If you are new to sailing or want to get started, dinghy sailing at your local yacht club is a great way to begin.
Many yacht clubs have a fleet of small sailing boats to teach people to sail. The Sunfish design fills this niche as an easy and fun boat for both novices and experienced sailors alike.
The Sunfish sailboat was originally designed in 1952 and is still considered one of the most iconic sailboats ever made.
You can find these small sailboats on waterways, lakes, and bays as recreational boats all over the USA, in addition to racing fleets all over the world.
Here’s a Summary of Sunfish Sailboats:
A Sunfish is a small sailboat capable of carrying one or two easy-to-launch off a beach. The Sunfish features a flat, board-like hull combined with a simple rigging designed for ease of use and comfortable, hassle-free sailing.
The History of Sunfish Sailboats
Sunfish was started by two childhood friends, Alexander Bryan and Cortlandt (Bud) Heyniger, who created Alcort, Inc (the Al and the Cort of the company name).
In 1959 the two friends discovered fiberglass, and then the company created molds for the Sunfish, and production started on a grand scale. The new fiberglass boats were lighter, faster, and much better looking than before, resulting in close to 10,000 a year for almost 20 years.
The Sunfish was the first one-design boat that the manufacturer rigidly controlled. Even the sails were limited to one sail loft, and there was very little that could be changed to add go-faster accessories.
The boats were designed to be simple, with no need to buy a new set of sails every year and no need to keep buying or changing expensive equipment to keep up with the latest sailing trends.
Because of their low price point and their low maintenance, the Sunfish sailboat made sailing popular amongst the masses. A Sunfish is trailerable, is easy to launch and easy to sail, and can be used by the whole family.
While these boats have their own class for racing, they are also used for teaching sailing to people of all ages.
The two friends sold the company to an American company, the American Machine and Foundry Co (AMF), in 1969. After which the company has been sold several times.
Nowadays, Sunfish sailboats are manufactured by Laser Performance who has a production facility in China. In 1995, the Sunfish was inducted into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame.
The design was recognized as “the most popular fiberglass boat ever designed, with a quarter of a million sold worldwide.”
How Much Do Sunfish Sailboats Cost?
So, we have mentioned that the Sunfish sailboats are extremely affordable and popular, but how much do Sunfish sailboats actually cost?
Here we give a selection of both new and second-hand models:
New Sunfish Sailboats:
There are still many dealers of Sunfish sailboats both in the USA and abroad, and Laser Performance is still the current manufacturer, so new boats are widely available.
Prices direct from Laser Performance start from $4,629.25.
However, many dealers keep stock of Sunfish sailboats, so if you shop around, you may be able to find a new Sunfish sailboat for a better price.
A quick search on the internet found an online shop, the Dinghy Shop, offering new Sunfish sailboats for $4,356.00, which saves nearly $300.
Second-Hand Sunfish Sailboats:
Second-hand Sunfish sailboats are widely available and will usually cost between $900 and $1,200 for a used boat in good condition.
Things to look for when buying a second hand or used Sunfish sailboat include the following:
- The hull should look smooth, with no holes, gauges, or deep imperfections.
- The hull should be uniformly firm and not soft in places.
- Look for boats that have been ‘dry sailed.’ This means that the boat has been stored on land, off the ground, and under a good covering when it is not being sailed.
- If a boat is left in the water or improperly stored, boats will absorb water and gain weight quickly.
- The weight of the boats should be low or as close to the manufacturer’s specified dry weight as possible.
- If you want to race and be competitive, a second-hand Sunfish should be avoided unless it is close to the weight of a new boat.
If a boat is sailed often, the sails will lose their effectiveness for racing after a year or two.
However, they will still be good for day sailing and training. Competitive racing requires newer sails that still feel crisp and have their shape.
New Sunfish sails retail for around $400.
Some other things to look out for or how to tell if an owner has taken good care of a boat include the following:
- The sails will be rolled and not folded;
- The boat is kept clean;
- The boat is stored out of the water, off the ground, dry, and covered.
One of the best places to look for a used Sunfish sailboat is on the Sunfish Sailing Forum. There you will find boats, trailers, and spare parts in all corners of the US.
While the Sunfish sailboat was a proudly American design, the boats can be found worldwide.
There are dealers on every continent, and as they are light, they can be shipped worldwide.
Sunfish Sailboat Specifications:
Here are a few specifications you might need to know before buying:
- Length – 14’9″/
- Beam – 4’1″/1.25M
- Draft – 2’11″/0.64M
- Sail Area – 75FT²/6.97M²
- Hull weight – 120 pounds/59kg
- Capacity – 1 to 2 people
- Skill Level – Beginner to Expert
While the two original designers didn’t realize how popular the Sunfish would become, they managed to invent a boat that everyone could sail.
It didn’t matter about your age, gender, or your skill level. Plus, this simple design was affordable to many.
Despite being sold to various companies over the years, the design has remained unchanged. While the present builder, Laser Performance, has moved the production to China, they are still very widely available.
In addition, the Sunfish class is recognized as a One Design racing class all over the world.
So, if you are looking for an affordable and fun way to get out on the water, you won’t go wrong with a Sunfish.