sailboat with two or more masts

7 Popular Sailboats with Two Masts (With Pictures & Prices)

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Sailboats can come with one, two, or even more masts. You can also have different-sized masts placed on the front, back, or middle of your vessel.

Below, I have listed popular sailboats that have two masts.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Check also: Average sailboat price examples .

Things to Know About Sailboats With Two Masts

When looking for sailboats with two masts, you should know what you are looking for. A Ketch is one type of sailboat with two masts.

Knowing this term can help you to nail down your search when looking for a boat with two masts.

These boats come in many shapes and sizes as well as many different types of designs. Generally, these types of boats have the taller mast being forward and the smaller mast near the aft.

Yawls are also boats that feature two masts.

These also come in multiple types and designs. The difference between the Ketch and the Yawl is that the Yawl has the larger mast in the aft instead of forward. They also have smaller sails and can be easier to handle.

Another type of sailing ship that features two masts is a Brigantine.

This ship has mixed sailing rigs which commonly features squared sails on the front part of the ship and triangular sails on the back of the ship.

These boats are often larger and require more people to handle them.

7 Great Used Boats with Two Masts

There are many benefits to used boats including a lower cost. You can get a larger boat for a lower cost if you choose to buy used.

When looking at used boats, you need to make sure you look at the boat and its features thoroughly to make sure everything is in great working order.

If you do not feel confident that you can properly look over a used vessel, you can even hire a marine inspector to look it over and let you know of any potential issues or needed repairs. You can use this assessment to decide what is worth it, or if the needed repairs fall into the budget.

It is much more common for a used boat to have more than one mast. This is because the newer sailboat models are creating their new designs with just one mast.

One mast ships are easier to handle and manage so new designs are trying to optimize design and ease of sailing.

Below are great used sailboats with two masts which I have arranged by price .

1. 1976 Westerly Center Cockpit Ketch

sailboat with two or more masts

This 1976 Westerly Center Cockpit Ketch is a small 36-foot long sailboat with two masts. This is a solidly built cruising vessel that features a center cockpit ketch layout.

This boat has a small 38 horsepower engine perfectly fit to navigate its smaller size.

The interior features 1 single berth and 3 double berths all in 3 cabins. This boat also has 2 full heads onboard.

You also have a full galley with a 4 burner stove, refrigerator and freezer, stainless steel sink, and microwave oven.

This boat makes great use of limited space and offers many amenities in a much smaller frame.

Price: $37,000.00

2. 1978 Jeanneau Gin Fizz

sailboat with two or more masts

The 1978 Jeanneau Gin Fizz is a trusted and popular two-masted design capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean .

This boat is also very spacious for a boat that is only 38 feet in length. This model also won an award for “security, comfort, ease of handling, and ability to handle varying conditions.”

This particular used model has been well maintained and upgraded over the years.

This boat is great for family cruising, offshore passages, and even racing.

This boat features a 50 horsepower engine to help navigation.

Inside you can find 2 cabins and 1 head. You will be highly comfortable with air conditioning and other interior luxuries.

Price: $46,000.00

3. 1979 Freedom 40

The Freedom 40 is a classically designed centerboard ketch with two masts. This boat is a great sailor loaded for cruising on the wide-open blue water.

This sailboat is 40 feet in length and features accommodations for six people that include a double-v berth, another double berth, and two single berths.

There is also a full head that can be accessed both from the main salon and aft cabin.

This boat was recently painted and features newer interior fabrics, forced air heating, and much more.

You can find a dinette with separate freezer and refrigeration compartments, a stove with an oven and broiler, a double stainless steel sink, plenty of storage, and other interior features.

This boat also comes with an outboard motor with 50 horsepower and a hard bottom inflatable dinghy.

Price: $54,900.00

4. 1977 Puma 38 Ketch

sailboat with two or more masts

The Puma 38 Ketch is a two-masted sailboat built for racing like the rest of the Puma sailing line. This brand prides itself on speed and maneuverability.

The 1977 Puma 38 is 34 feet in length with a backup diesel engine that can help you get where you need to go as well as docking into a slip. This motor features more horsepower than the average sailboat with 45 horsepower.

Features on this vessel include autopilot, electrical and manual bilge pumps, a full marine head, running hot water, and refrigerator.

This boat is made of fiberglass with teak finishes and looks well kept. You can find this boat in Spain if you are interested in purchasing it.

Price: $66,099.00

5. 1973 Morgan Out Island 41

Originally designed by Charley Morgan, the Morgan Out Island 41 is a center cockpit shoal-draft cruiser that features two masts.

This larger boat is 41 feet 3 inches in length and features many amenities.

This boat is the tri-cabin version and features interior heating, pressurized hot and cold water, a 2 burner gas oven, and a fridge.

This boat also seats up to 7 in the 3 cabins and the saloon. There are also 2 full heads on this vessel.

This boat is even equipped with an inboard motor . Inboard motors are easier when it comes to navigation including backing up, which is generally hard for sailboats to do.

Price: $68,596.00

6. 1970 Hinckley Bermuda 40

sailboat with two or more masts

This 1970 Hinckley Bermuda 40 is a gorgeous two-masted boat painted with a mixture of desert sand and oyster white on the exterior and features a beautiful and well-kept deck.

This boat has previously had all her systems replaced and upgraded and features a 40 horsepower engine that was new in 2014.

This boat features a mahogany interior and sleeps up to 6 people in 2 cabins. You can also find a 3 burner propane stove with oven, fridge and compressor, new countertops and plenty of storage.

This boat is a stunning and highly upgraded “must-see” at a very reasonable price.

Price: $129,500.00

7. 1995 Amel Super Maramu

sailboat with two or more masts

A newer model of sailboat is the 1995 Amel Super Maramu sailboat. This sailboat has two masts and is very long at 53 feet.

This boat features an aft deck, steps molded right into the hull, well-protected cockpit an many other features. This boat has a large 76 horsepower engine which is more than the average sailboat is equipped with.

Inside, this boat features 2 cabins and 2 heads with showers. There is also plenty of storage, air conditioning , and electric heaters. There is also a nice salon and galley with a refrigerator, dishwasher, chest freezer, microwave oven, 3 burner stove, and other appliances.

This boat is great for multiple days out on the water and is new and updated. Because of the year, this was manufactured and the features, this boat has a larger price tag than the previous models.

Price: $299,990.00

Final Thoughts:

Sailboats are a great way to enjoy a day out at sea. Most sailboat models come with sleeping arrangements and even a kitchen. This makes them ideal for trips that will take more than a day.

Having multiple masts allows you to harness the power of the wind better and can increase your speed and directional capabilities.

There are many great choices when it comes to boats with two masts, but newer models are starting to steer away from double mast designs. This does not mean that you cannot get a good boat with two masts.

Used boats can be great choices when it comes to purchasing a boat. This is even more true with large, yacht boats such as the ones listed above.

Just make sure when you buy a used sailboat you check that everything is intact and in good working order and if it is not, you have allotted space in the budget to fix what is needed.

Your new double-masted sailboat should provide you with plenty of long-lasting memories and adventures out on the water while you connect with the wind and the sea.

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What’s a Boat with Two Masts Called: Two masted sailing boat types

two masted sailboats

Two-masted sailing boats will always have a special place in the hearts of many sailors. Many sailors consider two-masted sailing boats to be the most attractive and graceful of all sailing vessels. They have an obvious elegance, but what do you know about these two masted sailboats? Let’s find out!

Among the most important aspects are the fact that two-masted sailing boats offer greater sail balance, engineless sailing and more heavy weather options.

Even if the two masted sailboats are not so common, the sailing world has a few of them and what is more, they represent a proof of the evolution and improvement of sailing boats over time. There are an almost endless number of ways sailors have arranged their sails on boats over the years.

two masted sailboat

Two-masted sailing boats are classified according to the size and position of their masts.

There are different two-masted sailing boat types and two of the most popular are schooners and yawls.

The origins of schooner-rigged vessels are unknown, however there is evidence of them in paintings by Dutch maritime painters dating back to the early 17th century.

Schooners were developed by Northern European countries, while yawls are believed to be descended from the fishing boats of England.

Sailboats with two masts include yawls, ketches, schooners and brigs (known as brigantines). Yawls and ketches are both types of sloops, which means they have one mast, but the difference between them is that the yawl has a second mast stepped at the bow.

Ketches and Yawls have a lower mast, unlike schooners that have a taller aft mast, which is also known as mizzen. Ketch sailing boats have something specific: the aft mast is  located in front of the rudder post.

The yawl’s mizzenmast serves as a counterbalance for the jib sails, so that it doesn’t have to be hung from the forestay (the rope running from the top of the mast down to the deck). They’re usually smaller than ketches and have less rigging because they don’t carry as many sails as a sloop with two masts.

Yawls are faster sailboats than schooners because they’re lighter, more balanced and easier to sail upwind. They can also go faster because their shorter sails catch more wind. But schooners have larger payloads, which means more people or cargo — an important consideration for long trips without resupply.

two-masted yawl

Schooners are two-masted sailing boats, but instead of having a jib sail like yawls, ketches and most sloops, schooners have a fore-and-aft spanker sail like a gaff sailboat. These two-masted sailboats have at least two masts, the foremast being slightly shorter than the main mast.

Schooners are larger than yawls, ketches and other sloops and weren’t used very much in modern times because they were more difficult to handle. They’re still used in racing competitions today.

Schooners have a longer bow portion than yawls. The mainsail is aft of the mast, and either one or two foresails are in front of it. In a schooner, these are triangular sails; in a yawl, they’re trapezoidal. Yawls have bowsprits — poles that extend beyond the bow for the jib and stay sail to be attached. Schooners have small bowsprits that can support jibs but not large sails.

two-masted schooner sailboat

The term ketch derives from the word catch, which hints to how it got its name in the 17th century. Ketches were initially intended to meet the specific requirements of offshore net fishing.

Ketch is a type of sailboat that features two masts and two sails, commonly used as a racing and cruising boat. The mainmast of this two-masted sailboat is typically taller than the mizzen mast (aft-mast). Its name derives from catch.

Taller masts allow you to use larger sails, so ketch boats are able to achieve better speeds than similar boats with only one mast. Some ketch designs feature a gaff rig, which is similar to a yawl, while others feature a yawl rig, which looks like a traditional sloop.

Ketch boats may look easy to sail but the slightest mistake can lead to disaster. You must be careful when operating this type of boat because it does not have as much stability as other boats, especially when you’re manoeuvring in tight quarters or windy conditions.

A ketch may also be a small recreational boat with only one head-sail in use. Many modern designs have moved away from sail altogether and are powered by engine, while others use both sails as well as engines depending on circumstance.

two masted ketch sailboat

The brigantine was once a tiny ship that carried both oars and sails. It was a favorite of Mediterranean pirates.

A brigantine is a square-rigged sailing boat with two masts, with a fully square-rigged foremast and two sails on the mainmast.

The mainmast is stepped forward of the deck, making it possible to sail into the wind using a triangular headsail known as a jib. The brig’s foremast is shorter than the mainmast.

The name of this type of boat with 2 masts is derived from the Italian word “brigantino”, which means brigand.

Also, this two-masted sailing boat type was most commonly used for coastal trade and pirate hunting. The brigantine had an advantage over other ships of the time because it could sail against the wind using both sails, making it easier to travel against strong winds.

Faster and easier to manoeuvre than a sloop or schooner, it was used for piracy and espionage.

two-masted brigantine sailboat

FAQ: Two-Masted Sailboats

What do you call a two-masted sailboat.

Two-masted sailboats are of several types: yawls, schooners, ketches or brigantines.

Why do some sailboats have two masts?

The vast majority of sailboats feature a mainsail and a jib. These two-masted sailboats provide several advantages in terms of speed and maneuverability. These two masts may be configured in a variety of ways.

The foresail directs air beyond the back of the mainsail, generating greater power from the wind. In order to help menouvering, the foresail can be backed. So, adding sails makes things simpler for bigger boats, making them easier to handle in heavy winds.

What is the difference between a ketch and a yawl sailboat?

Because they are lighter, more balanced, and easier to sail upwind, yawls are faster sailboats than schooners. They can also go at a faster speed since their shorter sails collect more wind. Schooners, on the other hand, have higher cargoes, which means more people or freight – a crucial consideration for extended journeys without replenishing.

What is a one masted sailboat?

It's a sailing boat having a single mast roughly one-third the length's aft of the bow. A sailboat with a single mast usually has one headsail in front of the mast and one mainsail behind the mast.

What is a two-masted square rigger?

It's a brig with two square-rigged masts. A gaff-rigged fore-and-aft sail also called a "mizzen" is used in addition to jibs and staysails (stays'ls) before the foremast and staysails between the masts.

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  • Sailing Resources

sailboat with two or more masts

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Types of Sailboats: A Guide to Sailing Craft

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

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

sailboat with two or more masts

Types of sailboats by hull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Emma Dau

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

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

Types of sailboats by their keels

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

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

Full-length keel

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

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

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

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

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

Fin keel sailboat

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

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

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

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

Bilge keel sailboat

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

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

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

Centerboard or Dagger board sailboat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Types of sailboats by mast configuration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sailboat with two or more masts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Leonhard Peters

Other “types” of sailboats

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

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

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

Photo credit: Ludomil Sawicki

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

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

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

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

Cruising sailboat

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

There are many different kinds of sailboats

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

sailboat with two or more masts

Mike Sellers

Boats for Sale

Guide to the different types of sailboats.

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Sailing is a wonderful hobby that is appropriate for a wide range of ages and ability levels. Sailing is the art of controlling and maneuvering a boat with the power of sails. Sailors need to learn about the power of wind and water, as well as understand the basic function and operation of a sailboat. A sailboat is a small to mid-sized boat that is powered by the use of sails, some more modern designs are also powered with a small motor, but this is not characteristic of most sailboats. The dual forces of hydrodynamic and aerodynamics combine to provide a sailboat with the ability to move through water. A sailboat may have one or more sails attached to the mast and/or a boom. Sails may also be attached to winches, mechanical devices used for winding, or to cleats that are used for tying. Learning how to maneuver the sails and steer the sailboat takes time and attention; for the safety of those onboard and fellow sailors, it is important that each sailor understand the proper way to maneuver and operate a sailboat.

There are many different types of sailboats. Sailboats can be categorized into a few different types, depending upon the number and location of sails, as well as the number of masts. Here is a brief introduction to the different types:

A catboat is a single-sail boat with one mast set up near the front of the boat. The origin of the catboat can be traced back to New York in the 1840s. Its easy operation and large capacity helped the sailboat gain popularity among sailing enthusiasts. The catboat has a broad beam, a centerboard and a single mast and sail. However, any sailboat with a single sail carried forward is referred to as a catboat. Popular catboats include the Beetle Cat, Barnegat Bay and Sanderling.

  • Association for Catboat Sailors
  • What is a Catboat

A cutter is a sailboat with one mast and more than one headsail. According to Frank Sargeant in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Boating and Sailing , a cutter has a mast stepped amidships with two sails that are set up forward of the mast. Usually, the staysail is directly in front of the mast. The cutter is ideal for small crews or groups of people and most cutters can be easily managed without the need for complicated tackles or winches.

  • What is a Cutter
  • Peterson Cutters

A dhoni, or doni, is a handcrafted, sailboat with either a motor or lateen sails. Popular in the Maldives, this boat is used for transportation and even, for staying aboard comfortably. Traditionally, this boat was built of coconut palm wood and used by Maldivian fishermen. Today, the dhoni is typically built using fiberglass, are generally motorized with a steering wheel and are furnished as well. According to the FAO, the motorized fishing vessels or masdhoni are fitted with satellite navigation systems, hydraulic line haulers, sonars, fish finders and have room for accommodation as well.

  • Association for Wooden Boats
  • About the Dhonis of Maldives

A smaller version of the sailboat, the dinghy has three or less sails - the mainsail, jib and spinnaker. These small boats are easy to handle and fun to sail, making them popular with youngsters. Dinghies are further divided into different types such as catamarans, skiffs, classic dinghies, cruising dinghies, high performance dinghies, racing dinghies and sports dinghies.

  • Types of Dinghies
  • Dinghy Sailing Races

Fractional Rig Sloop

A fractional rig sloop is a sailboat in which the headstay is attached to the mast at some point lower than the masthead. This enhances performance in certain conditions but may make the fractional rig sloop a little difficult to handle, since the bend of the mast has an impact on the mainsail and bending the mast perfectly requires a fair amount of skill. However, the fractional rig requires fewer sail changes and lesser experienced sailors may benefit from setting up a masthead rig or one in which the headsail reaches all the way to the top of the mast.

  • Definition of a Fractional Rig

A ketch is a sailboat that has two masts and two sails. The second mast is called a mizzen and the sail is called the mizzen sail. The second mast is shorter than the main mast and is located forward of the rudder. Smaller and narrower in size than other sailboats, ketches were traditionally used for trading purposes and for bombing in the 17th century.

  • What is a Ketch
  • Ketch Sailing Guide

A schooner is a large sailboat and generally, has two or more masts with the aftermost mast being taller than or equal to the height of the forward mast. The schooner rig is made up of the bowsprit, fore and main mast and their sails. Freight schooners may have three or more masts. Schooners were introduced by the Dutch and later adopted in North America to carry cargo and for fishing. One of the most popular schooners is the Clotilde, the last ship to bring African slaves to the U.S and the USS Hannah, the first armed American naval vessel.

  • About the Arctic Schooner
  • Sailing the Schooner

A sloop is the most common type of sailboat. It has a single mast and a fore-and-aft rig. The position of the mast is determines whether a sailboat will be termed a sloop or not. The forestay on the sloop runs to the outboard end of the bowsprit, rendering the bowsprit fixed and non-retractable. The Bermuda sloop is the name given the contemporary yacht due to the Bermuda rig, which is ideal for upwind sailing.

  • Sloop Glossary
  • Sailing on a Sloop

Similar to a ketch, the yawl is a sailboat with two masts and the mizzenmast is shorter than the main mast. However, the mizzenmast on a yawl is not forward of the rudder as in the ketch, but aft of the main mast. Moreover, it is used for creating balance rather than for propelling the vessel. Originally, the yawl was developed for the purpose of commercial fishing however, in the 1950s and 60s; yawls were developed for racing, a tradition that continues in many places even today.

  • Yawl Sailing Association
  • Concordia History

Misc. Sailing Sites

  • International Sailing Federation
  • American Sailing Association
  • Sailing for the Blind
  • Training for Sailing
  • Sailing Magazine
  • Disabled Sailing Association
  • Sailing School

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What Is A Sailboat Mast?

A sailboat mast is one of the most defining features of a sailboat (along with the sails of course!) You can immediately tell that a boat is a sailing boat when you spot the tall mast sticking out of the hull.

But why do sailboats need a mast? Having lived on a sailboat for years now I’ve never really questioned the need for a mast. It’s such an integral part of the boat that I just sort of forget it’s there!

When our friends recently lost their mast due to a rigging failure it got me thinking – why do sailboats need a mast and what function (aside from holding up the sails) do they actually play. It turns out, quite a lot!

We’re going to dive into the fascinating world of sailboat masts, exploring different rigs, mast materials, and the different functions that masts play. It’s important stuff if you want to go sailing, and a lot of it I should have known sooner!

sailboat masts in front of a sunset

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Table of Contents

Why do sailboats need a mast, parts of the mast, what materials are masts made from, single mast rigs, sailboats with two masts, sailboats with three masts, how to look after your mast.

the mast of a mainsail

A sailboat mast is a vertical, upright structure that supports the sails of a sailboat. It is a crucial component of the boat’s rigging system and plays a key role in harnessing the power of the wind to propel the vessel. Typically located in the center of the boat, the mast extends upward from the deck or hull.

The height of the mast varies depending on the size and type of the sailboat, directly impacting the sail area and overall performance of the boat.

Together with the boom (a horizontal spar attached to the bottom of the mast), the mast allows sailors to control the shape and orientation of the sails, optimizing their efficiency in different wind conditions.

The design and configuration of the mast can vary depending on the type of sailboat, such as a sloop, cutter, ketch, or schooner.

Sailboats require a mast primarily to support the sails.

It holds the sails in an elevated position, allowing them to catch the wind effectively. Without a mast, the sails would lack the means to be raised and positioned to harness the power of the wind.

There are a few other important jobs that the mast plays:

Control and Manipulation of Sails: The mast, along with the boom (a horizontal spar attached to the mast’s lower end), enables sailors to control and manipulate the sails.

By adjusting the angle and tension of the sails through the mast, sailors can optimize their performance according to wind conditions and desired boat speed.

This control allows for maneuverability and efficient use of wind power.

Structural Integrity: The mast contributes to the overall structural integrity of the sailboat. It helps distribute the loads and forces exerted by the sails, rigging, and masthead components throughout the boat’s hull and keel.

The mast’s design and construction ensure stability and strength, allowing the boat to withstand the forces generated by the wind.

Attachment Points for Rigging: The mast provides attachment points for various rigging components, including halyards (lines used to raise and lower the sails), stays (wires or rods that support the mast in different directions), and shrouds (wires that provide lateral support to the mast).

These rigging elements are essential for properly tensioning the sails and maintaining the mast’s stability.

Height and Visibility: The mast’s height contributes to the sailboat’s visibility, allowing other vessels to spot it more easily, particularly when sailing in congested waters. The mast’s presence also serves as a visual reference for determining the boat’s position, orientation, and distance from potential hazards.

While the mast’s primary purpose is to support the sails and enable control over their position, it also plays a significant role in maintaining the structural integrity of the sailboat and enhancing its visibility on the water.

Basically, the mast is pretty darn important!

a sailboat with a mast

Along with a million other confusing sailboat terms , the mast has lots of different parts too. A sailboat mast consists of several distinct parts, each serving a specific function. Here are the different parts commonly found on a sailboat mast:

  • Masthead: The masthead is the topmost section of the mast. It often includes attachment points for various components such as halyards (lines used to raise and lower the sails), the forestay (the wire or rod that supports the front of the mast), and other rigging elements. The masthead may also house instruments like wind vanes or antennas.
  • Spreaders: Spreaders are horizontal bars attached to the mast, typically positioned at specific intervals along its length. They help support the rigging wires and prevent excessive sideways bending of the mast. The position and angle of the spreaders contribute to the proper alignment and tension of the rigging.
  • Shrouds: Shrouds are the wires or cables that provide lateral support to the mast. They connect the mast to the sides of the boat, helping to stabilize the mast and distribute the loads generated by the sails. Shrouds are typically tensioned using turnbuckles or other adjustable fittings.
  • Backstay: The backstay is a cable or wire that provides support to the rear of the mast. It helps counterbalance the forces exerted by the forestay and the mainsail, preventing the mast from excessively bending forward. Adjustable backstays allow for tuning the mast’s rigidity based on wind conditions and sail trim.
  • Halyard Sheaves: Halyard sheaves are small wheels or pulleys located at the masthead or lower down the mast. They guide halyards, which are lines used to raise and lower the sails. Halyard sheaves minimize friction, allowing smooth and efficient hoisting or lowering of the sails.
  • Gooseneck: The gooseneck is a fitting that connects the boom to the mast. It allows the boom to pivot or rotate horizontally, enabling control over the angle and position of the mainsail. The gooseneck may include a pin or other locking mechanism to secure the boom to the mast.
  • Mast Step: The mast step is the base or fitting where the mast rests and is secured to the deck or hull of the sailboat. It provides stability and distributes the loads from the mast to the boat’s structure.

These are some of the primary parts found on a sailboat mast. The specific configuration and additional components may vary depending on the sailboat’s design, rigging system, and intended use.

a sailboat in front of a beautiful sunset

I was surprised to learn that sailboat masts are commonly made from several different materials, each offering its own advantages in terms of strength, weight, and flexibility.

The choice of material depends on various factors, including the type and size of the sailboat, desired performance characteristics, and budget.

Here are some of the materials used for sailboat mast construction:

Aluminum is a popular choice for sailboat masts due to its favorable combination of strength, lightweight, and corrosion resistance. Aluminum masts are relatively easy to manufacture, making them cost-effective. They offer good stiffness, enabling efficient power transfer from the sails to the boat.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber has gained significant popularity in sailboat mast construction, especially in high-performance and racing sailboats. You’ll see black carbon fibre masts on fancy sailboats!

Carbon fiber masts are exceptionally lightweight, providing excellent stiffness-to-weight ratios. This allows for enhanced responsiveness, improved performance, and reduced heeling (tilting) of the boat.

Carbon fiber masts can be precisely engineered to optimize flex patterns and provide targeted strength where needed.

Traditional sailboats, particularly those with a classic or vintage design, may have masts made from wood. Wood offers an aesthetically pleasing and traditional look.

Wooden masts can be constructed using solid wood or laminated techniques, which involve layering thin strips of wood for added strength and stability. Wood masts require regular maintenance, including varnishing and sealing to protect against moisture.

In some cases, steel may be used for sailboat masts, especially in larger vessels or those designed for specific purposes, such as offshore cruising or heavy-duty applications.

Steel masts offer robustness and durability, but they are heavier compared to other materials. They require adequate corrosion protection to prevent rusting.

Composite Materials

Sailboat masts can also be constructed using composite materials, such as fiberglass or fiberglass-reinforced plastics. These materials provide a balance between cost, weight, and strength. Fiberglass masts can be an option for recreational sailboats or those on a tighter budget.

It’s worth noting that advancements in materials and manufacturing techniques continually evolve, introducing new possibilities for sailboat mast construction.

The choice of mast material should consider factors such as boat type, intended use, performance requirements, and personal preferences, balanced with considerations of cost and maintenance.

Different Types Of Masts

sailboat masts in a marina

There are several different types of masts used in sailboat designs, each with its own characteristics and purposes.

We’ve included how the masts are fixed on the boat. This one is an important one when buying a sailboat as you might have a preference over how your mast is attached to the hull or deck.

We’ve also included different rigs, as some boats have just a single mast and other sailboats will have two or more masts. Again, you might have a preference as to which rig set up you prefer so it’s worth knowing the pros and cons of each.

Keel-stepped Mast

A keel-stepped mast is one that extends down through the deck and is secured to the boat’s keel or structural framework. Keel-stepped masts offer stability and strength, as they transfer the loads directly to the boat’s foundation.

They are commonly found in larger sailboats and offshore cruising vessels. We loved knowing our deck was secured to one of the strongest parts of the boat.

It does come with some problems though, like the fact it can leak and start raining in the boat! A decent mast boot will stop this.

Deck-stepped Mast

A deck-stepped mast rests on a step or fitting on the deck, rather than extending down through it. Deck-stepped masts are typically used in smaller sailboats and are more straightforward to install, maintain, and unstep.

They are often lighter and less expensive than keel-stepped masts but may sacrifice some stability and rigidity.

Fractional Rig

A fractional rig features a mast where the forestay is attached below the masthead, typically at a point less than halfway up the mast’s height. This design allows for a larger headsail and a smaller mainsail.

Fractional rigs are popular on modern cruising and racing sailboats as they offer versatility, easy sail control, and improved performance in various wind conditions.

Masthead Rig

In a masthead rig, the forestay attaches at the top of the masthead. This design is commonly found in traditional sailboats. Masthead rigs typically feature larger headsails and smaller mainsails. They are known for their simplicity, easy balance, and suitability for cruising and downwind sailing.

There are various different rig set ups that just have one single mast. We’ll look at a few of the most popular types, but be aware that there are quite a few variations out there these days! It can get a little complicated!

The sloop rig is one of the most popular and widely used single mast rigs. It consists of a single mast with a mainsail and a headsail. The headsail, typically a jib or genoa, is attached to the forestay at the bow of the boat, while the mainsail is attached to the mast and boom.

Sloops offer simplicity, versatility, and ease of handling, making them suitable for a wide range of sailboats, from small day-sailers to larger cruising vessels.

A cutter rig utilizes two jibs : a smaller headsail attached to the forestay and a larger headsail called a staysail attached to an inner stay or a removable stay.

The mainsail is usually smaller in a cutter rig. This rig provides versatility and options for different sail combinations, making it suitable for offshore cruising and handling various wind conditions.

We absolutely loved our cutter rig as it gave so much flexibility, especially in heavy weather. A downside is that tacking is a little harder, as you have to pull the genoa past the stay sail.

Sailboats with two masts tend to be seen on older boats, but they are still popular and quite common, especially with long-distance sailors looking for versatility.

The yawl rig features two masts, with a shorter mizzen mast positioned aft of the main mast and rudder stock. The mizzen mast is usually shorter than the main mast.

Yawls offer versatility, improved balance, and increased maneuverability, making them suitable for offshore cruising and long-distance sailing.

A ketch rig has two masts: a taller main mast located near the boat’s center and a shorter mizzen mast positioned aft of the main mast but forward of the rudder stock. The mizzen mast is typically shorter than the main mast.

Ketch rigs provide additional sail area and options for sail combinations, offering good balance and flexibility for cruising and long-distance sailing. A lot of long-term cruisers love ketch rigs, though they tend to be found on older boats.

The downside is that you’ll have two masts with accompanying rigging to maintain, which isn’t necessarily a small job.

Sailboats with three masts or more are rare. They tend to be seen only on very large, expensive sailing yachts due to the additional expense of maintaining three masts, rigging and additional sails.

They aren’t great for single-handed crews but they do look very impressive and can power bigger vessels.

Schooner Rig

A schooner rig features two or more masts, with the aft mast (known as the mizzen mast) being taller than the forward mast(s).

Schooners are known for their multiple headsails and often have a gaff-rigged or square-rigged configuration on one or both masts. Schooner rigs offer impressive sail area, versatility, and classic aesthetics.

Schooner rigs are much rarer than the rigs mentioned above so it’s unlikely you’ll find one on a cruising vessel.

These are just a few examples of the different types of masts used in sailboat designs. Each rig type has its own advantages and considerations in terms of sail control, performance, balance, and intended use.

The choice of mast and rig depends on factors such as boat size, purpose, sailing conditions, and personal preferences.

lots of sailboats in a boatyard with stormy skies

We didn’t know the first thing about looking after our mast when we first moved aboard and we made it our mission to find out. When you’re sailing frequently then the last thing you want is to experience a mast coming down mid-passage!

Taking proper care of your sailboat mast is important to ensure its longevity and optimal performance. Here are some tips on how to look after your mast:

  • Regular Inspections: Conduct regular visual inspections of your mast to check for any signs of damage, wear, or corrosion. Look for cracks, dents, loose fittings, or any other issues that may compromise the mast’s integrity.
  • Cleaning: Keep your mast clean by regularly washing it with fresh water. Remove dirt, salt, and other contaminants that can accelerate corrosion. Use a mild detergent or boat-specific cleaner, and rinse thoroughly.
  • Corrosion Prevention: Protect your mast from corrosion by applying a suitable corrosion inhibitor or protective coating. Pay particular attention to areas where fittings, rigging, or other components come into contact with the mast.
  • Lubrication: Lubricate moving parts such as sheaves, shackles, and slides with a marine-grade lubricant. This helps prevent friction and ensures smooth operation. Be cautious not to over-lubricate, as excess lubricant can attract dirt and debris.
  • Rigging Maintenance: Inspect your rigging regularly for signs of wear, such as broken strands, fraying, or excessive stretching. Replace any worn or damaged rigging promptly to avoid potential mast damage.
  • UV Protection: The sun’s UV rays can degrade and weaken the mast over time. Protect your mast from UV damage by applying a UV-resistant coating or using mast covers when the boat is not in use.
  • Storage Considerations: If you need to store your boat for an extended period, consider removing the mast and storing it horizontally or in a mast-up position, depending on the boat design. Store the mast in a clean, dry, and well-ventilated area to prevent moisture buildup and potential damage.
  • Professional Inspections: Periodically have your mast inspected by a professional rigger or boatyard to assess its condition and identify any potential issues that may require attention. They can provide expert advice on maintenance and repair.

Remember, if you are unsure about any maintenance or repair tasks, it’s always recommended to consult with a professional rigger or boatyard to ensure proper care and safety of your mast.

We learned so much from having our rigging inspected, so we highly recommend you do this if you’re at all unsure.

Conclusion: What Is A Sailboat Mast?

In conclusion, a sailboat mast is a crucial component that plays a vital role in the performance, control, and integrity of a sailboat. It’s a good idea to learn about sailboats before you head out on a sail – unlike us!

The mast serves as a vertical structure that supports the sails, allowing them to capture the power of the wind effectively. The mast enables sailors to control and manipulate the position of the sails, optimizing performance based on wind conditions.

Additionally, the mast contributes to the overall structural integrity of the boat, distributing loads and forces throughout the hull and keel. Various rigging components, such as halyards, shrouds, and spreaders, are attached to the mast, providing support and enabling precise sail control.

By understanding the importance of the mast and properly caring for it through regular inspections, cleaning, corrosion prevention, lubrication, and rigging maintenance, sailors can ensure their mast’s longevity and optimal performance.

A well-maintained sailboat mast contributes to a safe, enjoyable, and successful sailing experience.

  • How much do new sails cost?
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Types of Sailboats: Classification Guide

Ian Fortey

Sailboats can be divided into three basic types based on their hulls (catamaran, monohull or multihull) , their keel and their rigging, and then further subdivided from there. The result is that there are actually well over a dozen different kinds of sailboats out there.

Sailboat Hull Types

sailboat with two or more masts

There are three main hull types that you’ll find in sailboats.

  • Monohull: This is what most people think of when they think of a sail boat or any boat at all, really. A monohull sailboat has a single hulled structure that gives a boat that traditional boat shape we all instantly recognize. These are far and away the most common hull type for sailboats because they’re some of the oldest, they’re cheaper to produce, and they are fairly easy to maintain compared to the other options. You can do a lot more with the rigger in monohull sailboats and any sailing vessel with multiple masts is invariably going to be a monohull one. The downside of the monohull compared to the others is that they lack the stability.
  • Catamaran: The second hull type you’ll find in sailboats is the catamaran . While technically a multihull vessel, they feature two hulls that are located on either side of the boat connected by a deck. Because it’s just the two, they get called catamarans rather than multihull which generally refers to three. Catamarans had been used by ancient peoples for years but never really caught on with “modern” boating for quite a long time. Now that we have fiberglass hulls and other advances, catamarans are much more commonplace than they were a  hundred years ago. Catamarans offer great speed and stability but don’t have as much cabin space as a monohull.
  • Trimaran/Multihull : This hull style features three hulls in a similar style to the catamaran with the addition of that third center hull. From the side you wouldn’t be able to tell a catamarans from trimaran sailboats. These boats are even faster and more stable than a catamaran and, by extension, a monohull. They have a very low center of gravity and a large beam. Space is still a drawback but the third hull increases room overall. There are also vessels with even more hulls, but they are exceedingly rare and also pretty expensive.

Sailboat Keel Types

sailboat with two or more masts

Heading below the hull now and we’ll find the keel, which is what gives your sailboat added stability in the water. While multihull boats find stability in the additional hulls, a monohull boat will get stability from its keel. Though it’s nearly impossible to flip or capsize a trimaran, if it does happen it’s staying flipped or capsized. However, the keel on a monohull boat makes it even harder to flip because of the physics of resistance in the water. That isn’t to say a monohulled boat with a keel is unsinkable, quite the opposite, but you’re just not going to flip one upside down without a real fight. There are six main keel types you’ll find in sailboats.

  • Bilge Keel: These are dual keels that can be like fin keels or even full keels extending the length of the vessel. They extend from the sides and can prevent the boat from rolling. They need to be symmetrical on both sides of the boat to work.
  • Bulb Kee l: These are a kind of fin keel but they carry ballast in them. That allows them to have a little more stability. They operate like a hydrofoil
  • Centerboard Keel: This type of keel actually pivots and can be changed depending on the depth of the water.
  • Daggerboard Keel : Another kind of centerboard keel but the daggerboard can actually be pulled up into the hull. This allows you to alter its position for an increase or decrease in speed or stability as needed.
  • Fin Kee l: If you’re into racing you’ll probably have a fin keel. They are thin but extend deep below the sailboat. This makes them great for speed but not really ideal for a comfortable ride. You wouldn’t want to be day sailing for fun and relaxation with a fin keel.
  • Full Keel: This is the most common type of keel and it spans the entire length of the vessel. There will likely be a rudder built into the keel as well.
  • Wing Keel : This is a variant on the fin keel. Wing keels have a small wing at the tip to allow better directional stability by reducing cross flow.

Sailboat Mast Configuration

sailboat with two or more masts

The mast of the sailboat is obviously that large pole onto which sails are rigged. Depending on your boat type you may have one mast, two masts, or more masts. How these masts are configured is where you can start distinguishing sailboat types you may recognize by name.  These include:

Sloop: This is arguably the most popular type of sailboat mast type. A sloop has a single mast and two sails – the headsail and the mainsail. Being a single masted sailboat makes them easy to identify. These are probably the easiest to learn how to rig and how to sail. It’s versatile enough for cruising and for racing. Commonly these a gaff rig or a Bermuda rig. Another kind of sloop rig is the fractional rig sloop in which you can find one of the sails below the top of the mast.

Schooner: These can have multiple masts, not just two. The largest sailing vessels you’re likely to see, either in the present or in images from history, were schooners. Giant ships with six masts each bearing over 10 sails were schooners. An important detail is that the first mast on a schooner will always be shorter than the others. They are usually gaff-rigged

Cutter: This type of sailboat is very similar to the sloop and has a centrally located mast supporting three sails. Two headsails, the second called a staysail, is what distinguishes it most easily from the sloop. The rigging makes a cutter a bit harder to manage than a sloop.

Ketch : A ketch is a lot like a schooner but the two masts are arranged differently. On a ketch, the main mast is taller than the aft mast which is called the mizzen mast. The mizzen sail naturally is on the mizzen mast with the mizzen mast positioned aft.

Catboat : Also called a cat, a catboat has a single mast and a large, single gaff sail. The boats are usually short, stout boats that aren’t built for speed or for open seas. Best to be used in coastal waters

Yawl: This vessel is nearly identical to the ketch with one main difference. In a yawl, the helm is forward of the mizzen mast, while that is not the case in a ketch.

Other Types of Sailboats


Now that we have the basic configurations out of the way, let’s look at some of the more specific types of sailboats you may find at sea. In some cases you’ll see that these terms are not entirely specific and one term may actually apply to multiple kinds of sail boats in much the same way that something like SUV can describe multiple different vehicles that are similar but not all the same.

Sailing Dinghies

Like any dinghy, a sailing dinghy is going to be a small vessel. Typically made to accommodate just one or two people, they are under 15 feet and the smallest of which are often used by children. Optimist dinghies are raced professionally and must meet certain requirements to be officially registered as true Optimist boats. If you’re totally new to sailing, a sailing dinghy might be a good place to learn the ropes.

Daysailer generally refers to any sailboat that is not intended to either race other boats or keep you out on the water for an overnight stay. As such, it can cover a lot of ground. Typically, a daysailer will probably be between 14 feet and 20 feet. Usually you won’t get more than 4 people on board and there will be room for storing gear but not a sleeping berth. These are great beginner sailboats.

Pocket Cruisers

Like a daysailer, a pocket cruiser is more of a general label for boats rather than a specific kind. In this case, any sailboat under 30 feet could technically be considered a pocket cruiser. Basically it should be trailerable and used for either cruising or racing. They may contain a small cabin or berth. They could be outfitted for long offshore trips.

Trailer Sailer

Very similar to a pocket cruiser, a trailer sailer is a smaller vessel but still larger than a sailing dinghy. There is clear overlap between trailer sailers, daysailers, and pocket cruisers and the same name could technically be used for many different boats. The defining characteristic of a trailer sailer is that it can easily be transported by trailer behind your tow vehicle. Unlike a sailing dinghy, a trailer sailer would likely have a retractable keep like a centerboard or daggerboard.

Racing Sailboats

These boats can be very large, anywhere from 20 feet to over 70 feet, and they are designed to be light and fast on the water. Larger racing sailboats required a skilled crew to operate. These have keels intended to increase speed and even laminate sales to improve performance. Smaller racing boats can be manned by just one or two people. They don’t offer a lot of creature comforts and aren’t meant for relaxing trips at sea.

Beach Catamarans

Beach cats get their name from the fact they’re designed to be beached and can be launched again from the beach if you so desire. They are usually under 25 feet and not meant for extending sailing offshore, rather they are designed for daysailing. They are very agile and fast and take a good foundation of knowledge to control properly.

Cruising Catamarans

sailboat with two or more masts

This is the larger style of catamaran designed for more serious boating. Like any catamaran they have a shallow draft but these can be between 25 feet and up to more than 50 feet. They’re designed for extended cruising offshore.

Cruising Sailboats

Boats like schooners quality as a cruising boat and they are typically at least 16 feet in length but may get well over 50 feet as well. Cruising sailboats include cabins for extended stays offshore and, if the boat is large enough, will likely have a fairly large living space below deck which includes a galley and a head in addition to sleeping berths. These are often called liveaboard sailboats .

Cruisers are often monohull but can just as easily be multihull. When properly outfitted they can be used for long, extended stays at sea that last weeks or more. Depending on rigging a cruising sailboat could easily be a sloop, a schooner, a cutter, a ketch or even a superyacht.

Racing Cruisers

This is essentially a hybrid of the cruising sailboat and the racing sailboat. It’s built for more speed than a cruiser but it will have better accommodations than a racing sailboat to allow for stays at sea.  The end result is a lighter cruiser ideal for a few days at sea that can get some good speed.

Bluewater Cruising Boats

These are basically the next step up from a cruising sailboat. A bluewater cruiser is meant to sail across oceans, which is where the bluewater part of the name comes from. These are large sailboats and are best only sailed by skilled sailors. They can be outfitted for very long stays at sea and are able to handle rough weather better than smaller vessels.


You don’t hear this term much anymore but it refers to a sailboat that also has an inboard motor so that they can travel under engine power or wind power. Typically these are larger vessels with accommodations below deck and designed for extended stays off shore. That said, because they mix both styles of boat, they fall somewhere short of either in terms of performance. The engine takes up space and adds weight, limiting your sailing abilities. Obviously traditional sailboats won’t include a motor.

The Bottom Line

There are a number of different kinds of sailboats and the easiest way to distinguish them is by comparing hull types, sail and mast configuration, and keels. Many terms you hear to describe sailboats can describe more than one kind, while others are very specific and the boat must meet certain requirements to merit the name. The only thing that truly unites every type of sailboat is the fact it must be powered by the wind, and even then there are hybrid versions that use motor power sometimes.

Learning the rigging of the different types of sailboats, including things like gaff rigs, standard rigging, and other rig types can be hard work and time consuming as some of these sailing boat rig types are far more complex than others.

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Types of Sailboats: Essential Guide for Every Sailor

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

sailboat with two or more masts

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

Key Takeaways

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

Basics of Sailboat Design

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

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

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

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

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

sailboat with two or more masts

Mast Configuration

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

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

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

Rigging and Sails

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

There are several types of rigs commonly found on sailboats:

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

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

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

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

sailboat with two or more masts

Classes and Types of Sailboats

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

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

One-Design Sailboats

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

Dinghies and Skiffs

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

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

Sailboat Size and Use

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

Day Sailers

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

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

Racing Sailboats

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

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

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

Cruising Sailboats

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

Here are some common types of cruising sailboats:

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

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

Advanced Sailboat Features

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

Performance Enhancements

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

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

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

Safety and Navigation

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

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

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

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

Sailboat Ownership

Buying Considerations

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

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

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

Maintenance and Upkeep

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

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

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

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

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

sailboat with two or more masts

Historical and Special Sailboats

Tall ships and gaffers.

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

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

Classic and Antique Sailboats

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

Here are some examples of antique and classic sailboats:

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

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

Sailboat Culture and Lifestyle

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

Regattas and Racing Circuits

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

Sailboat Charter and Tourism

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

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

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

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the distinguishing features of different sailboat classes?

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

Which sailboat types are best for novice sailors?

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

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

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

How do the purposes of various sailboat types vary?

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

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

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

Could you describe a sailing dinghy designed for two people?

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

sailboat with two or more masts

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Types of Sailboats: A Complete Guide

Types of Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

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

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

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

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

Table of contents

Distinguishing Types of Sailboats

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

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

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

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

Sailboat vs. Motorsailer

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

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

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

Monohull vs. Multi-hull: Which is Better?

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

Monohull Sailboats

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

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

Catamaran Sailboats

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

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

Trimaran Sailboats

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

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

Sailboat Rig Types

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

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

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

Sloop Features:

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

Suitable Uses:

  • Offshore cruising
  • Coastal cruising

Cat (Catboat)

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

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

Catboat Features:

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

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

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

Cutter Features:

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

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

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

Schooner Features:

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

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

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

Ketch Features:

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

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

Dinghy Features:

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

Best Sailboat Type for Stability

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

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

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

Best Sailboat Type for Offshore Cruising

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

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

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

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

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

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Allied Yachting

Types of Sailboats by Type of Rig

16 December 2015

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

Sailboats by rig type: hulls, masts

Single mast sailboat

Single masted sailboat with monohull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schooners are generally the largest monohull sailing yachts.

Monohull sailboat

Monohull two masts sailing boat

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

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

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

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

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

Two parallel hulls catamaran

Two parallel hulls sailing catamaran

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

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

Please surf through our website listings of sailing catamarans .


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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Types of Sailboats: Everything You Need to Know

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Sailing, rowing, paddling, and boating have become immensely popular activities and sports worldwide. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that the sailboat market has experienced substantial growth, expanding from $6.09 billion to $6.39 billion within a year . If you have ever envisioned yourself gracefully gliding across the water on a majestic vessel, now is the perfect time to fulfill that dream by purchasing a sailboat.

However, with many options available in the market, choosing the right one can be a daunting task. If you are perplexed about which sailboat is best suited for your adventurous voyages, do not worry.

In the following sections, we will explore the distinctive characteristics, advantages, and unique features of each option, helping you make an informed decision. So, keep scrolling and delve into the fascinating types of sailboats.

Sailboat Classifications

Sailboats are commonly categorized according to several key features, including the number of masts and the type of hull, keel, sails, and rig. Each of these features holds significant importance for the following reasons:

The Types of Boat Hull

The hull of the sailboat is the main body or structure, responsible for maintaining the stability and shape of the vessel and keeping it afloat on the water. This part is usually constructed from fiberglass, wood, steel, or aluminum.  

Sailboat hulls come in various shapes and designs, each with its own characteristics and intended purpose. Common hull types include:

Monohull or single-hull is the traditional small sailboat design, as it only contains a long narrow-shaped hull that extends from the bow (front) to the stern (rear) of the boat. This allows the boat to cut through the water efficiently, resulting in good upwind performance and excellent maneuverability. A sailboat with a monohull is ideal for having smooth and comfortable rides, particularly in rough sea conditions.

A small catamaran boat has two parallel hulls and a broad base, providing more support and stability than a monohull boat. Catamaran boats are mostly used for recreational sailing and fishing expedition in lakes and calmer waters.

A multihull or large sailboat has two or more hulls. For instance, a trimaran has three hulls, while a Catamaran has two parallel hulls. Some multihull sailboats have four or more hulls, but they are rare and reserved for special events.

Trimarans have a central hull with two smaller outrigger hulls on each side to offer maximum speed and stability. Due to its narrow central hull and the reduced weight of the outriggers, trimarans easily slice through the water with minimal drag.

Displacement Hull

A displacement hull is manufactured in a rounded, smooth shape to make it easier for the boat to part the water and create waves as it moves forward in the sea. This hull shape provides maximum sailing stability even at lower speeds, so it is well-suited for leisure cruising and long-distance voyages.

The Types of Keel

The keel is a structural beam placed in the middle of the boat and runs from bow to stern. It plays an important role in maintaining stability, connecting to a boat trailer , and controlling the sailboat’s direction. It comes in different types, and each one offers distinct advantages, such as:

  • Full Keel : It extends the entire length of the boat and helps maintain a straight course during sailing. These keels are well-suited for long-distance cruising and offshore sailing because they can handle challenging sea conditions.
  • Fin Keel : This is a narrow, vertically oriented plate of wood or metal, which projects down from the hull’s bottom. A fin keel provides good maneuverability and lateral resistance to allow the boat to sail closer to the wind.
  • Wing Keel : These keels are similar to fin keels but have small horizontal extensions, or wings, near the bottom. These wings provide additional lift and stability, allowing the boat to sail in shallower waters without compromising performance.
  • Bulb Keel : A bulb keel has a weighted ballast-filled bulb at the bottom of a relatively shallow fin, which lowers the keel’s weight to reduce the draft. This keel is mostly used in performance-oriented yachts and racing sailboats.
  • Centerboard or Daggerboard : These are retractable keels that can be raised or lowered to adjust the draft and allow boats to sail in shallow waters. Boats with these keels are made for coastal cruising and exploring areas with varying water depths.

The Number of Masts

The number of boats’ masts varies, ranging from a single mast to multiple masts. This is influenced by the boat’s size, intended use, design, and personal preferences. The number of masts significantly impacts the boat’s sailing performance and versatility.

Sailboats equipped with multiple masts possess the advantage of a larger total sail area, allowing them to harness increased power and speed, particularly when faced with windy conditions.

Conversely, sailboats with a single mast, such as those utilizing a sloop rig, offer simplicity, ease of handling, and versatility across a wide range of sailing conditions. The choice in the number of masts should be based on the boat’s intended use and the desired performance characteristics, ensuring a well-suited match between the boat and its sailing requirements.

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The Types of Sails and Rig

Sails are large fabric structures attached to masts and booms to capture wind energy. They come in different shapes and sizes, such as:

  • Mainsail : It is triangular (staysail) or quadrilateral in shape and attached to the boom along the foot.
  • Headsail : It is smaller than the mainsail and helps to balance the sailboat.
  • Spinnakers : It is typically symmetrical or asymmetrical in shape to catch wind from behind the boat.

A sailboat’s rig encompasses a comprehensive system consisting of masts, booms, shrouds, stays, halyards, and sheets. It serves the vital functions of providing structural support to the sails, regulating their shape, and facilitating adjustments as needed.

The symbiotic relationship between the sails and the rig forms the essence of a sailboat’s propulsion system, effectively transforming the wind’s kinetic energy into propulsive forward motion. By working in harmony, the sails and rig combine forces to harness the power of the wind and propel the sailboat across the water.

Like sails, rigs also have multiple types, such as:

  • Sloop Rig : It consists of a single mast with a mainsail and a headsail.
  • Cutter Rig : It features two or more headsails. The taller headsail is situated at the front.
  • Ketch Rig : It has two masts, with the mainmast positioned in front of the rudderpost.
  • Yawl Rig : It is similar to a ketch rig but with the mizzen mast positioned aft of the rudderpost.
  • Schooner Rig : It features two or more masts of different heights.

10 Types of Sailboats

Depending on the classifications and sail plan (drawings and pictures of sailboats), these are the types of sailing ships you can purchase:

Dinghies are small, lightweight, and easy to maintain . They are typically designed for recreational sailing, racing, or training purposes. They are famous for their responsiveness and agility, so sailing dinghies make for thrilling and dynamic memories.

Bermuda Sloop

Named after the Bermuda Islands, the Bermuda sloop sailboat features a tall, slender mast that supports a large mainsail with a boom along the foot. As this boat is quite easy to handle, it is mostly used in racing and cruising.

A cutter boat has a large headsail on the inner forestay and a smaller headsail on the outer forestay. These sails allow flexible sailing with maximum balance, power, and mobility, even in choppy weather.

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Sailing hydrofoil.

Sailing hydrofoil sailboats have wing-like structures that extend below the hull. These structures lift the boat out of the water as it gains speed. It offers an exhilarating and fast-paced sailing experience, making you feel like you are flying above the water.

Catamaran sailboats have two parallel hulls of equal size connected by a deck or trampoline. They are popular for their exceptional stability and space availability. The hulls are positioned widely apart, offering a much broader base and resistance to capsizing.

Trimarans have three hulls that allow good stability, speed, and a huge living space. Due to its three hulls, the boat can ride on top of the water with minimum drag. Trimarans are also spacious, making them perfect for long voyages or family outings.

Gaffer provide a classic aesthetic appeal and are known for their versatility and ease of handling. These boats have a single mast and a large, triangular-shaped mainsail (jib) with a gaff rig that makes the boat appear quite elegant.

Schooner have sails parallel to the boat’s centerline, offering excellent downwind performance and versatility. These boats are popular choices for cruising, chartering, and recreational sailing because of their appearance and agility.

Ketch sailboats offer several advantages, such as versatility, balance, and easy sailing. Its mizzen sail provides better balance and control in different wind conditions, making it ideal for comfortable long-distance trips.

Yawl delivers stability and balance in bad weather as it contains two different-sized masts and fore-and-aft rigged topsail. A yawl is the right option if you prefer sailing in unpredictable weather conditions.

Wrapping Up

Exploring the various types of sailboats is an exciting journey that allows you to uncover each vessel’s distinctive characteristics, advantages, and unique features. By understanding the classifications, hull types, keels, rigs, and other essential aspects, you can make an informed decision when choosing the perfect sailboat for your adventurous voyages.

Additionally, it’s important to consider practical factors, such as boat storage. Depending on the size and design of the sailboat, you may need to explore suitable storage options to protect your investment and ensure its longevity.

Whether you are drawn to the grace and speed of a catamaran, the classic charm of a sloop, or the versatility of a cutter, each type of sailboat offers its own appeal and potential for unforgettable experiences on the water.

So, embark on your sailing journey, armed with the knowledge gained from this guide, and set sail on a thrilling adventure aboard the sailboat that best aligns with your aspirations!

  • What are the types of sailing?

There are various types of sailing, such as cruising sailboats, racing, day sailing, recreational sailing, offshore sailing, dinghy sailing, catamaran sailing, and keelboat sailing.

  • What is the most common type of sailboat?

The most common type of sailboat is a sloop with one mast and two sails, efficient for sailing in windy conditions.

  • How many classes of sailboats are there?

Sailboats are classified into three types based on their hulls: monohulls, catamarans, and trimarans.

  • What are the main types of sailboats?

The different types of sailboats are schooner, sloop, catboat, cutter, ketch, catamaran, and trimaran.

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Sailboat Mast: Everything You Need To Know

Anyone who loves sails and boating needs to know their sailing boat from the inside out. If you are new to the sport, then you are probably wondering about things like a sailboat mast and everything around it.

In this article, we have everything you need to know about a sailboat mast, like what it is, its different types, as well as the material it is made of.

All you have to do is keep reading below to find it all out!

What Is A Sailboat Mast?

A sailboat mast is a tall pole that is attached to the deck. It helps secure the sail’s length to the boat and upholds the sail’s structure.

A sailboat mast is the most defining characteristic of a sailboat, helping keep the sail in place. What’s amazing about it is that it can even be taller than the vessel’s length!

Although conventional sailboats use wood, the majority of the newer sailboat masts are constructed of aluminum. The kind of sailboat mast a vessel has depends on the kind of sail plan supported.

What Are The Parts Of A Sailboat Mast?

The sailing mast is essentially a pole that cannot operate effectively without certain critical components.

Moving from the deck to the rest of the sailboat, we can first see the mast boot, which prevents the water from draining down the mast and flooding the cabin.

The stays are the long cords hooked up on each side of the mast, and they hold the mast up off the ground under massive force.

A gooseneck pipe fitting joins the boom to the mast. The sail is raised and lowered using halyard lines that go to the mast’s highest point.

Types Of Sailboat Masts

Rigs with one mast.

Many people that are not aware of the modern sailboat design envision single-mast sailboats.

The reason why this type of sailboat is so widely known is that these masts are low-cost to construct and fairly simple to operate alone.

Sloops, cutters, and catboats are among the most popular rigs with only one mast.

Sloop Masts

Nowadays, sloop rig vessels are the most popular type of sailing boat. Sloops typically have only one mast positioned somewhere on the front third or the middle of the deck, even though some boat models might vary a bit.

A sloop mast is equipped with a big mainsail and a jib sail (see also ‘ Why Are Sails Made In A Triangular Shape? ‘). A Bermuda-rigged sloop has only one towering mast and a triangle-shaped sail. Other not-so-popular gaff-rigged sloops have a significantly smaller mast and bigger 4-point mainsails.

Catboat Masts

Catboats are distinctive New England boats that have a forward-mounted standard mast and a long boom. A catboat, unlike a sloop-rigged boat, is only equipped with one sail.

It is also typically mounted (more or less) right in front of the boat, and it is commonly short and relatively thick.

Catboats are frequently gaff-rigged. In a single-mast design, gaff-rigged sail designs (see also ‘ The Definition And History Of The Lateen (Triangular) Sail ‘) succeed in making the most out of short masts and are relatively simple to maneuver.

The mast of gaff-rigged catboats is shorter than that of a Bermuda-rigged boat of comparable size, but it is typically taller than that of comparable gaff-rigged crafts.

Cutter Mast

A cutter-rigged sailboat has only one towering mast and several headsails, which is why it can be mistaken for sloops when seen from afar.

However, because cutters use numerous headsails rather than one standard jib (see also ‘ Everything You Need To Know About Sailboat Jibs ‘), their masts are typically taller than those of comparable-sized sloops.

In several places, a gaff-rigged cutter is far more usual than a gaff-rigged sloop. Even at times when its sails are folded, a cutter can be distinguished from a sloop.

This is due to the fact that cutters frequently have a protracted bowsprit and two front stays; the forestay and the jib stay.

Rigs With Multiple Masts

Multi-mast sailboats (see also ‘ Small Sailboats: What Are They Called? ‘) are not as popular as single-mast sailboats. That is why the design and structure of a multi-mast boat usually make it classier and more navigable.

A multi-mast boat provides more than simply great looks. It also provides speed and efficient control for skilled seamen.

Most of these boats have two masts, which seem to be frequently smaller than the masts on comparable-sized single-mast crafts. Yawl, ketch, as well as schooner rigs, are among the most popular types.

Yawls are sturdy multi-mast boats whose length ranges from 20 to more than 50 ft. A yawl has a lengthy forward main mast and a small mizzen mast at the back of the vessel. This type is also frequently gaff-rigged and was previously used as a utility boat.

A yawl-rigged boat can also self-steer by using the mizzen mast and sail. The yawl can be distinguished from many other double-mast vessels by its short mizzen mast, which is frequently half the size of the main mast.

Furthermore, the mizzen mast is located toward the back of the rudder post.

Ketch Masts

Ketch masts can be mistaken for yawls with a quick look. However, ketch masts are equipped with two masts of comparable size and a significantly bigger mizzen mast. A ketch boat’s mizzen mast is located at the front of the rudder post.

Ketch-rigged vessels are frequently gaff-rigged, with topsails on each one of their masts. Triangle-shaped sailplanes on some ketch-rigged vessels prevent the necessity for a topsail.

Ketch masts, much like the yawl ones, have a headsail, a mainsail, and a mizzen sail that are similar in size to the mainsail. Finally, a ketch-rigged vessel can sail while handling more than one rear sail.

Schooner Masts

Schooners are some of the most beautiful multi-mast sailboats. They are clearly more similar to ketches than yawls. However, if you closely look at a schooner, you will see that it will feature a smaller foremast and a longer (or nearly equal-sized) mast behind it.

Schooner masts are large and heavy, but they are generally shorter than single-mast vessels of comparable size.

This is due to the fact that double-masted vessels share the sail plan over 2 masts and do not require the additional length to compensate for the reduced sail space.

Finally, they are typically gaff-rigged, with topsails and topmasts that expand the mast’s length.

Masts Of Tall Ships

Tall ships are those traditional large cruising ships that ruled the seas well before age of steam. Renowned ships with this massive and intricate rig setup include the U.S.S Constitution as well as the H.M.S. Victory.

Tall ships have 3 or more massive masts that are frequently constructed using big tree trunks. Tall ships with 5 or more masts are quite common too.

Tall ships typically are as long as 100 feet or more, since the size and sophistication of these square-rigged vessels render them only useful at scale.

Tall ships have main masts, foremasts, mizzen masts, and gaff-rigged jigger masts at the back of their mizzen masts.

Sailboat Mast Everything You Need To Know (1)

Mast Materials For Sailboats

The masts of sailboats (see also ‘ Two-Mast Sailboat Types ‘) are typically constructed of aluminum or other specific types of wood. Until the 1950s, almost all sailboat masts were constructed of wood.

That began changing around the time that fiberglass vessels rose to fame, with aluminum being now the most used mast material.

Aluminum Masts For Sailboats

Aluminum has become the most popular modern mast material. Aluminum masts are lighter in weight, hollow, and simple to produce. Such reasonably priced masts efficiently withstand seawater. These masts are also heavy for their size.

If there is one drawback to this type of mast that would be galvanic corrosion, which happens extremely quickly once seawater is in contact with aluminum and another metal, like steel and copper.

So, in types like the Bermuda-rigged sloop which are frequently made with aluminum, that is an issue.

Wooden Masts For Sailboats

The typical material for sailboat masts is wood, which is still employed for many specially designed boats nowadays.

Wood masts are big and bulky, yet very sturdy, and proper maintenance can guarantee their lengthy (over 100 years!) lifespan. They are also prevalent on gaff-rigged vessels because wood is best suited for short masts.

The Fir family provides the most popular mast wood. Although Douglas Fir is widely used, regional models (such as British, Columbian, and Yellow Fir) are also ideal.

Several sailboats, especially the tall ships, have masts made of pine and sometimes redwood. Other cedar species like the Port Orford or the Oregon cedar, can also be used for masts and spars.

Carbon Fiber Masts For Sailboats

Carbon fiber masts are a relatively new addition to the boatbuilding industry, and they have a few perks over the wood and aluminum ones.

First of all, carbon fiber is both strong and light, making it perfect for sailboats designed for races and which typically have tall masts. The best top-quality carbon fiber masts in the business are used by ships competing in America’s Cup races.

Maintenance Of Masts

It is critical to maintaining the sailboat masts and all of their associated hardware. Masts’ stays, lines, and halyards must be regularly checked, modified, and replaced on a regular basis. Masts made of wood must be lacquered and inspected for rot.

Masts made of aluminum do not typically require regular checks and maintenance, but any indications of a corrosive environment should be acted upon right away.

Build a clear maintenance schedule with your regional boat repairman or boating specialist. Keep in mind that preventative maintenance is always less expensive and simpler than repair work.

Choosing The Right Mast

For those who own a production boat, the options will be determined by the model and manufacturer.

The important factors to keep in mind for one-off boats without a designer sail plan are:

  • the masts step’s features
  • the length and displacement of the boat
  • the addition of backstays and running backstays
  • the quantity and placement of chainplates

If the mast is on a step on deck rather than on the structural beam, an image of the step may be useful to the mast maker.

For those who frequently take part in races, a carbon mast will save them from the extra weight and enhance their performance.

The Bottom Line

We hope that this article was helpful in learning more about a sailboat mast, the different types of mast you can see on vessels, as well as the materials they are made of, and their maintenance requirements.

Masts play a vital role in holding the boats in place, allowing people to keep on sailing to their dream destination, and they are also an eye-catching element of sailboats thanks to their vertical form and their length that often surpasses that of the sailboat itself.

Depending on the use of the boat, you will get a different type of mast, and the material it will be made of, its size, height, and weight, will guarantee the best sailing experience!

Related Posts:

Everything You Need To Know About Sailboat Jibs

WaterCraft 101

WaterCraft 101

Your guide to fun on the water!

Sailboat with two sails

Why Do Sailboats Have Two Sails? (Explained)

If you’ve ever been sailing or watched a regatta, you’ll know that boats typically have two or more sails. It’s uncommon to see them with less than that. But what’s the reason behind this? 

Sailboats have two sails to improve the boat’s maneuverability, balance, speed, and ease of handling. The front sail is called the jib, while the one behind it is the mainsail. Some boats have more than two sails to increase their stability and speed even further. 

The way sailboats work is very interesting, so you’ll want to learn more! In this article, I’ll give you some in-depth explanations for why sailboats have two sails. So keep reading, everything you need to know is below.

Sailboat with two sails

How Does Having Two Sails Help Sailboats? 

It’s rare to see a sailboat with only one sail, and this might make you wonder what the science is behind this phenomenon. So, how does having two sails help sailboats? 

Having two sails (a mainsail and a jib) helps sailboats by allowing the sailor to better maneuver the sailboat through the water, easily increase the boat’s speed, and have better handling over the boat overall. In short, having two sails offers improved control over the boat.

With all these benefits, sailors can handle their boats with ease. I’ll discuss these points in more detail below: 

Two Sails Offer Greater Maneuverability

Many beginner sailers make the mistake of assuming that sailboats move because the wind exerts a force on the sails. 

This is only partly true because when a boat has more than one sail, the wind’s current is split along the mast into two rough wind streams on either side of the sail. The space in front of the sail will have a low-pressure area, while the wind will create high pressure behind it. The pressure difference exerts a force on the sails that propels them forward. 

The sail will move in the wind stream direction with the lowest pressure by being dragged forward.

The lowest-pressure wind stream gradually stabilizes, resulting in the wind moving faster on that side of the sail. This causes the sailboat to move because the wind is pulling the sail, and it is the same concept as an airplane’s wings creating lift . 

Having Two Sails Allows for Increased Speed

A sailboat speeds up when a sail is perpendicular to the wind, with the wind blowing into the sail. 

However, having two or more sails can help your sailboat go even faster. Some wind gets caught on your mainsail and some blows around it when you’re out on the water.  The air that moves around the mainsail contributes to your sailboat’s acceleration, which you could further increase by adding another sail. 

A sailboat with two sails will move faster

Two Sails Increases the Ease of Handling 

When boats have two sails, you can handle them much easier. This is because all boats have a pivot point located behind the mast. Most of the mainsail’s surface area is behind the pivot point. 

If you were to sail your boat with only the mainsail, the wind’s force behind the pivot point would be greater than the force in front of it. The sailboat would then tend to turn in the wind’s direction. 

In a strong wind, sailing with only the mainsail would mean that your rudder wouldn’t be powerful enough to steer the sailboat, and you would need to rely on the mainsail to steer your boat. 

However, adding a jib to your sailboat would balance out the force from the mainsail, making it easier for the sailor to handle and making the boat more stable. 

A sailboat’s keel helps keep it upright by compensating for the wind’s sideways forces. However, you adjust the jib slightly to move the sailboat in another direction, proving that having two sails helps you control your sailboat more effectively. 

What Are Boats With Two Sails Called?  

Boats with two sails are called cutters or sloops. Both have a mast with two sails, but a cutter has two foresails, while a sloop has a mainsail and a jib. Ketches are also sailboats but feature more than one mast with multiple smaller sails. 

There are a variety of sailboats out there. Below is some more information about these three sailboat varieties: 

Cutter: Sail Configuration

Like sloops, cutters have a single mast. Unlike sloops, cutters usually have two headsails. Cutter headsails tend to have a lower center of gravity than the jib sail of sloops, giving cutters more stability and better control in rough conditions. Cutters are commonly seen in Bermuda-rigged or gaff-rigged configurations.

Regardless of the configuration, cutter rigging is more complex than the rigging of most sloops. This makes them a bit more challenging to handle single-handed.

Sloop: Sail Configuration

When most people think about sailboats, this is the one they see in their minds. The classic single mast, double sail configuration with a Bermuda rig is fun to sail and reasonably easy to control. The high-profile mast does, however, make them easier to capsize in rough conditions.

While the Bermuda rig is the most popular configuration for sloops, it is not the only one. Some sloops feature fractional sloop rigs or specially designed racing rigs. Fractional sloop rigs offer more stability options and usually are preferred for extended offshore use. As you may have guessed, Racing rigs are designed for speed and maneuverability.

A single masted sailboat with two sails

Ketch: Sail Configuration

We’ll now take a short visit to touch on a type of sailboat with more than one mast. Ketches feature a taller mainmast near the front of the boat and a shorter mast near the rear. The shorter mast is called the mizzenmast.

This split rig divides the sail plan into smaller components than a single mast sailboat. A ketch can be either Bermuda-rigged or gaff-rigged. Ketches usually have smaller sails and shorter masts than sloops or cutters, making them easier to control in difficult weather conditions. 

Though generally slower than their single mast cousins, sailors who prefer safety over speed tend to favor ketches for their durability and the peace of mind that comes from having a second mast.

Yawls are closely related to ketches, yet the mizzenmasts are set further back.

Why Do Sailboats Have Two Sails – Final Thoughts

Sailboats have two sails as they allow the sailor to: 

  • Enable better maneuverability
  • Increase their traveling speed
  • Improve the sailboat’s ease of handling

Sailboats with two sails and one mast can be either sloops or cutters.

sailboat with two or more masts

Bryan is a Las Vegas resident who loves spending his free time out on the water. Boating on Lake Mohave or Lake Havasu is his favorite way to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. More about Bryan.

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sailboat with two or more masts

2 Tory politicians join forces to demand feds remove sunken sailboat from St. John River

Mp john williamson and mla bill oliver want immediate action from ottawa.

sailboat with two or more masts

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The April 30 deadline to remove a sunken sailboat from the St. John River has come and gone and the Not a Starship is still sitting on the bottom. 

On Wednesday, the area's provincial and federal elected officials teamed up to call on Ottawa to "immediately remove the wrecked vessel." 

MP John Williamson and MLA Bill Oliver specifically want Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard to remove the remains of the sailboat and, in a joint statement, criticized both for underestimating "the immediate risks posed by Not a Starship."

"Visible evidence of the vessel's diesel, generator fuel and battery fluid leaking into the river throughout the winter was not enough to convince federal officials that this wreck was abandoned," said the statement.

sailboat with two or more masts

Continuing saga of the sunken sailboat

"Now, its 17-metre mast pierces the water from the river's bed, posing a clear risk to unsuspecting boaters. Likelihood of a collision has only heightened as nearby boat traffic increases with warmer weather."

Last month, an official with Transport Canada said if the boat wasn't removed by the owner by April 30, it would be "deemed as abandoned under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, and the owner could face enforcement actions, including monetary penalties."

This week, Transport Canada spokesperson Katherine Proulx said a department official made a visit Wednesday to Not a Starship to "assess the situation." She was asked for more details about the assessment but has not yet responded. 

Oliver, a Progressive Conservative MLA, said people have environmental and safety concerns about the sunken boat. 

"We need to have the boat removed immediately before boating activities increase, we've waited long enough, the time to act is now," he said.

Two men in foreground with a body of water behind them and a light-coloured pole barely visible out of the water.

Both Oliver and Williams called on Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez and Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier to "overrule their departments and use the federal powers granted to them under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act to remove this wreck immediately."

Williamson, a Conservative MP, said he has another worry, in addition to the environmental and navigational concerns. 

"The third one is bureaucratic — that the boat might not be removed anytime soon and that's the primary reason that I joined Bill Oliver today in voicing our concerns — to focus attention on this problem, so it's not studied to death, but in fact, it is acted upon as quickly as possible."

Man in sunglasses sits on a tub on the deck of a sailboat, smoking a cigarette.

The boat's owner, Jordan Tatton, did not respond to interview requests. 

In an interview in January, however, Tatton said his boat was definitely not abandoned. In fact, at that time, he had planned to spend the winter on it.  

He also dismissed concerns about his boat , confident it would survive the winter. 

By that time, local residents had been expressing concerns about the sailboat for months — even long before the river froze. 

A double-masted sailboat is frozen into the ice on a body of water.  Sailboat frozen into the ice on the St. John River near Browns Flat on Jan. 9, 2024.

They worried about the environmental damage should the boat sink, since it was equipped with a diesel engine, a generator, and the batteries necessary to operate the solar panels. 

Even at the time the boat started to sink in February, the Coast Guard said it wasn't concerned about pollution.

Within days of it sinking, a spokesperson said there was a "minimal amount of non-persistent oils" on the vessel, meaning the type of fuel on board would have evaporated from the surface of the water within 48 hours.

Double-masted sailboat submerged in ice nearly to the top of the roof of the cabin and surrounded by a circle of brownish water and then white ice outside the circle.

Williamson said the boat's been on the bottom long enough. 

"I understand that fuels do evaporate and they can have minimum impact on the environment," he said in an interview on Wednesday. "Having said that, I do not want this studied to death."

Williamson and Oliver both said they've received a lot of messages from concerned constituents. 

Two masts sticking out of the water in a river, far from shore.

"I've also received many emails from boaters — mostly sailors and power boaters — that use the river on a regular basis that would just like to see the boat gone," said Oliver. 

He said there are already boats out on the river — and he expects the number to increase quickly as conditions improve. Most will not be on the lookout for large metal poles sticking out of the water, he said.

"These are just the tips of the masts that might not be visible — in the evening, they certainly wouldn't be," Oliver said. "So no, it's a concern, there's no question about it."


sailboat with two or more masts

Mia Urquhart is a journalist with CBC New Brunswick, based in Saint John. She can be reached at [email protected].

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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

sailboat with two or more masts

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

sailboat with two or more masts

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…

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You may also like, guide to understanding sail rig types (with pictures).

There are a lot of different sail rig types and it can be difficult to remember what's what. So I've come up with a system. Let me explain it in this article.

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A wide view of the Battleship New Jersey in dry dock on a sunny day.

The Most Decorated Battleship in U.S. History Gets an Overdue Face-Lift

It has been 34 years since the Battleship New Jersey was last pulled out of the water for maintenance.

Roughly 45,000 sailors and Marines served on the U.S.S. New Jersey’s decks in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Lebanese Civil War and the Iran-Iraq Tanker War. Credit... Rachel Wisniewski for The New York Times

Supported by

By Tracey Tully ,  Rachel Wisniewski and Erin Schaff

  • May 1, 2024

The most decorated battleship in the history of the United States is done with war.

The engines of the vessel, the Battleship New Jersey, are no longer permitted to operate, by order of the U.S. Navy.

But on a windy afternoon in March, tugboats pushed and pulled the ship away from land for the first time in more than 20 years. It left its berth in Camden, N.J., en route to Philadelphia, where it was guided into dry dock to undergo two months of repairs that can only be completed out of water.

Muriel Smith was there to watch.

“You’ll get me crying,” Ms. Smith, 87, said, describing the emotions she felt as a mammoth American flag was hoisted aloft during the shifting of colors before the Battleship New Jersey left the dock on March 21. Ms. Smith, a writer who lives in New Jersey, was on hand in 1999, too, when the ship made its way through the Panama Canal, headed toward its new career as a museum and memorial .

sailboat with two or more masts

At each event, she said, she thought about her children, two of whom served in the U.S. Marines and one, Tracie Smith-Yeoman, who retired from the Navy as a commander.

“I feel like my own kids are being honored,” Ms. Smith said about the financial commitment that enabled the monthslong maintenance project.

“All the lives that served on her,” added Ms. Smith-Yeoman, who now teaches naval science at a magnet school on the Jersey Shore. “All that she did to secure the freedoms of so many people.

“It’s important that we never, ever forget that.”

No other U.S. battleship served in more military campaigns. Christened on the first anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1942, it went on to earn 19 battle stars during 21 years of active service . Roughly 45,000 sailors and Marines served on its decks in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Lebanese Civil War and the Iran-Iraq Tanker War.

The ship arrived at its permanent dock in Camden in October 2001, just after the Sept. 11 attacks. For security reasons, it was a hush-hush affair. “They moved her in the middle of the night without anybody on board,” Ryan Szimanski, the museum’s curator, said.

As a museum, the battleship has become known for its hands-on military history tours and for the Scout sleepovers, retirement parties and high school proms that help to pay its bills.

It was years overdue for the routine maintenance required to keep it safely afloat for the next couple of decades in the Delaware River. And preparations for pulling the 887.7-foot ship about six miles, from Camden to Paulsboro, N.J., and then to Philadelphia, were complete even before the $10 million it will cost to finish the job was secured.

sailboat with two or more masts

To get to Philadelphia, the battleship had to pass under the Walt Whitman Bridge, which has a low-tide clearance 26 feet shorter than the ship’s tallest point, Mr. Szimanski said.

A mast and antennas had to be removed to make it fit. And as the battleship neared Philadelphia, its onboard tanks were flooded with water to weigh it down enough to shimmy it into Dock No. 3 of the Philly Shipyard .

It took three days to drain the slip, leaving the hull fully visible for the first time in 34 years.

For weeks, workers have been hunched underneath the battleship welding waterproof caps and replacing anodes as others perch on equipment high overhead, pressure-washing and painting the hull.

Before returning to Camden in late May, the ship will have been sprayed with six coats of epoxy in three distinct colors — layering that will help museum officials track the underwater erosion process.

Weekend tours have allowed ticket holders from as far away as China and South America to walk beneath its underbelly. One man flew back and forth from California within 24 hours for the opportunity to climb down five flights of stairs into the cavernous boat basin where the work is being done.

“They don’t do this, anywhere, very often,” said Libby Jones, the museum’s director of education. “If you’re into this kind of stuff, this is it — this is the Super Bowl.”

Along the way, Mr. Szimanski has stumbled into internet fame.

A YouTube channel he and Ms. Jones created at the start of the pandemic to offer programming while the museum was closed now has nearly 240,000 subscribers. Tickets for the dry-dock tours that Mr. Szimanski leads are selling for $1,000. (Tours led by other guides are $225.)

“I think it’s crazy!” said Mr. Szimanski, 34, who grew up in Baltimore and has been working on museum battleships since he was a teenager.

He is driven, he said, by a desire to offer an authentic window into the country’s military history, including the 1,600-room battleship’s capacity for devastation and the sacrifices that have accompanied it home from war.

“Maybe that will be enough,” he said, “to remind us not to do it all over again.”

Tracey Tully is a reporter for The Times who covers New Jersey, where she has lived for more than 20 years. More about Tracey Tully

Erin Schaff is a photojournalist for The Times, covering stories across the country. More about Erin Schaff


7 more victims injured in Swan Boat Club crash sue driver, club

sailboat with two or more masts

Seven other victims of the Swan Boat Club crash in Monroe County that left two children dead and nearly a dozen others injured have filed a civil lawsuit against the driver who crashed into the building, the boat club and the tavern where the driver was allegedly drinking at before the crash.

Denise Roberts, Martin Roberts, Patricia Raths, Alyssa Sigler, Lia Stith, Josh Stith and Kathy Stigler are the new additions in the lawsuit, an amended version of which was filed Monday in Monroe County Circuit Court. Mariah Dodds and her 11-year-old son filed a lawsuit April 22, two days after the fatal crash. Dodds' two children, 4-year-old Zayn Phillips and 8-year-old Alanah Phillips, were killed in the crash.

Raths, Alyssa Sigler, Lisa Sith, Josh Stith, Lia Stith and Kathy Sigler were seriously injured in the crash, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit names Marshella Chidester as a defendant. Chidester, 66, is accused of driving under the influence on April 20 and crashing her car into the Swan Boat Club in Monroe County during a children's birthday party.

Prosecutors said she drove through the side of the building and the vehicle flew 25 feet inside; her attorney contends Chidester may have had a seizure or a type of neuropathy that affected her.

Chidester, who served as commodore of the Swan Boat Club in 2017 and lives 200 yards from the club, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of operating under the influence of alcohol causing death and four counts of operating under the influence of alcohol causing serious injury. She faces up to life in prison if she's convicted.

More: Monroe Co. woman charged with murder in boat club crash that 'took those babies from us'

According to the civil lawsuit, one of the victims, Denise Roberts was standing with her back to the wall that Chidester's car came through. She heard a loud boom, which sounded like a bomb going off. The next thing she remembers was her husband, Martin Roberts, finding her and sitting her up on the floor. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and has back pain.

The lawsuit also contends Swan Boat Club "negligently constructed and maintained its building where the crash occurred," and constructed the building "in the roadway" without installing a guard rail, cement pole or other safety devices meant to keep a vehicle from crashing through the building.

The club also was in violation of building codes, had an unsafe parking lot and driveway and failed to inspect the area for hazards, dangers and improper conditions, according to the lawsuit.

The boat club did not answer the phone Tuesday, but has been posting on Facebook frequently about fundraisers to benefit the victims from the crash.

"We have no profound words that can heal us after the unimaginable tragedy that occurred yesterday April 20, 2024, at Swan Boat Club, only feelings," the club's board of directors wrote in a Facebook post on April 21. "Sadness, shock, frustration. We are a fellowship of people who band together when tragedy strikes. We need time to process the grief, support each other, support the families directly and indirectly involved, to be in each other’s company."

The lawsuit also names Verna's Tavern, which is the bar that allegedly served Chidester prior to the crash. Bar officials have not responded to requests for comment. 

Chidester's attorney, Bill Colovos, said last week that a search warrant of Verna's Tavern found Chidester only had one glass of wine and a bowl of chili for lunch from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday. He said police were too quick to blame the bar and name them to the media when they "didn't do anything wrong."

Colovos said Chidester has a history of having epileptic-type seizures in her legs that result in paralysis, but later said she had a type of neuropathy. She was treated for it the day of the crash, he said. He said Chidester does not remember entering the parking lot of the boat club or anything that happened leading up to the crash. He said she was invited to the birthday party by the person hosting it.

Monroe County Prosecutor Jeffrey Yorkey, meanwhile, has said there was no evidence Chidester had a seizure the day of the crash, as Colovos claimed. A “very long investigation,” including a breath test, indicated she was significantly over the legal limit, Yorkey said, but didn't specify the exact result.

Yorkey said friends and family told investigators Chidester has a “very severe substance abuse issue.”

The lawsuit also names Auto-Owners Insurance Company, who represents Denise Roberts; Progressive Marathon Insurance Company, which represents Lia Stith and Raths; and Allstate Insurance Company, which represents Alyssa Sigler and Josh Stith. It alleges the insurance companies either refused to pay or are expected to refuse to pay the plaintiffs injured in the crash all the benefits she should get for being uninsured or underinsured.

Chidester posted $1.5 million bail Thursday and has been released from the Monroe County Jail.

Raquel Smouthers, Lana and Zayn's aunt, said during Chidester's arraignment April 23 that even if Chidester was on medication or had medical issues, she should not have been driving.

“Nobody should ever have to go to a birthday party thinking they’re going to die,” Smouthers said.

[email protected]


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