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Small Sailboat Types: A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Vessel

Learning how to sail can lead to years of fun and adventure, and having the right sailboat can make your experiences on the water even more enjoyable. Small sailboats have increased in popularity over the last few decades as more people have taken up sailing as a hobby, and today, many types of small sailboats are available for various types of activities.

So, what small sailboat types could be right for you?


Types of Small Sailboats

The term "small sailboats" encompasses a wide range of sailboat models. Generally, if a boat is less than 25 feet long and has a mast, rudder, and sail, it is considered a small sailboat. Various types of small sailboats have different characteristics that make them better for certain types of sailing. Here are some of the most popular small sailboat types. 


Small sailboats on the lake


Sailing dinghies

Sailing dinghies are frequently chosen because they are light and responsive. They are usually rigged with one mast and one sail, making them easy to handle, and they have a shallow draft, allowing them to be used almost anywhere. Sailing dinghies are also some of the least expensive sailboats because they tend to be simple with few features.


Laser – Laser sailing dinghies are nearly 14 feet long and weigh about 130 pounds, making them easy to maneuver and transport.

Beetle Cat - Beetle Cat sailing dinghies are roughly 12 feet long and have a draft of 2 feet, which makes them great for coastal cruising.

Sunfish - The Sunfish has a simple 14-foot setup and is ideal for those who want to learn how to sail. 

Catalina 16.5 - The Catalina 16.5 is slightly over 17 feet long and can draft as low as 5 inches on the water.

RS Venture – The Venture model from RS Sailing is 16 feet long and is often used in training classes for those new to sailing. 

RS Aero – The Aero model from RS Sailing is nearly 14 feet long and is known for its speed, making it popular with experienced racers.

Topaz Taz – At slightly under 10 feet in length, the Topaz Taz is one of the smallest sailing dinghies currently available. 


Topaz Taz

Topaz Taz. Photo credit: Topper Saliboats



Daysailer is a broad categorization of small sailboat types based on usage and size. Daysailers, also known as dayboats, are larger than sailing dinghies and are available with or without sleeping accommodations. At Rightboat, we list a large selection of daysailers in a wide variety of styles. 


Marblehead 22 – The Marblehead 22 is a daysailer with a cockpit that is nearly 12 feet long. It has plenty of room to seat several people.

Catalina 22 Sport – The Catalina 22 Sport daysailer is nearly 22 feet long, can sleep four people, and has a retractable keel for a draft of less than two feet.

Cape Cod Daysailer – This 16-foot sailboat is one of the most affordable models for its size and has enough room to seat several people comfortably. 

West Wight Potter P19 – The P19 model from West Wight Potter is just under 20 feet long and comes with four berths, a galley, a sink, and a stove.

Sun Cat – This daysailer from Com-Pac Yachts is nearly 18 feet long and has twin 6-foot berths as well as a handful of other useful amenities.


Marblehead 22

Photo credit: Zurn


Small sloops

Small sloop is another popular category of small sailboat types. These sailboats are easy to maintain and easy to learn to control and maneuver. They are characterized by a single-mast rig, which typically has a triangular mainsail and a headsail. Small sloops can usually be sailed with one to four people aboard and can be used for all types of sailing in different conditions.


Montgomery 17 – This small sloop has a length of roughly 17 feet and a retractable centerboard keel that can make the boat draft just 2 feet.

Super Snark - The Super Snark is 11 feet long and weighs just 50 pounds with a payload capacity of about 310 pounds. 

Flying Scot - At just under 20 feet in length, the Flying Scot is one of the larger small sailboats, allowing it to comfortably seat up to eight people. 

BayRaider - The BayRaider is nearly 20 feet long with most of that space occupied by an open cockpit. 


Small catamarans

Small catamarans are a good choice for sailors who want some extra stability on the water. These sailboats have two hulls that create a wide and stable base and can be rigged with one or two sails. Small catamarans are often used for cruising, fishing, and racing.


Hobie 16 - The Hobie 16 is slightly less than 17 feet long and is known for being fast, making it very popular with speed-loving sailors.

Minicat - Minicat has developed a line of inflatable catamarans with multi-piece masts that are available in various sizes. 


More information: Buying A Sailing Catamaran


Hobie 16

Photo credit: Hobie


Advantages of Small Sailboats

There are many reasons why you might prefer one of the small sailboat types over a larger model. Here are some of the most common reasons for choosing small sailboats. 


Small sailboats are easy to sail

Small sailboats are often easier to sail because their rigging and steering are simpler. Small sailboats also react quicker to wind shifts, putting sailors more in tune with their surroundings. 


Small sailboats are more affordable

The simplicity of small sailboats means you won't be paying a higher price for a bunch of features you don't need. If you choose to buy a certified used sailboat from our experts at Rightboat, you can save even more.


Small sailboats are easier to maintain

Maintenance needs for a small sailboat can be considerably less than what is necessary for their larger counterparts, saving you a significant amount of money over the life of your boat. The model and brand you choose are the biggest factors determining how easy it will be to maintain the boat.


man laser boat


Disadvantages of small sailboats

While there are a lot of things to like about small sailboats, they can also present some challenges in different types of sailing conditions. Here are some reasons why a smaller sailboat may not be the best choice for you.


Small sailboats sail slower

The smaller sails and hull of these types of sailboats make them go slower in the water when compared to larger sailboats. Unless a small sailboat is specifically designed for racing, do not expect it to travel very fast offshore. 


Small sailboats have less space

While space is limited on all types of boats, this is especially noticeable with a small sailboat. This lack of space can make it difficult to plan extended trips without frequent stops to replenish your supplies. 


Small sailboats have fewer comforts

Small sailboats are typically designed to be simple to launch and operate, so many of the comforts found on larger sailboats are absent on smaller models. In many cases, small sailboats do not have much seating and lack a galley for food preparation or a berth for sleeping. 


Many factors go into choosing the right type of boat for your needs. While small sailboats are effective for a variety of purposes, they can present some challenges in certain conditions. At Rightboat, you can find the best boat for your sailing goals and your budget.


For more information check out our guide: 


Written By: Toi Williams

Toi grew up in coastal New England, Her parents had a second home on Newfound Lake, in New Hampshire. Because of this, Toi was able to enjoy boating at sea as well as in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Today, she regularly wakeboards and waterskis on her Malibu wake surfing boat. She also sailed at sea in Maine, and taken many trips to the Isles of Shoals.

More from: Toi Williams

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