Types of Sailboats: The Ultimate List!

Though many modern fishers and recreational enthusiasts prefer motorboats, many types of sailboats offer a similar level of on-the-water enjoyment—and with less upkeep required. While boats with motors get you where you need to go quickly, there’s nothing like sailing on open water with the wind to guide you. Here’s everything you need to know about sails, learning to sail, boat costs, and different types of sailboats.

What’s in a Sail?

Though there are a few primary categories of sailboats, the differences between the sails are staggering. Because of the differences between sailboats and their endless configurations, including designs with or without motors, it’s worth discussing the types of sails.

Common sailboat styles include:

●  Modern sloop, with one mast and two sails

●  Bermuda or Marconi rig, which hare tall, triangular sails

●  Racing sloop

●  Masthead sloop, where the jib reaches to the top of the masthead

●  Fractional sloop rig, with a proportionately larger mainsail and a smaller jib

●  Cat rig (one sail)

●  Ketch rig, with a mizzenmast, a smaller mast set aft

●  Yawl, similar to a ketch

●  Schooner, two or more masts positioned forward in the boat

Other types of sails are less common in modern times, such as a topsail with multiple flying jibs, because sailors today are often out for fun rather than crossing entire oceans. Plus, the larger and more extensive your sail, the more crew members you need to support such a system.

If you plan to sail alone or with one or two other people, a smaller sail setup is ideal. Especially if you are still learning, you don’t need to worry much about types of sails; the one that comes with your boat will likely do just fine.

Learning to Sail

Whether you are familiar with personal watercraft like a jet ski or you’re tired of rowing a smaller boat, it might be time to learn to sail. Apart from being able to save yourself if your boat’s motor fails, learning to sail is an enjoyable skill that enables you and your family to enjoy a whole new level of recreation on the water.

Sailing also eliminates the need for engine upkeep and tasks like changing the oil on your outboard motor or filling up with fuel. It’s also a more environmentally friendly way to enjoy local waterways.

You can learn to sail on your own or with an instructor, but the American Sailing Association and U.S. Sailing both certify new sailing students who complete requisite educational courses. Learning to sail involves such tasks as:

●  Using the tiller to move the rudder and make directional changes

●  Angling the mainsail to fill it with wind

●  Tying off a line using knots like a cleat hitch

The DIY approach is one way to learn how to sail, but becoming certified will ensure you cover the basics and intermediate skills necessary to stay safe. You also need proper attire and equipment such as gloves, sunglasses with UV protection, a windbreaker, comfortable anti-slip shoes, and a life preserver.

After you learn to sail, purchasing your own sailboat will likely be the next step in the adventure.

Sailboat Costs

Like powerboats, new boat prices on sailing rigs can vary widely. By using a boat payment calculator, you can determine what amount is an affordable investment for you. Also consider potential insurance costs, plus transportation such as a trailer.

Shopping for a used boat is an excellent idea, especially if you know what make or model boat you prefer. As a beginner, sailing with an older boat may be preferable since you don’t need to worry about bumps and scrapes as much as you would with a brand-new sailboat.

Whether it’s a small dinghy to practice sailing in or a larger boat with a backup motor for cruising, there’s a sailboat that’s perfect for your recreation and sport sailing desires.

Different Types of Sailboats

Though sailboats operate by harnessing the wind in their sails, many also allow for onboard motor mounting or even come with an engine when you purchase them new. In many cases, considering used outboard motors for a sailboat is an excellent investment, especially for new boaters who may need a backup plan while sailing.


Catamarans often fall into the luxury sailboat category because they offer plenty of space and features for recreation. A catamaran has a stable platform deck with multiple hulls to keep it balanced. Beach catamarans operate solely via sail while cruising catamarans typically have an onboard motor as a backup.

Cruising Sailboat

A cruising sailboat, or cruiser yacht, is a boat with the capacity for long-distance sailing. Cruising sailboats also focus on long-term comfort, offering living space and amenities to keep you on the water for as long as you like.


A daysailer or dayboat is a small-scale sailboat ideal for short excursions. Some daysailers have accommodations for sleeping but can be either multihull or monohull. You can usually use a trailer to transport a daysailer because of its small size.

Motorsailer boats take the idea of a daysailer and grow it exponentially: a motorsailer features both sails and a motor but also luxury accommodations like a full cabin with galley and head.

Racing Sailboat

A racing sailboat or yacht is a competitive sailing boat with minimal features for either comfort or handling. Racing boats aim to go fast, so they are as lightweight and competitive as possible. Unless you aim to win a race on the water, you likely won’t need a racing sailboat.

Racer-cruiser sailboats are also available and provide competitive features while adding comforts like a fully-equipped cabin and sleeping berths to the package. Racer/cruiser boats are typically larger—between 30 and 50 feet—and are ideal for on-the-water vacationing.

Sailing Dinghy

Small like a standard dinghy, which is usually operable via paddles or an onboard motor, a sailing dinghy is one of the tinier types of sailboats ideal for a single person or perhaps a couple. Dinghy sailing has a reputation for being the easiest to manage for beginners.

Therefore, this kind of boat is ideal for those looking to practice sailing. And with oars or a small onboard motor as a backup, you can avoid panic even if things don’t go your way.