Sailing boat basics

Date posted: 02.26.2019

There is a lot of different kinds of sailing boats. Some of them are made for racing and the others are made for cruising. But first, what is a sailing boat?

A sailing boat or a sailboat is a boat propelled partly, sometimes entirely by sails smaller than a sailing ship. There are differences between sailing boats which depend on the region and their maritime culture.

Racing sailboats look similar to cruising sailboats but have lighter equipement and are built lighter, with spartan accommodations. They are not intended to be a comfortable ride, just a fast one. Cruising sailboats on the other hand, nowadays, are very comfortable and luxurious.

The use of sails on boats can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, when the Egyptians added sails to their reed boats to sail upstream against the River Nile’s current. Today, sailboats are almost exclusively used for recreation.

Sailboat racing is a weekday evening and weekend seasonal pastime for many around the world on a variety of boats.

sailing boat

Sailing boat types

Sailboats are powered by sails using the force of the wind. They are also referred to as dinghies, boats, and yachts, depending on their size.

Sailboats range in size, from lightweight dinghies like the Optimist dinghy (7’9″) all the way up to mega yachts over 200 feet long. The length is often abbreviated as LOA (length overall), which differentiates that dimension from LWL (length on the waterline). Especially on older style boats, these two lengths can be quite different.

Types of sailboats are:

  • Hull type (monohull, catamaran or trimaran)
  • Keel type (fin keel, wing keel, bilge keel, daggerboard, or centerboard)
  • Mast Configuration and Sails (sloop, fractional rig sloop, ketch, schooner, yawl, cutter, cat)

So let’s exsplore the sailboats types!

Hull type

The hull is the main part of a sailboat, which is usually made of metal or wood. Hull type are described by the number of hulls.

  • Monohull – one hull
  • Catamaran – two hulls
  • Trimaran – three hulls
sailing boat

While monohull sailboats are more traditional and far more common, there are many performance advantages to catamaran, including faster speeds and more stability. A monohull relies on ballast for stability. Catamarans gain stability from the distance between the multiple hulls.

Keel type

All sailboats have one or more keels. The primary purpose of a sailboat keel is to counter the sideways force of the wind and generate forward motion by creating lift. A secondary purpose of most types of keel is to provide ballast. The more ballast, the more stable the boat is.

Sailboat keels have different shapes and names. Each keel has different pros and cons.

  • Full-lenght keel – mostly found on traditional sailboats, the full-length keel uses length rather than depth to provide adequate lift and ballast for the hull
  • Fin keel – separate from the rudder, and generally deeper and shorter in length in relation to the overall length of the hull
  • Wing or bulb keel – generally found on high performance sailboats. The aim of a wing or bulb keel is to set the ballast as low as possible, to help gain the maximum possible amount of leverage, without increasing keel depth (which is called “draft”) too much.
  • Bilge keel – help sailboats to stand upright on sand or mud at low tide. They are very common in areas with large tidal ranges. Bilge keels are not as effective as central keels in reducing sideways slippage (“leeway”).
  • Centerboard or Daggerboard – are able to be raised and lowered by the crew mostly on sailing dinghies or high-performance catamarans or trimarans. When raised, they reduce both draft and wetted surface. When lowered, they provide many of the same benefits as a keel, though in smaller boats they are often unballasted. A centerboard is attached to the boat by a pin that creates a pivot point for lifting.

Mast configuration and sails

Mast configurations and sails combinations are also used in categorizing of sailboats. A few common types are:

  • Sloop – the most common type. A sloop has one mast and two sails, a mainsail and a headsail. Depending on the size and shape of the headsail, it may be called a jib, genoa or spinnaker. The headsail is like a supporting cable that runs from the top of the mast to the bow of the sailboat
  • Fractional Rig Sloop – the forestay doesn’t reach the top of the mast; it connects at a lower point. There are performance advantages to this setup, since a fractional rig allows the crew to bend the top of the mast and flatten the sails on a windy day when full power is not needed
  • Cutter – has a single mast and mainsail, but the mast is farther aft to allow room for two headsails from two forestays. The headstay carries the jib and the inner stay carries the staysail
  • Ketch – has a second, shorter mast behind the mainmast, but forward of the rudder post. The second mast is called the mizzen mast.
  • Schooner – aft mast is taller than its forward mast. Schooners may have up to six masts, though most only have two
  • Yawl – similar to a ketch with a mizzen mast shorter than the main mast. The difference is that the mizzen mast on a yawl is carried behind the rudder post, so the mizzen sail is smaller
  • Cat – has only one sail, and the mast is located well forward. This is a popular rig on smaller boats, which are known as “catboats”
sailing boat

Parts of a sailboat – dictionary

Every sailboat has a hull, bow, stern, deck, mail sail, mast, keel and a rudder. What is all that and where it is? Let’s find out.

sailing boat
Source

We already know what is a mast, a keel and a hull.

  • Bow is the forward part of the hull of a ship or boat.
  • Stern is the “other” end of a ship or boat.
  • Rudder is a primary control surface used to steer a  ship or a boat or other conveyance that moves through a fluid medium (generally air or water).
  • Pulpit is a raised platform in the bows of a fishing boat or whaler.
  • Tiller or till is a lever used to steer a vehicle.
  • Boom is a horizontal spar that runs along the foot of a fore-and-aft rigged sail.
  • Tack is the name for the lower corner of the sail (closest to the mast).
  • Clew is the bottom back corner of the sail (furthest from the mast).
  • Jib is the next most common sail on a sailboat. It is always forward of the mainmast.
  • Mainsail is a sail rigged on the main mast of a sailing vessel.
  • Shrouds, on a sailing boat, are pieces of standing rigging which hold the mast up from side to side.
  • Forestay, sometimes just called a stay, is a piece of standing rigging which keeps a mast from falling backwards.
  • Backstay is a piece of standing rigging on a sailing vessel that runs from the mast to either its transom or rear quarter, counteracting the forestay and jib.
  • Leach (or Leech) is the aft (back) edge of a fore-and-aft sail. The leech is either side edge of a symmetrical sail – triangular or square. However, once a symmetrical sail has wind blowing along its surface it may be called a luff.
  • Luff is the forward (leading) edge of a fore-and-aft sail.
  • Topping lift is a rope or cable on a sailing boat that supports the weight of a boom or yard and can be used to lift it.

Conclusion

A sailing holiday is a holiday for your body and soul. Is it your first or are you a professional, there is something freeing in sailing through the see or ocean in the wind with only your thoughts and the sun watching over you.

If you need any help choosing a perfect sailing boat for your next holiday, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Do you want to go sailing?

Hi, I'm Cvita and I'll be your guide for your perfect sailing holidays.
Give us a call Or leave your number or email address and we will contact you as soon as possible.

Invalid input

Please fill out all required fields

Our agent will contact you soon.

Let's stay in touch

Enter your email adress to recive special offers and news
Top