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Types of Sailboats and Their Management

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There are various types of sailboats, including sloops, cutters, ketches, yawls, and schooners, each characterized by their rigging and sail configuration.


Managing them professionally involves understanding their unique handling characteristics, performing regular maintenance, and mastering navigation and safety protocols to ensure efficient and safe operation.

The Daysailer

This terminology covers a multitude of boats up to thirty-three feet in length, and is generally meant to be an open boat without berths or cooking facilities. There are always exceptions to any definition and some daysailers are used for carrying camping gear and tents used in secluded areas. Others put a cover over the boom and sleep on board on air mattresses. Both are really roughing it, as all the food must be in a portable ice chest.

This Comprehensive Collection of Common Sailboat Rig Types and Designstype of sailboat is the least expensive as it has a completely open deck, with possibly a short, covered foredeck, and very little equipment. It is an excellent boat for gaining good sailing skills and having maximum fun. Most every experienced racing skipper will tell you they learned their basic sailing in very small boats. Sailboat racing in an identical fleet of small boats provides both enjoyment and competition.

The daysailer may have ballast in a deep keel, ballast plus a centerboard, or just a centerboard without ballast. The advantage of a centerboard is the boat has very shallow draft and it can be put on a trailer or floated up to a beach. The disadvantage of the centerboard without ballast added is the boat will probably not be self righting and a capsize caused by a strong gust of wind will leave the mast submerged and the hull half full of water. In this situation, the crew must get in the water, push the boat upright, and bail the hull before climbing aboard and resuming sailing. All daysailers must have flotation material installed so the hull will not sink when full of water.

Some shallow keelboats may also be put on a trailer with a crane, and they may or may not be self righting, depending on the beam and amount of ballast. Normally, a keel sailboat is kept at an anchorage or at a dock, and the boat buyer should have the problem solved before buying. Daysailmg catamarans usually have a centerboard but with no ballast, great care must be taken to shorten sail in strong winds to prevent a capsize. Catamarans are more difficult to turn upright after a capsize than monohulls. If an owner is not familiar with the details of keelboats, centerboard boats, Basic Hull, Keel, and Rudder Shapesmonohulls and multihulls, it would be wise to take a sailing class or crew with other people to become familiar with all of the boats on the market.

Cruising Sailboats

By obvious definition, cruising sailboats are larger and are fitted with berths, lockers, head, galley, an auxiliary engine, or means to install an outboard motor. Usually, twenty-five to forty percent of the total boat weight is lead ballast, depending on the length and beam of the hull. A centerboard may be designed into the boat if shallow draft is desired. Except in larger hulls, all of the accommodations are on one level, as low in the hull as possible. This lowers the center of gravity of the boat weight. A low center of gravity is desirable to keep the sailboat as upright as possible when it is heeled over by the force of the wind in the sails.

Cruising sailboats are slow speed, displacement type vessels and both forward and aft portions of the hull are narrow’ in shape in order to reduce resistance. They approach the shape of a canoe in the underbody. This narrow shape greatly reduces the interior room and load carrying capacity of a sailboat when compared with a powerboat of equal length.

The usable space in any hull is dependent on the length of the boat measured at the waterline (LWL), and not necessarily the overall length of the deck (LOA). Sailboats built before 1960 commonly had waterline lengths (LWL) 10 to 15 feet shorter than the length overall (LOA). The reason for this was the customary styling of previous years. It was also a holdover from the period when sailboats had long mainsail booms and bowsprits. The modem practice of having a shorter distance from the waterline ending to the bow lowers the weight at the ends of the hull and reduces the tendency to pitch into a seaway. These distances are called overhangs.


The stainless steel 1 x 19 wire rope rigging on a sailboat supports the mast, and the headstay (jibstay located at the bow) provides a place to attach the jib. Normally, there are eight pieces of rigging wire on a cruising sailboat:

  • headstay;
  • backstay;
  • two upper shrouds;
  • and four lower shrouds.

The shrouds are located opposite the mast, port and starboard. The lower end of each wire at the deck has a tumbuckle (bottle screw in England) so the tension can be adjusted to keep the mast in a straight line when sailing. In order to allow some movement as the mast flexes slightly, each end of each rigging wire has a «Y» shaped clevis.

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Source: wikipedia.оrg

When sailing close to the wind, the windward shrouds are under tension, while the leeward shrouds are slack. The shrouds are adjusted with the tumbuckles so the mainsail track on the aft side of the mast is straight when sailing on the wind. The tumbuckles are secured to the hull with stainless steel bars called chainplates. These go through the deck and are bolted to knees or to a bulkhead. The head stay and backstay chainplates are located outside the hull and are bolted through the hull material. The entire rigging assembly is held together with stainless steel pins retained with cotter pins. The ends of these cotter pins must be bent flat and covered with tape so sails and fingers are not cut.

The top of the mast has a masthead fitting to hold the upper end of the upper shrouds:

  • headstay;
  • backstay;
  • and halyards.

These halyards (or haul yards) raise the mainsail and the jibs to the top of the mast. The four lower shrouds are secured to the mast about half height. There are aluminum spreaders at this height secured to the mast and to the upper shrouds so the mast will not bend in the middle. Every part of the rigging is essential for safe operation.

Read also: Reasons Why You Should Buy a Boat and the Financial Side

Each part of the rigging should be checked annually for excessive wear or bending. Especially important are the end fittings where the wire rope has been swaged to the inside of a stainless steel tube that forms the attachment of the wire rope to the tumbuckle. Cracks may develop through these stainless steel tubes. The spreader attachment to the upper shrouds definitely has to be inspected as any failure of this fitting will cause the mast to collapse. Where the mast penetrates the deck, or cabin top, water leaks can be prevented by installing a waterproof material around the mast and securing it with stainless steel hose clamps or bands.

New sailboats are usually sold with the mast and rigging but without sails. Many different sailmakers can provide the usual sails made of Dacron. Other materials and new sailmaking technology may be used to decrease stretching, especially when applied to racing sails. Sails stuffed into bags occupy a great amount of space inside a boat, especially when you are trying to live aboard. New sails arrive folded in a manner similar to a road map and they occupy one-quarter of the space of a sail stuffed into a bag. It is not too difficult for two people to lay out the foot of a sail and fold it on top of itself in about eighteen inch folds. Three basic sails are on a cruising sailboat:

  • the mainsail;
  • a large jib;
  • and a small jib.

By contrast, a racing sailboat may have ten or more sails.

There are some fine products that make sail handling easier. These are primarily roller reefing for both the jib and the mainsail. They allow permanent storage of the sail on the headstay or on the boom. The sail can be rolled out to any particular area consistent with the existing wind strength. These items are expensive but do provide much easier sail handling when only two people operate the boat. Since the mast and sails are the prime method of propulsion, they must be inspected frequently and treated with care.

Author photo - Olga Nesvetailova
  1. Cruising World, Subscription Service Dept., P. O. Box 953, Farmingdale, NY 11737.
  2. Motor Boating & Sailing, P. O. Box 10075, Des Moines, IA 50350.
  3. Multi-hulls, 421 Hancock St., N. Quincy, MA 02171-9981.
  4. Nautical Quarterly, 373 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016.
  5. Sail Magazine, P. O. Box 10210, Des Moines, IA 50336.
  6. Sailing, P. O. Box 248, Port Washington, WI 53704.
  7. Small Boat Journal, P. O. Box 400, Bennington, VT 05201.
  8. Soundings, Soundings Publications, Inc., Pratt Street, Essex, CT 06426.
  9. The Practical Sailor, Subscription Dept., P. O. Box 971, Farmingdale, NY 11737.
  10. Wooden Boat, Subscription Dept., P. O. Box 956, Farming-dale, NY 11737.
  11. Yacht Racing/Cruising, North American Building, 401 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19108.
  12. Yachting, P. O. Box 2704, Boulder, CO 80321.
  13. Beiser, Arthur. The Proper Yacht, 2nd ed. Camden, Maine: International Publishing Co., 1978.
  14. Chapman, Charles F. Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling, 56th ed. New York: Hearst Marine Books, 1983.
  15. Coles, Adlard. Heavy Weather Sailing, 3rd rev. ed. Clinton Corners, N.Y.: John De Graff, Inc., 1981.
  16. Pardey, Lin and Larry. Cruising in Seraffyn and Seraffyn’s Mediterranean Adventure (W. W. Norton, 1981).
  17. Roth, Hal. After 50 000 Miles (W. W. Norton, 1977) and Two Against Cape Horn (W. W. Norton, 1968).
  18. Royce, Patrick M. Royce’s Sailing Illustrated, 8th ed. Ventura, Calif.: Western Marine Enterprises, Inc., 1979.
  19. Kinney, Francis S. Skene’s Elements of Yacht Design, 8th ed. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1981.
  20. Street, Donald M., Jr. The Ocean Sailing Yacht, Vols. I and II. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973, 1978.


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