Sailboats And Sailing

Sailboats are among the oldest and most common boats used throughout history. A Sailboat is a boat of any size which is partially or completely propelled by sails. Sails gather their thrust depending on the velocity and direction of winds. Egyptians were the first to design proper sailboats in around 4000 BC. The advance in technology helped give the Egyptians an edge in moving materials, people and information. Sailing craft were used in ancient times for trading and warfare while modern sailing craft find applications in leisure and sporting activities.

There are many types of sailboats, some types carry a single person and others carry more than one person. Sailboats are mostly classified by their sail configuration, type of hull, keel and masts. Sailboats, which are classified by sail configuration are as follows:


Sloop designs are is the most common variety of sailboat , The term sloop originates from the Dutch word slope. This design utilizes a mainsail and foresail with one mast. Sloops usually bend only one headsail, though this distinction is not definitive. Unlike cutters, sloops usually have only one headsail, though some sloops such as the Friendship Sloop have more than one sail. Sloops are popular with sport sailors and yachtsmen, and for racing


The cutter is very similar to a sloop with a single mast and a mainsail. The cutter generally carries the mast further aft to allow for the use of two headsails attached towing forestays, the head stay and the inner stay carry the jib and staysail respectively. This is rarely considered a racing configuration; however, it gives much versatility to cruising boats, especially when there are high wind conditions.


Catboat configurations are characterized by a single mast. Catboats today are used as a pleasure craft for day sailing. 19th century catboats were also used for racing.


Ketch designs are sailing craft with two masts: a main mast, and a shorter mizzen. Both masts are rigged mainly fore-and-aft. Ketch boats are very popular among long distance cruisers. The additional sail allows for a better balance.


Dhoni is a motor powered sailboat it is mostly used in Maldives.


Another popular sailboat configuration is the schooner. A schooner can have two or more masts. The second mast is at least as tall as the first mast.


Chesapeake Bay Skipjacks became common in the late 1800’s. These single masted sailing vessels were relatively inexpensive to build, and their shallow draft enabled them to dredge oysters closer in to shore. Chesapeake Bay Skipjacks were often built by watermen in their backyards. A few of these sailboats still exist and are have a strong following of sailing enthusiasts.

Sailboats are also classified by hull type. Most sailboats are built with a mono or a single hull. However, some boats are built as multi hull boats. These include catamaran (twin hulls) and tri-maran (triple hull) vessels. When comparing a mono hull boat to multi-hull boat acceleration is much different. In a multi-hull boat acceleration to a top speed is very quick and almost instantaneous.

Variations in the types of sailing boat will always be there as sailing is an art and people have different requirements for their craft. Sailing requires a high level of experience and skill. Crew must be able to quickly change rigs, rudder and dagger to change the speed and direction of the boat in a variety of sea conditions. In addition to steering the boat and managing the sails, crew must also have at least basic knowledge of some of the skills that are normally the responsibility of the captain. These can include weather forecasting, navigation, emergency repairs, marine electronics, first aid and others.

By: John C. Banks