What Are Boats With Sails Called? (15 Names To Know)

While the general term for boats with sails is sailing boats, did you know that sailing boats come in all different shapes and sizes specific to the job they need to perform?

There are different classes and subclasses in each category, from cutters to yawls and sailing dinghies to catamarans. The one thing they all have in common is that they use the wind to move.

Let’s take a look at the different types of sailboats and their uses, but first, let us define what a sailboat is:

What Is A Sailboat?

A sailboat or sailing boat is a small boat that uses the power of the wind to move. A sailboat can have from 1 to 5 sails and 1 or 2 masts. The difference between a sailboat and a yacht is usually down to size. Big sailing boats with 2 or more masts are called sailing ships.

Types Of Sailing Boats Based On Hull Design:

The part of a sailing boat that sits in the water is called a hull, and there are 3 main types of hull:

  • the monohull (single hull)
  • the catamaran (2 hulls)
  • a trimaran (3 hulls)

1. The Monohull:

Monohulls are single-hull sailing boats that come in many shapes and forms.

They are generally very seaworthy, tack or change direction very easily, and are much more maneuverable and responsive than their multi-hull counterparts.


  • Monohulls are easy to manœuvre and quicker to respond when steering;
  • They are extremely seaworthy;
  • Cheaper to buy and to dock in a marina;
  • Fun to sail.


  • Monohulls ‘heel’ or sail at an angle which not everyone is comfortable with;
  • They have less space than multihulls;
  • If you’re not on deck or in the cockpit, all main living spaces are below the deck and/or the waterline.

2. Catamarans:

Catamarans, also known as ‘cats,’ are double-hulled boats attached by a ‘bridge deck’ or a trampoline.

Small catamarans used for daysailing or racing will comprise 2 hulls attached with a frame and a trampoline.

In contrast, larger causing catamarans will have a ‘bridge deck’ which houses the helm or steering position and common living spaces like the saloon and the galley (or kitchen).


  • The 2 hulls provide excellent stability in so far as your cup of coffee (or beer) will not slide off the table unless you are in extreme weather;
  • Cruising catamarans offer great space and more cabins which is why they have become popular with the charter market;
  • The added stability means less chance of seasickness, makes it easier to move around, and more importantly, makes the cooks’ job a lot easier when at anchor or under-way.


  • Because of the wide bridge deck that attaches the 2 hulls, there can be quite a lot of slamming caused by waves pounding underneath. The noise can be quite disconcerting and takes a bit of getting used to.
  • You don’t get the same ‘feel’ from the boat as you do on a monohull, which means you must be extra vigilant about when to reduce sail if the wind picks up.
  • Catamarans are much more expensive to buy, and as they take up 2 mooring spaces in a marina, they often cost double to dock.

3. Trimarans:

Trimarans, as the name suggests, come with 3 hulls which consist of the main hull plus 2 side hulls which are used for stability.

Trimarans make fast boats and have gained popularity for both racing and recreational use.


  • Trimarans are very stable and fast to sail;
  • They are a bridge between a monohull and a catamaran as they offer the performance of a monohull, combined with the deck space and stability of a catamaran.


  • Trimarans are more complex to sail;
  • Dues to the complex engineering to build a trimaran are more expensive than their monohull or catamaran equivalent.

Types Of Sailing Boats Based On Their Different Rigs:

When we talk about the ‘rig’ of a sailing boat, we talk about the parts that hold up the sails – the mast, the boom, and the shrouds or stays, which hold up the mast.

A sailboat rig can have many different configurations from which you can identify the type of sailboat.

These configurations include the following:

4. Sloop Rig:

A sloop rig consists of 1 mast with 1 mainsail and 1 headsail. This is the most commonly used sailboat rig for both racing and cruising.

The common sloop rig used for cruising means the headsail is attached to the top of the mast.

In racing, it is common to see a fractional sloop rig where the headsail is attached lower than the top of the mast to enable more efficient use of the sails.

5. Cutter Rig:

A cutter rig also has 1 mast and 1 mainsail but has 2 or more headsails which allow for easy sail changes during variable wind conditions when sailing long distances.

6. Ketch Rig:

A ketch rig consists of 2 masts instead of 1.

The main mast will still hold a mainsail and a headsail configuration, either a sloop or a cutter set-up.

The smaller aft or mizzen mast supports a smaller-sized main or mizzen sail.

The main advantage is that this setup allows for smaller sails than a sloop or cutter rig, which are easier to manage by a smaller crew.

7. Yawl Rig:

Yawl rigs supply a similar set-up to a ketch rig.

The difference is that the mizzen mast in a yawl is usually smaller than that of a ketch.

Plus, there is a difference to where the mizzen mast is situated – behind the rudder post in a yawl and a ketch, the mizzen mast is more forward.

8. Cat Rig:

A Cat Rig consists of 1 mast and 1 mainsail.

This is a straightforward setup that is more commonly found in racing dinghies.

A cat rig gives a single-handed sailor the advantage of being simple to handle, making a dinghy very easy to maneuver when racing.​

9. Schooners:

Like a ketch or a yawl, a schooner has 2 or even more masts.

The main difference is that the forward mast is the shortest.

While schooners are beautiful to look at, they are much more complicated and not so efficient as the more modern sloop rig.

Hence this type of rig is not often found in more modern boats.

What Are The Classifications Of Sailboats?

While we can distinguish different types of sailboats by their hull and rig types, modern sailboats are also defined by their different classifications or class.

The following is a list of the most common:

10. Dinghys:

Dinghys have the smallest, simplest, and most popular class of sailing boats.

They have many different hull shapes and rig set-ups.

Dinghies are used for racing, recreational use and are commonly used for teaching.

Popular models include Optimists, Lasers, 420’s for single-handed sailing, and 470’s for twin or double-handed sailing.

11. Day or Beach Catamarans:

These are simple day-sailing catamarans that can be used for racing or family fun.

While multihulls have been available for a long time, the small beach sailor was made popular and affordable in the late 1960s and has become part of popular beach culture.

Well-known models include the Hobie 16, Topaz 14CX, and the Aqua Cat 12.5.

12. Cruising Catamarans:

Cruising Catamarans come in sizes ranging from 30 feet to lengths over 50 feet boats.

They are commonly equipped for long-term cruising and offer luxury, spacious accommodation.

Well-known brands of cruising catamarans include Bali, Catana, Leopard, Lagoon, Fountaine Pajot, plus many more.

13. Cruising Monohulls:

Cruising Monohulls generally start from 30 feet in length and can be anything above this size.

These boats have cabins down below and are equipped for extended cruising.

There are too many popular brands to list here, but many more well-known models have large fleets that offer supported ocean crossings for group and family cruising.

14. Racing Monohulls:

Racing monohulls themselves have many different subclassifications, depending on the size of the boat, the sail plan, and how many crew members are competing.

Some boats used for racing can be the same as a cruising monohull but stripped down to the basics to make them lighter and faster and to have more space down below to store the many different sails used.

15. Motorsailers:

While essentially a sailboat, motorsailers are equipped with large engines and bigger fuel tanks to assist the sails in light winds.

They are normally bigger boats, +35 feet, quite spacious but heavier and slower than their sailing monohull relatives due to the bigger engine and fuel tanks.

Final Thoughts

So as you can see that while a generic term of a sailboat can call a boat with sails, there are many different types of sailing boats out there.

Hopefully, this article has given you information for you to go out and recognize the more common types. Let us know your thoughts below.


The Various Types of Sailboats and Rigs

Types of Sailboats – A Comprehensive Classification

Types of Sailboats and Their Uses

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