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.

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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