If you’re thinking about getting into sailing, the first consideration you’re likely to have is what kind of sailboat is best for your needs. There is a wide range of beginner sailboats that may work well for you, depending on what you want from a boat.
What is the best beginner sailboat?
The best beginner sailboat for you will be affordable, simple, small enough to right yourself if you capsize, and have a shallow draft. Sunfish, Lasers, West Wight Potters, Hobie Cats, Challenger Trimarans, and Wayfarer Cruisers are all good options.
Here’s what to look for in a beginning sailboat that will work well for you, as well as some of the best models to consider.
What to Look for in a Beginner Sailboat
If you’re just getting started with sailing, you may have dreams of the yachts that you will someday captain, but you probably realize that it may not be a good idea to go purchase that dream yacht right away. As with most hobbies, it’s a good idea to start small when you begin sailing.
As you gain experience, you’ll get a better idea of what you want in your dream sailboat. Here are a few things to look for in a beginner sailboat to help you decide on the best option for you:
- Affordable. You don’t want to start out with a sailboat that you are terrified of damaging. In order to become a good sailor, you need to take risks and test your skills, which means that you need a boat that you can afford to lose.
- A simple rig. Sails can be very straightforward affairs that do little more than go up and down or they can be highly complicated, requiring lots of fine-tuning and maneuvering to get right. When you’re just getting started, you want a simple rig to help you learn the basics. The lateen rig is a great starter rig because it only requires two ropes to handle.
- Small enough to right yourself. When you are learning to sail, you should capsize every now and then. If you aren’t capsizing at all, you aren’t learning how to test the limits of your sailing and your vessel. So that capsizing doesn’t become a big issue, it’s a good idea to choose a sailboat small enough that you can get it back upright again by yourself.
- Shallow draft. When you’re learning to sail, it can be helpful to do it in shallow water. This significantly reduces the risk if you find yourself in trouble and also makes it easier to right a capsized boat. Therefore, a boat with a draft that lets you sail somewhere that you can easily stand if it tips over is a good idea.
Best Beginner Sailboats
The Sunfish is a favorite among both beginners and experienced sailors because it is a lot of fun to sail. It is technically a racing dinghy, although it’s perfectly good for leisurely sails as well.
It has a shallow draft that enables it to zip over flats with ease. The big sail and light hull mean that you can take this boat out even in very light winds and have a great ride. The Sunfish capsizes quite easily, but it isn’t hard to right either, and you’ll learn valuable lessons as you figure out how to get great speeds from it while avoiding capsizing.
The Laser is very similar to the Sunfish in that it’s about the same size, surprisingly fast, and also capsizes quite easily. Many people consider it to be a bit more challenging than the Sunfish to handle, but it may be a bit faster too.
In fact, the Laser has been raced in the Olympics, so while this is a great boat for beginners, it’s no toy. If you’re learning on the Laser the way you should be, you are pretty much guaranteed to capsize it, but it’s easy to right and you’ll learn a lot by the process of avoiding capsized and by capsizing.
West Wight Potter 15
Are you looking for a sailboat that’s great for beginners but that can also accommodate cruising? This may be the boat for you. Although it’s only a couple of feet longer than the Sunfish or the Laser, the West Wight Potter has a cabin that can sleep two people.
The cockpit can fit four, so if you want a little boat to tool around on and take your friends out, this may be perfect for you. This boat only draws about 3 ft and it’s self-righting, so it’s very convenient to sail just about anywhere.
It is designed to be very safe, as it’s quite stable under sail, unsinkable, and has a self-bailing cockpit. While you may not learn as much sailing skill on this easy little boat, you’ll have a lot of fun and can start cruising right away.
If you want to get started with sailing on a catamaran, a Hobie Cat is probably right for you. Both the 14 and the 16-foot models are great options. If you’re looking for a fun little boat that you can easily slide up on the beach when you’re done sailing, this may be the one for you.
However, this little boat isn’t sluggish. They are often used for racing and they can get going very quickly in good conditions. Like most multihulls, this little cat is less likely to capsize than monohulls, but tacking upwind can be a challenge.
If you intend to stick with multihulls, learning to sail on this little catamaran may be a good idea. However, it can be a bit more challenging to learn the basics of sailing on this boat compared to a Laser or a Sunfish.
Whether you’re looking for a trimaran as your first boat or you just want a sailboat that you can have fun in without worrying about capsizing, the Challenger is a superb option. It is well known as a good option for people who are disabled and for people who are starting the sailing hobby later in life and don’t want to have to worry about flipping over or requiring a lot of physical strength to sail.
On the other hand, it is a mistake to think about the Challenger as being a boring sailboat. The difficulty in capsizing the Challenger means that it can achieve tremendous speeds without flipping over, which can make it a lot of fun to sail.
The Wayfarer is a cute little dinghy that’s extremely popular with sailing schools. It has a charming appearance that appeals to the romance of sailing for beginners. It’s generally considered to be best for day sailing, but it has been sailed in the open ocean and taken on long journeys many times before.
In fact, the Wayfarer has sailed from the UK to Denmark, crossing channels on the way. This is one of the most stable small boats you can buy, so if a lot of capsizing as you learn to sail doesn’t sound appealing to you, it may be a good option for your first sailboat. Because this is such a popular boat, you can often find it used for a good price.
Choose a Great Beginner Sailboat for You
If you’re thinking about getting into sailing, you have lots of options to choose from. Beginner sailboats can be extremely affordable, easy to tow, and easy to store. You don’t have to make a huge investment to get started with this rewarding hobby. In fact, it’s a very good idea to start with a small sailboat that you can knock around and tip over.