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The best sailing boats for beginners - What are the different types of sailboats?

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

Sailing is a beautiful and rewarding activity, but it can be challenging for beginners. The first few times you set sail, you will probably feel a little bit like you’re going to sink at any moment. But with time and practice, you’ll get the hang of it.

With so many types of boats out there, choosing the right one for your skills and experience level is important.

So let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of different types of sailing boats to help you find one that suits you best as a beginner sailor.


A runabout is a small, easy to use, usually fiberglass, motorized boat. The size of runabouts typically ranges from 18’ to 35’. They are usually used for fishing, recreational boating, or water sports. Because they are so easy to use, they’re great for beginners who don’t have a lot of experience operating a boat. Runabouts are very affordable, and there are many affordable boats out there, so you won’t have to break the bank to get one.

These boats are usually very stable, so there’s not much risk of tipping over. They are also usually very easy to maneuver. However, because they are so small, they have limited storage space, and you probably won’t be able to fit more than a handful of people on board.

Runabouts are great for calm water and short trips, but they aren’t made for rough seas or extended use.

Cruising Sailboats

Cruising sailboats are generally larger sailboats that are designed to be used for extended voyages. They are generally less expensive than racing sailboats but less maneuverable. They are better suited for people who want the experience of sailing but don’t want to compete.

The best cruising sailboats are usually fiberglass, have two masts, and are about 70’ long. They are usually very stable and can carry more than one crew, as well as ample supplies like food, water, and fuel.

Cruising sailboats are designed to be self-reliant, which means they can be operated by fewer crew members. If you’re new to cruising, then a good cruising sailboat will help you get the experience you need without competing with more experienced sailors.

Cruising sailboats are generally slow, so they’re not great for racing. They also don’t maneuver as easily as racing sailboats.

Racing Sailboats

Racing sailboats are designed for racing and are generally smaller than cruising sailboats. They are often very expensive and are usually custom-built. Racing sailboats are usually fiberglass, have a single mast, and are about 36’ long.

They are very fast but don’t carry many supplies, and they don’t have the same level of stability as cruising sailboats. Racing sailboats are generally operated by a single person and sometimes with only one other crew member.

Racing sailboats are very fast, very sleek, and very agile, so they aren’t very easy to use for beginners.

They are also very expensive, so only experienced sailors should operate them.


Catamarans are boats that are made with two hulls connected by a single deck. They usually carry two masts and are used for both cruising and racing. Catamarans are usually made of fiberglass and are about 50’ long.

Compared to single-hulled boats, they are generally faster and more stable. They are usually used for racing but can also be used for cruising. Although catamarans are generally easy to use, they are not easy to navigate.

They also don’t have much storage space and aren’t as self-reliant as other types of boats.

Catamarans are usually very expensive, but there are some less expensive models on the market.

Sailing Yachts

Sailing yachts are generally larger boats used for cruising and racing. They are usually custom-built, have a single mast, and run between 60’ and 100’ long. Sailing yachts are generally made of fiberglass and are generally very expensive.

They are not as stable as cruising sailboats and don’t carry as much cargo. They don’t fare as well in rough weather and are generally harder to use. They are usually operated by two crew members.

Sailing yachts are usually very fast, but they don’t maneuver as easily as cruising sailboats. They are also generally expensive and require a lot of skill to use.

Know your boat before taking it out to sea

You should know how your boat works before you head out to sea. Know how to tie knots, tie on the lines, cast off the lines, and perform other basic tasks. You never know when you might have to repair something while on the water, so knowing how to do it is important.

Check the weather conditions of your area. This will help you know when it is safe to go out on the water and when it isn’t.

You should also learn all of the navigation rules, as well as the tides and currents in your area. Knowing this information will help you avoid dangerous situations and stay safe.

Tips for beginners learning to sail

Practice docking the boat and setting sail in a small body of water, such as a lake or a private marina. This will give you the chance to practice without having to navigate open water.

Once you feel comfortable with the basics, go out in open water during the day and bring someone with you. This way, if you encounter any problems, you’ll have someone to help you get through them.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re sailing with other people, they’ll likely be happy to answer questions or show you how to use equipment.

Stay focused. Stay alert, and don’t let yourself get distracted.


Sailing is a challenging and rewarding activity, and it’s more accessible than ever for beginners. There are a variety of types of boats out there, and it’s important to choose the right one based on your skill level, experience, and budget.

Before you go out on the water, make sure to know how to use your boat and learn about the conditions in your area so you know when it’s safe to go out.

Learn as much as you can before you set sail and you’ll have a more enjoyable experience.


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