What are the Best Small Sailboats Under 20 Feet?

Last update: Friday, January 26, 2024
Small sailing boats in regatta

Sailing is a timeless and exhilarating activity that allows individuals to connect with the wind, water, and nature in a way that few other pastimes can match.

While sailing often conjures images of grand yachts and vast open waters, there’s a thriving community of sailors who prefer smaller vessels that offer a more intimate and agile experience.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best small sailboats under 20 feet, highlighting their features, performance, and why they stand out in the world of sailing.

families on small sailing boats having fun

Hunter 17

The Hunter 17 is a charming and capable small sailboat designed to provide a fantastic sailing experience for both beginners and seasoned sailors. With a length of 17 feet and a beam of 7 feet, it strikes an ideal balance between manoeuvrability and stability.

Key Features:

A. Spacious Cockpit: Despite its compact size, the Hunter 17 boasts a surprisingly spacious cockpit that can comfortably accommodate up to six people. This design makes it an excellent choice for family outings or weekend adventures with friends.

B. Swing Keel: The swing keel design allows for shallow draft sailing, meaning you can explore shallow waters without worry. It’s a versatile feature that expands your sailing horizons.

C. Easy to Rig: One of the Hunter 17’s standout features is its simplicity in rigging. Setting up and launching this sailboat is a breeze, making it accessible to those new to sailing.

D. Stability: The boat’s stable design and responsive handling make it a great choice for beginners. Even when the wind picks up, you’ll feel confident and in control.


The Hunter 17 offers a respectable level of performance, with its responsive helm and well-designed sails. While it may not be the fastest boat in its class, it offers a smooth and enjoyable ride, perfect for leisurely cruising and day sailing.

O’Day Javelin

The O’Day Javelin is another excellent small sailboat option, known for its simplicity, reliability, and affordability. With a length of 14 feet and a manageable sail area, it’s an ideal choice for those looking to get started in sailing without breaking the bank.

Key Features:

A. Simple Rigging: The Javelin features a straightforward rigging system, making it easy for beginners to set up and launch the boat. This simplicity is a significant advantage for those new to sailing.

B. Lightweight and Trailerable: The Javelin is lightweight, making it easy to trailer to different bodies of water. This portability allows you to explore a variety of sailing locations.

C. Durability: O’Day sailboats are known for their durability, and the Javelin is no exception. With proper care and maintenance, this sailboat can provide years of sailing enjoyment.


While the O’Day Javelin may not be the fastest sailboat on the water, its focus on simplicity and reliability makes it an excellent choice for beginners and those looking for a hassle-free sailing experience. It’s a forgiving boat that allows you to learn the ropes at your own pace.

Catalina 18

The Catalina 18 is a small sailboat that bridges the gap between compact boats and larger cruisers. With a length of 18 feet, it offers a bit more space and comfort while maintaining the agility and excitement of a smaller vessel.

Key Features:

A. Comfortable Cabin: The Catalina 18 features a small but comfortable cabin, providing a place to escape the elements or even spend a night on the water. This feature sets it apart from many other small sailboats.

B. Self-Righting Design: The boat’s keel design makes it self-righting, which means it can recover from a capsize easily. This safety feature is especially reassuring for novice sailors.

C. Responsive Handling: Despite its slightly larger size, the Catalina 18 maintains responsive handling, making it enjoyable to sail in a variety of conditions.


The Catalina 18 offers a good balance of performance and comfort. While it may not be as fast as some dedicated racing sailboats, it’s a capable cruiser that can handle a range of wind conditions. The inclusion of a cabin adds versatility to your sailing adventures, making it an excellent choice for day trips and overnight excursions.

Catalina sailing boat


Choosing the best small sailboat under 20 feet when you are getting ready to sail ultimately depends on your preferences and sailing goals. The Hunter 17 offers a spacious cockpit and stability, making it an excellent choice for families and beginners. On the other hand, the O’Day Javelin focuses on simplicity and affordability, making it an accessible entry point into the world of sailing. Lastly, the Catalina 18 strikes a balance between performance and comfort, with the added bonus of a cabin for overnight stays.

Regardless of which small sailboat you choose, each of these options provides a unique sailing experience. Whether you’re seeking adventure, family sailing, relaxation, or a way to connect with nature, these boats have something to offer. So, set your sails and embark on your sailing journey with confidence, knowing that you’ve chosen one of the best small sailboats under 20 feet to accompany you on your maritime adventures.


Determining the absolute safest sailboat in the world is challenging, as safety can depend on various factors, including the crew’s experience, weather conditions, and maintenance. However, sailboats designed for offshore cruising, such as those from renowned manufacturers like Hallberg-Rassy or Oyster, are often considered some of the safest due to their robust construction and advanced safety features.

The most efficient sail shape varies depending on the specific point of sail and wind conditions. However, in general, an aerodynamically curved shape, similar to an airfoil, is often considered the most efficient for harnessing wind power and generating forward propulsion on a sailboat.

A sailboat size suitable for two people typically ranges from 20 to 30 feet, with 25 to 30 feet being a popular choice for couples. This size provides enough space for comfortable living quarters and maneuverability while still being manageable for a two-person crew.

The size of a sailboat that one can single-hand largely depends on the sailor’s experience, skills, and the boat’s design. Many experienced sailors can comfortably single-hand sailboats up to 35-40 feet, but with the right equipment and know-how, even larger vessels can be handled solo.

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