sailboat with ocean-going seaworthiness, it's tough to go wrong with a Herreschoff 12 1/2. These vessels are available on the used market starting around $5,000 to $10,000, and most of them can be found in New England.

2. West Wight Potter 15


The West Wight Potter 15 is a fiberglass trailerable sailboat that was designed to be safe, fun, and easy to transport. These vessels are designed for stability, and they're unsinkable thanks to positive floatation foam. Additionally, the West Wight Potter 15 is one of the smallest sailboats you can buy with a cabin.

This 15-foot boat uses a Bermuda rig, similar to what you'll find on the vast majority of large recreational sailboats. The mast and standing rigging was designed to be extremely easy to deploy and stow, making it a great weekender for low-stress operation.

Additionally, the West Wight Potter 15 has a very shallow draft and a centerboard, making it suitable for beaching at the lake. West Wight Potter sailboats have very few unnecessary metal parts, and thus they're extremely light. Most standard full-size cars and trucks can tow this vessel without trouble.

The West Wight Potter 15 was produced until recently, and there are hundreds on the used market that you can purchase. Prices fluctuate widely, but a West Wight Potter 15 in usable condition can be found for $3,500 to $15,000.

3. West Wight Potter 19


If you're looking for a larger centerboard cruiser with better accommodations, then the West Wight Potter 19 is an excellent choice. This vessel follows the basic design principles of the West Wight Potter 15, but the cabin is much more spacious. Additionally, the rigging sets up and disassembles just as easily.

The West Wight Potter 19 is an extremely comfortable and safe boat, and it's a wonderful little pocket cruiser for extended lake trips. Additionally, the cabin is spacious enough for two adults to sleep comfortably, and there's room for a stove, a sink, and a portable head.

The West Wight Potter 19 is trailerable and lightweight. It has a centerboard, which allows the owner to reduce its draft from several feet down to just a few inches. A vessel like this can last for years in freshwater, and they're popular for saltwater cruising as well.

The West Wight Potter 19 is also quite affordable. Due to its popularity, you can find one in excellent condition for between $5,000 and $12,000 in many areas. These boats are also remarkably seaworthy, as one individual sailed his from San Francisco to Hawaii—over 2,000 nautical miles of open ocean. In other words, you'll be safe and comfortable on the lake.


The Cal 20 is a classic sailboat that has been around for decades, and it's one of the most popular 'big' boats on America's freshwater lakes. It's a cruising sloop that measures about 20 feet in length and features a cabin with a unique flush deck.

The Cal 20 is much more typical of large coastal and ocean-going sailboats, and it's operated in exactly the same way. It has a tall Bermuda rig with traditional controls, so it's a great platform to practice sailing full-sized boats.

The Cal 20 features a small cabin with basic amenities, such as a sink, a place for a camp stove, a portable toilet, and a V-berth. Additionally, it's exceptionally water-tight for a boat of its kind, so it can be left in the berth year-round without serious problems.

Cal 20 sailboats are extremely robust. There's no flimsy material anywhere aboard, as they're designed for saltwater cruising and racing. They have a large sail plan which makes it easy to sail in light winds, and they're stable enough to make handling easy in the occasional gust.

The Cal 20 can be found in abundance on the used market, with prices as low as $2,000 for a functional and leak-free boat. The best places to look for Cal 20 sailboats are on the West Coast, but they can be found inland as well.

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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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17 Sailboat Types Explained: How To Recognize Them

Ever wondered what type of sailboat you're looking at? Identifying sailboats isn't hard, you just have to know what to look for. In this article, I'll help you.

Every time I'm around a large number of sailboats, I look around in awe (especially with the bigger ones). I recognize some, but with most of them, I'll have to ask the owner. When they answer, I try to hide my ignorance. The words don't make any sense!

So here's a complete list with pictures of the most common sailboat types today. For each of them, I'll explain exactly where the name comes from, and how you can recognize it easily.

Gaff rigged white schooner

So here's my list of popular sailboat types, explained:

Bermuda sloop, sailing hydrofoil, dutch barge, chinese junk, square-rigged tall ship, in conclusion, how to recognize any sailboat.

Before we get started, I wanted to quickly explain what you should look for when you try to identify a sailboat.

The type of sailboat is always determined by one of these four things:

  • The type of hull
  • The type of keel
  • The number of masts
  • And the type of sails and rig

The hull is the boat's body. There are basically three hull types: monohull, catamaran, and trimaran. Simply said: do I see one hull, two hulls (catamaran) or three hulls (trimaran)? Most sailboats are monohulls.

Next, there is the keel type. The keel is the underwater part of the hull. Mostly, you won't be able to see that, because it's underwater. So we'll leave that for now.

The sail plan

The last factor is the number of masts and the sail plan. The sail plan, simply put, is the number of sails, the type of sails, and how the sails are mounted to the masts (also called rigging ).

Sailboat are mostly named after the sail plan, but occasionally, a sail type is thrown in there as well.

So now we know what to pay attention to, let's go and check out some sailboats!

Row of sailing dinghies in golden hour at the dock

Dinghies are the smallest and most simple sailboats around.

They are your typical training sailboats. Small boats with an open hull, with just one mast and one sail. Perfect for learning the ways of the wind.

On average, they are between 6 and 20 ft long. Mostly sailed single-handed (solo). There's no special rigging, just the mainsail. The mainsail is commonly a Bermuda (triangular) mainsail. Dinghies have a simple rudder stick and no special equipment or rigging.

Dinghies are great for learning how to sail. The smaller the boat, the better you feel the impact of your trim and actions.

How to recognize a sailing dinghy:

  • short (8ft)
  • one Bermuda sail
  • open hull design
  • rudder stick

Common places to spot them: lakes, near docks

Three Bermuda Sloops in bright blue water

If you'd ask a kid to draw a sailboat, she'll most probably draw this one. The Bermuda Sloop is the most popular and most common sailboat type today. You'll definitely recognize this one.

How to recognize a Bermuda Sloop:

  • triangular mainsail (called a Bermuda sail)
  • a foresail (also called the jib)
  • fore-and-aft rigged
  • medium-sized (12 - 50 ft)

Fore-and-aft rigged just means "from front to back". This type of rigging helps to sail upwind.

Any sailboat with one mast and two sails could still be a sloop. Even if the sails are another shape or rigged in another way. For example, here's a gaff-rigged sloop (more on the gaff rig later):

Gaff Rigged Sloop in white in front of coastline with flat

If you want to learn all about sail rigs, check out my full Guide to Understanding Sail Rig Types here. It has good infographics and explains it in more detail

The Bermuda sloop has a lot of advantages over other sailboat types (which is why it's so popular):

  • the Bermuda rig is very maneuverable and pretty fast in almost all conditions
  • it's really versatile
  • you can sail it by yourself without any problems
  • it's a simple setup

Common places to spot a sloop: everywhere. Smaller sloops are more common for inland waters, rivers, and lakes. Medium-sized and large sloops are very popular cruising boats.

Cutter motorsailor against sun in black and white

Cutters have one mast but three or more sails. Most cutters are Bermuda rigged, which means they look a lot like sloops.

How to recognize a cutter:

  • looks like a sloop
  • two or more headsails instead of one
  • commonly one mast
  • sometimes an extra mast with mainsail

Cutters have more sail area, which makes them faster, but also harder to sail single-handed. There's also more strain on the mast and rigging.

Common places to spot a cutter: everywhere. Cutters are very popular for cruising.

They mostly have a Bermuda rig, which means triangular sails. But there are also gaff cutters and naval cutters, and some have two masts.

Here's an example of a two-masted naval cutter with an extra gaff mainsail and top gaff:

Dutch naval cutter with top gaff sail

The Hydrofoil is a pretty new sailboat design. It's a racing sailboat with thin wing foils under the hull. These lift up the hull, out of the water, reducing the displacement to nearly zero. The foils create downforce and keep it from lifting off entirely.

This makes the hydrofoil extremely fast and also impressive.

The hydrofoil refers to the keel type. There are both monohull and multihull hydrofoils.

How to recognize a hydrofoil:

  • it flies above the waterline and has small fins

Common places to spot a hydrofoil: at racing events

Cruising catamaran at dock in blue waters

Famous catamaran: La Vagabonde from Sailing La Vagabonde

A catamaran is a type of cruising and racing multihull sailboat with two hulls. The hulls are always the same size.

Most catamarans have a standard Bermuda rig. The catamaran refers to the hull, so it can have any number of masts, sails, sail types and rig type.

How to recognize a catamaran:

  • any boat with two hulls is called a catamaran

Common places to spot catamarans: coastal waters, The Caribbean, shallow reefs

The advantages of a catamaran: Catamarans heel less than monohulls and are more buoyant. Because of the double hull, they don't need as deep a keel to be stable. They have a smaller displacement, making them faster. They also have a very shallow draft. That's why catamarans are so popular in the Caribbean, where there's lots of shallow water.

Catamarans are nearly impossible to capsize:

"Compared with a monohull, a cruising catamaran sailboat has a high initial resistance to heeling and capsize—a fifty-footer requires four times the force to initiate a capsize than an equivalent monohull." Source: Wikipedia

Trimaran in green-blue waves

How to recognize a trimaran:

  • any boat with three hulls is called a trimaran

Trimarans have three hulls, so it's a multi-hull design. It's mostly a regular monohull with two smaller hulls or floaters on the sides. Some trimarans can be trailered by winching in the auxiliary hulls, like this:

Extended trimaran hull

This makes them very suitable for long-term cruising, but also for regular docking. This is great for crowded areas and small berths, like in the Mediterranean. It sure is more cost-effective than the catamaran (but you also don't have the extra storage and living space!).

Common places to spot Trimarans: mostly popular for long-term cruising, you'll find the trimaran in coastal areas.

Gaff rigged white schooner

Gaffer refers to gaff-rigged, which is the way the sails are rigged. A gaff rig is a rectangular sail with a top pole, or 'spar', which attaches it to the mast. This pole is called the 'gaff'. To hoist the mainsail, you hoist this top spar with a separate halyard. Most gaffers carry additional gaff topsails as well.

Gaff rigs are a bit less versatile than sloops. Because of the gaff, they can have a larger sail area. So they will perform better with downwind points of sail. Upwind, however, they handle less well.

How to recognize a gaffer:

  • sail is rectangular
  • mainsail has a top pole (or spar)

Since a gaffer refers to the rig type, and not the mast configuration or keel type, all sailboats with this kind of rigging can be called 'gaffers'.

Common places to spot a gaffer: Gaffers are popular inland sailboats. It's a more traditional rig, being used recreationally.

White schooner with two headsails

Schooners used to be extremely popular before sloops took over. Schooners are easy to sail but slower than sloops. They handle better than sloops in all comfortable (cruising) points of sail, except for upwind.

How to recognize a schooner:

  • mostly two masts
  • smaller mast in front
  • taller mast in the back
  • fore-and-aft rigged sails
  • gaff-rigged mainsails (spar on top of the sail)

Common places to spot a schooner: coastal marinas, bays

Ketch with maroon sails

How to recognize a ketch:

  • medium-sized (30 ft and up)
  • smaller mast in back
  • taller mast in front
  • both masts have a mainsail

The ketch refers to the sail plan (mast configuration and type of rig). Ketches actually handle really well. The back mast (mizzenmast) powers the hull, giving the skipper more control. Because of the extra mainsail, the ketch has shorter masts. This means less stress on masts and rigging, and less heel.

Common places to spot a ketch: larger marinas, coastal regions

White yawl with two masts and blue spinnaker

How to recognize a yawl:

  • main mast in front
  • much smaller mast in the back
  • back mast doesn't carry a mainsail

The aft mast is called a mizzenmast. Most ketches are gaff-rigged, so they have a spar at the top of the sail. They sometimes carry gaff topsails. They are harder to sail than sloops.

The yawl refers to the sail plan (mast configuration and type of rig).

Common places to spot a yawl: they are not as popular as sloops, and most yawls are vintage sailboat models. You'll find most being used as daysailers on lakes and in bays.

Clipper with leeboards

Dutch Barges are very traditional cargo ships for inland waters. My hometown is literally littered with a very well-known type of barge, the Skutsje. This is a Frisian design with leeboards.

Skutsjes don't have a keel but use leeboards for stability instead, which are the 'swords' or boards on the side of the hull.

How to recognize a Dutch Barge:

  • most barges have one or two masts
  • large, wooden masts
  • leeboards (wooden wings on the side of the hull)
  • mostly gaff-rigged sails (pole on top of the sail, attached to mast)
  • a ducktail transom

sailboats in water

The clipper is one of the latest sailboat designs before steam-powered vessels took over. The cutter has a large cargo area for transporting cargo. But they also needed to be fast to compete with steam vessels. It's a large, yet surprisingly fast sailboat model, and is known for its good handling.

This made them good for trade, especially transporting valuable goods like tea or spices.

How to recognize a Clipper:

  • mostly three masts
  • square-rigged sails
  • narrow but long, steel hull

Common places to spot a clipper: inland waters, used as houseboats, but coastal waters as well. There are a lot of clippers on the Frisian Lakes and Waddenzee in The Netherlands (where I live).

Chinese Junk sailboat with red sails

This particular junk is Satu, from the Chesapeake Bay Area.

The Chinese Junk is an ancient type of sailboat. Junks were used to sail to Indonesia and India from the start of the Middle Ages onward (500 AD). The word junk supposedly comes from the Chinese word 'jung', meaning 'floating house'.

How to recognize a Chinese junk:

  • medium-sized (30 - 50 ft)
  • large, flat sails with full-length battens
  • stern (back of the hull) opens up in a high deck
  • mostly two masts (sometimes one)
  • with two mainsails, sails are traditionally maroon
  • lug-rigged sails

The junk has a large sail area. The full-length battens make sure the sails stay flat. It's one of the flattest sails around, which makes it good for downwind courses. This also comes at a cost: the junk doesn't sail as well upwind.

White cat boat with single gaff-rigged sail

The cat rig is a sail plan with most commonly just one mast and one sail, the mainsail.

Most sailing dinghies are cats, but there are also larger boats with this type of sail plan. The picture above is a great example.

How to recognize a cat rig:

  • smaller boats
  • mostly one mast
  • one sail per mast
  • no standing rigging

Cat-rigged refers to the rigging, not the mast configuration or sail type. So you can have cats with a Bermuda sail (called a Bermuda Cat) or gaff-rigged sail (called a Gaff Cat), and so on. There are also Cat Ketches and Cat Schooners, for example. These have two masts.

The important thing to know is: cats have one sail per mast and no standing rigging .

Most typical place to spot Cats: lakes and inland waters

Brig under sail with woodlands

Famous brig: HMS Beagle (Charles Darwin's ship)

A brig was a very popular type of small warship of the U.S. navy during the 19th century. They were used in the American Revolution and other wars with the United Kingdom. They carry 10-18 guns and are relatively fast and maneuverable. They required less crew than a square-rigged ship.

How to recognize a brig:

  • square-rigged foremast
  • mainmast square-rigged or square-rigged and gaff-rigged

sailboats in water

How to recognize a tall ship:

  • three or four masts
  • square sails with a pole across the top
  • multiple square sails on each mast
  • a lot of lines and rigging

Square-rigged ships, or tall ships, are what we think of when we think of pirate ships. Now, most pirate ships weren't actually tall ships, but they come from around the same period. They used to be built from wood, but more modern tall ships are nearly always steel.

Tall ships have three or four masts and square sails which are square-rigged. That means they are attached to the masts with yards.

We have the tall ship races every four years, where dozens of tall ships meet and race just offshore.

Most common place to spot Tall Ships: Museums, special events, open ocean

Trabaccolo with large yellow sails

This is a bonus type since it is not very common anymore. As far as I know, there's only one left.

The Trabaccolo is a small cargo ship used in the Adriatic Sea. It has lug sails. A lug rig is a rectangular sail, but on a long pole or yard that runs fore-and-aft. It was a popular Venetian sailboat used for trade.

The name comes from the Italian word trabacca , which means tent, referring to the sails.

How to recognize a Trabaccolo:

  • wide and short hull
  • sails look like a tent

Most common place to spot Trabaccolo's: the Marine Museum of Cesenatico has a fully restored Trabaccolo.

So, there you have it. Now you know what to look for, and how to recognize the most common sailboat types easily. Next time you encounter a magnificent sailboat, you'll know what it's called - or where to find out quickly.

Pinterest image for 17 Sailboat Types Explained: How To Recognize Them

I loved this article. I had no idea there were so many kinds of sailboats.

i have a large sailing boat about 28ft. that im having a difficult time identifying. it was my fathers & unfortunately hes passed away now. any helpful information would be appreciated.

Jorge Eusali Castro Archbold

I find a saleboat boat but i can find the módem…os registré out off bru’x, and the saleboat name is TADCOZ, can you tell me who to go about this matter in getting info.thank con voz your time…

Leave a comment

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Grunion Sports | On the Water: Here’s how to get to and from…

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Grunion sports, grunion sports | on the water: here’s how to get to and from the grand prix concourse via the water, getting around downtown during the grand prix of long beach can be a pain. but not if you travel by boat.

sailboats in water

Navigating downtown in a car will be a challenge this weekend because of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Long Beach Transit, in fact, is telling race fans, “Don’t start your engines” – and instead take public transportation.

And that includes via the water.

If you plan on attending the three-day Grand Prix, think about starting and finishing your days at Alamitos Bay Landing.

There is free public parking in the Alamitos Bay Marina parking lots (avoid red-curbed spots for boat owners) and take AquaLink, which is operated by Long Beach Transit. The AquaLink boats will run about every 40 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. all three days, and the one-way trip takes about 25 minutes. The fare is $5 in each direction.

The express route goes from Alamitos Bay Landing to the Aquarium of the Pacific dock (near the waterside entry gate for the Grand Prix) and back. AquaLink boarding begins 15 minutes prior to departure times. Plan to arrive at least 20 minutes before your planned departure time. Boarding is on a first come, first board basis and boats often meet full capacity.

Food and beverages are available for purchase on the AquaLink. The captain navigates the 75-foot catamaran and a deckhand doubles as the bartender on board. The bloody Marys available for purchase are the same recipe used on the Catalina Express boats.

The smaller 35-foot Aquabus Water Taxi, also run by Long Beach Transit, will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 19-21, exclusively in Queensway Bay. Service is available from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.  between the Queen Mary and Dock 4 by the Aquarium of the Pacific. AquaBus boarding begins 10 minutes prior to departure times. The last boat is in high demand-so have an alternate plan if the boat is full.  The fare is $1 and good for one crossing over the bay.

For more information, go to l btransit.com/grandprix .

Weekend docking for recreational boaters is available from the Long Beach Marine Bureau. Rainbow Harbor slips next to the racecourse are $6 per foot per day with a three-day minimum, according to Marine Bureau Manager Todd Leland.

That pencils out to a mere $900 for a 50-foot boat to be docked all Grand Prix weekend directly adjacent to the track.

Shoreline Marina has the same offer at half the price, $3 per foot. Water traffic to Rainbow and Shoreline marinas is limited to those who have assigned slips.

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Cadaver dog located man's body 16 feet under Harris Lake hours after boat crash

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WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- One person is dead and another was rescued at Harris Lake in Wake County.

According to the sheriff's office a boat collided with a concrete pylon at around 2 a.m. The two people on the boat were supposedly night fishing when the crash happened.

Christina Petrone told ABC11 she was the person who called 911. She said she heard gunshots and someone yelling for help.

Around 60 first responders rushed to Harris Lake. At around 7 a.m., they found a man near the boat and injured. He was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive.

The search continued for the other man who was thrown from the boat in the crash.

First responders used air drones, underwater drones, mapping systems and Fiji -- one of only five police dogs in North Carolina trained to detect human remains under water.

At around 12:30 p.m., Fiji located the other man's body 16 feet under the lake.

"So put her nose down close to the water. And what she's looking for are bubbles coming up from unfortunately the drowning victim. And when those come up, the dog can smell that," Deputy Jack Thorpe with the Nash County Sheriff's Office said.

The identities of the two men have not been released.

The North Carolina Wildlife Commission is investigating what led up to the crash.

Harris Lake is located in the western part of Wake County on the Shearon Harris Reservoir.

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Video: “Go Buy a Boat!” How Close Can You Fish to Someone Else Without Being a Jerk?

By Joe Cermele

Posted on Apr 20, 2024 10:40 AM EDT

5 minute read

Screen shots from @stripedbasshunt's Instagram video.

How badly do you need to catch a fish? Naturally we all want to connect when we get on the water, but have you ever asked yourself how much catching a fish really means to you? Are you willing to ruin someone’s day to get it done? Are you willing to be jerk to catch a striped bass? Are you willing to sabotage somebody else’s bite to get your own fix? 

If we were all relying on catching fish to avoid starving in winter, maybe a bit of ruthlessness could be justified, but we’re not. The anglers in the viral video here (shared by @stripedbasshunt ) aren’t starving to death either, yet they needed to catch a striped bass so badly they were willing to get close enough to the angler on the jetty that it stopped him from catching any more fish. The boat angler’s repetitive refrain of “worry about yourself” is another way of saying “I know I’m being a real ass here, but I can’t think of anything better to say to justify my actions.” 

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Finn Hawley (@stripedbasshunt)

Sadly, where I live in New Jersey, this kind of behavior is all too common in saltwater when the striped bass are running. It didn’t shock me as much as many other people, but it does provide some fodder to dive into some fishy etiquette. After all, how close is too close?

Shore Anglers vs. Boat Anglers

As far as I’m concerned, anglers on foot always have the right of way. That said, the video that spring boarded this story perfectly captures what are, in my opinion, the lowest level of boating anglers. What cannot be argued by anyone is that an angler with a boat, kayak, or SUP has a huge advantage over an angler fishing on foot. Vessels allow you to travel farther, faster, and reach areas where shore anglers simply cannot go. You can cover tons more water in a single trip. In the time it might have taken the kid on the rocks to walk a few hundred yards down the beach to find more fish, the anglers on the boat could have covered miles of water looking for action. In the striper surf game especially, anglers can’t move around as efficiently, often putting in time, effort, and leaning on luck to get themselves where a cast from the beach lands in range of feeding fish. Mugging an angler like this when you have a few hundred horsepower on your sled and gobs of electronics is downright embarrassing. 

Though it’s more personal for me than a hard rule, I try to stay far out of surfcasting range when running a boat. But in any fishing scenario, if a bank angler can easily hit your boat with a cast, you are way, way too close. The worst infraction I ever witnessed was off Montauk, New York, years ago when stripers were blitzing right in the back of the waves. The surfcasters were having a field day, and all the boats kept their distance—except for one. One guy just had to get in closer than the rest, and he almost got in major trouble for the stunt. Caught in the waves, he nearly beached the boat, and even though he managed to escape, he ruined the bite for every angler on the beach—all of which had walked long, steep cliff trails to get there. 

Even in scenarios where I am fishing tight to the bank, if I see foot anglers approaching, I’ll back off. I don’t believe the “first come, first serve” rule applies in these cases, because again, I can quickly pivot to another area. 

Read Next: Best Striped Bass Lures

Trout Stream Etiquette

Etiquette is more hotly debated among trout fishermen than any other group. The terms “low hole” and “high hole” are part of common vernacular whether you’re dealing with fishermen on foot or rowing drift boats. What they mean is that you’re trying to work a hole or run, and another angler slides in at the top or bottom of the same hole. In some cases, like the combat steelhead fisheries across the Great Lakes, you’d better get used to this, because there are so many anglers on the rivers at times, everyone is just jockeying for enough room to make a drift. But on other trout streams, the unwritten rules are different. 

It’s (supposed to be) understood that the angler who got to a hole or run first earned the right to fish the entire zone top to bottom. If you were gunning for that spot, sorry, move on. Go upstream or downstream, but, if possible, get out of eyeshot of the other angler. Similarly, if you see an angler sitting streamside at a pool, the spot is not fair game because he or she isn’t in the water casting. It’s not uncommon for trout fishermen to stake out a spot waiting for an insect hatch and rising trout. Can this be frustrating on more popular and crowded rivers? Of course, it can, but barging in can make what’s supposed to be a tranquil day outside stressful and awkward. 

Trolling Etiquette

I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of trolling for anything, but sometimes you have no choice. As an example, if I’m spending the gas money to get offshore to the tuna grounds and they won’t hit jigs or poppers, yeah, I’ll troll because it took a lot of effort to get there, and I want that meat in the box. Offshore fishing is one arena where you wind up with a bunch of boats trolling a small area. Walleye fishing would be another. But if everyone isn’t playing by the same rules, this can get ugly fast. 

Trolling—despite what too many anglers think—doesn’t make you special or give you the right of way to do what you want. A prime example is during striper season when five boats are casting to a school of boiling fish and a guy on the troll decides to pull his lines right through the blitz, instantly putting the fish down. For the life of me, I can’t understand this move. Not only are you ruining the fun for everyone else, but you’re only going to catch one or two while ruining the fun instead of getting off the troll, casting, and catching a bunch like everyone else. 

When multiple boats are trolling the same area, obviously giving each other room is wise, but if you must troll fairly tight together, take the time to note any patterns. Are the bulk of the boats trolling one direction and turning around at the same point for another pass? Never be the guy going against the grain in close quarters and do everything you can to get out of the way of a boat that’s hooked up to avoid tangles and even more ire and headache. 

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Boat capsizes in Kashmir, killing at least four; children among 15 missing

The boat capsizes in Jhelum River near Srinagar, with most of the passengers being children on their way to school.

india kashmir boat

A boat carrying a group of people has capsized in a river in Indian-administered Kashmir, drowning four of them, news agency Press Trust of India reports.

The boat capsized in the Jhelum River near Srinagar, the region’s main city, on Monday.

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Most of the passengers were children on their way to school, and rescuers were searching for the missing.

India Kashmir Boat

“Around 15 people, several children among them, are missing after the accident,” a local official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Heavy rains fell over the Himalayan region in the past few days, leading to higher water levels in the river.

India Kashmir Boat

Witnesses said a rope used to guide the boat across had snapped due to the force of the fast-flowing water.

“Our rescue teams are there. We are ascertaining details of the incident,” Srinagar District Magistrate Bilal Mohi-ud-Din Bhat told AFP.

Many office workers and schoolchildren take the river route in the morning to avoid road traffic.

India Kashmir Boat

Accidents are common on the treacherous roads of the mountainous region but passenger boat disasters are rare. Many vessels, however, are overcrowded and have inadequate safety equipment.

Last year, 22 people drowned when a double-decker boat carrying more than 30 passengers capsized near a beach in Kerala state in southern India.

In May 2018, 30 people died when their boat capsized on the swollen Godavari River in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Protecting the water: Area kids build fishing line recycling bins

MONROE COUNTY — Used fishing line creates a lot of waste that often ends up in the water and parking lots.

The Monroe Boat Club Association hopes to reduce the waste through its new fishing line recycling effort, which it believes is the first project of its kind in southeast Michigan.

Last Friday, MBC-A, the nonprofit arm of the Monroe Boat Club, hosted a fishing line recycling bin assembly party. Area teens built 15 fishing line recycling bins. Each receptacle can hold three gallons of line.

Three of the bins have already been installed at Michigan Department of Natural Resources sites that were chosen by Officer Chad Cook with Sterling State Park and the DNR.

“They are installed at the Hoffman Fishing Site in Bolles Harbor and are ready to collect used monofilament fishing line right now," said David Ryan, president of the Monroe Boat Club Association. "The units for the Sterling State Park and Bolles Harbor boat ramps will be installed and ready to use as soon as we can get them put up, within the next week or two. These will be a convenient way to collect the line and keep it out of the waterways."

Fishing line recycling is a new national trend.

“These bins have become popular across the country," Ryan said. "We believe our bins will be the first ones to be deployed in southeast Michigan. That was why the Michigan DNR was interested in these."

The MBC-A's bin design was inspired by similar containers made through the Partners for Clean Streams, an environmental nonprofit group in Maumee, Ohio, Ryan said. That organization's bins were installed along the Maumee River, from Grand Rapids to Point Place.

In Monroe, six area middle and high school students built the bins last week, under the direction of Tara Goldsmith, MBC Auxiliary president.

“They had a great assembly line set up, and it took about an hour,” Goldsmith said.

Most of the builders were children and grandchildren of boat club members, Ryan said.

“These kids are always great about stepping up and helping out with anything that’s asked of them. They’ve grown up in the boat club together. They’re great kids and also great friends, so they enjoy any opportunity to hang out,” Goldsmith said.

The MBC-A bought and prepared the materials.

“We purchased the PVC parts and 10-foot lengths of the pipe, and we had everything pre-cut and ready for the kids' assembly. The bins are made from a 24-inch long by 6-inch tube, a 90-degree elbow and a fitting with a screw-on plug at the bottom to empty the bins,” Ryan said. “We had the kids fit and assemble them with PVC glue and attach informational labels to each finished unit.”

Officers and staff from the Michigan DNR and Monroe Boat Club volunteers will empty the bins. The used line will be sent to the Berkley Fishing Company of Spirit Lake, Iowa in pre-paid shipping containers provided by Berkley. 

“I believe that Berkley Co. will put the recycled content into new line and lures,” Ryan said.

Fishing season has already begun in Monroe County, Ryan said.

Previous Coverage: Monroe-area boat clubs to arrange for recycling of boat shrink wrap

“Fishing season in our area began in March for those willing to face the colder weather, and its's in full swing right now with excellent perch, rainbow trout and walleye being caught every day,” Ryan said.

Fishing line recycling isn’t the MBC-A's first environmental project. Several years ago the club began recycling plastic boat wrap, a program that today involves other area marinas. The organization also is looking into other recycling efforts.

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“We do continue the boat stretch wrap recycling program, and this year all boats stored at Monroe Boat Club are required to recycle the plastic; no more throwing any away," Ryan said. "The boat owners have been very supportive of the program and wanted to eliminate the large dumpster with the plastic going to the landfill. Mr. Terry Gerin, owner of Big Daddy's Marina in Bolles Harbor, also has every boat from his marina using the boat plastic recycle system, and Trout’s Yacht Basin and Harbor Marine also participate."

Next up could be glass recycling.

“MBC is looking to implement recycling of glass products that are generated from the club's food and beverage services in the near future," Ryan said. "Tara Goldsmith is looking into the glass recycling project."

— Contact reporter Suzanne Nolan Wisler at [email protected] .


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