Pros & Cons of Sailboat Types

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Sailboats come in a variety of sizes and configurations for just about every application. A sailor or potential owner has to think of his needs and requirements before considering a sailboat. Each sailboat has a specific purpose that makes it a better choice over another style or make. The pros and cons of selecting or considering a sailboat entails a knowledge of their positive attributes for each, weighed against their shortcomings for any given application.

Dingy Sailboats

The pros of the dingy sailor result from its small, portable size, which allows it to be transported easily by trailer or car rooftop. Children have little problems in moving, rigging and launching them. They offer ease of handling and maneuverability in the water for even inexperienced sailors. They have attachments for oars, for manual propulsion or can be outfitted with a small motor, ranking them high in versatility. On the con side, dingies experience instability with large individuals or multiple passengers and can capsize with too much weight in the wrong direction. Bailing can be problematic.

Board Sailboats

Board sailboats lend themselves well to easy sailing and beaching for a lone sailor or an additional passenger. Their narrow hulls cut the water faster than dingies and they provide a real sailing feel to their rigging and turning responsiveness. Upon capsizing, board boats self-bail instead of swamping, and a single person can easily right one. Some board boats can be roof-carried. Multiple passengers must shift weight and positions frequently to avoid tipping. Board boats do not weather well in windy conditions and frequently wet their passengers.


Daysailers are larger than dingies and board sailboats, offering more comfort and room to several passengers. They often have enclosed cockpits, which can keep the occupants dry or provide sleeping comfort. You can motor or sail. They usually have to be trailered to the water. Deeper cockpits allow for better boom clearance. They don't capsize as readily as dingies and board sailboats due to their increased weight and hull width. Their disadvantages include the need for multiple rigging and handling partners, and difficulty in boarding and righting after a complete turtle-flop capsize.


With their taller masts and larger sails, catamarans accelerate and sail faster than all other types of sailboats during any wind condition. Their multiple hulls provide a very stable and roomy platform for multiple passengers. The smaller cats have no centerboards or dagger-boards to interfere with beaching. Some catamarans have trampoline rigs, which allow passengers to lean over the rail with the boat to aid in weight distribution. Problems arise with sudden, unexpected capsizing, requiring multiple partners to flip the hulls. Catamarans do not maneuver well in tight turns, making them a bit hazardous on small, crowded lakes. Catamarans usually require a specialized trailer.

Large Keel Sailboats

The over 30-foot range of keel sailboats can be pleasurable to sail since they have ample accommodations for passengers, extra storage and lounging room, and in many instances have fixed engine power below-decks. Large keel sailboats have extended cruising ranges; some are capable of thousands of miles. In retrospect, many large keel sailboats require multiple deck hands to handle and set the rigging. Problems arise with upkeep on expensive parts, like sail repair, electric winches, gasoline or diesel engines, masts and booms and additional hardware. Typically, large sailboats must be moored offshore where docking and maneuvering in small ports and docks are not feasible.