Why Are Sailboats Mostly White? Explained For Beginners!

From dinghies and day-sailors to big ocean-crossing sailboats, you may have noticed that the hull, decks, and sails tend to be mostly white.

White sailboats are cheaper to produce for the manufacturer, plus a white hull makes it easier for the owner to spot any problems like rust marks or algae growth.

In this article, we will explain why:

Here’s Why Sailboats are White:

Most sailboats are white because boats can get hot on the inside, and white does a better job of keeping sailboats cooler than most other colors. It is common knowledge that white reflects most light, especially sunlight, while dark colors tend to absorb sunlight and heat.

What Percent of Sailboats are White?

While there is no information about what percentage of sailboats are white, we can safely assume the vast majority are.

If you have ever been window shopping at your local boat show, watched a regatta, or even taken a walk along the promenade of a marina, you will have noticed that all the boats are predominantly white.

Why has White Become the Preferred Color?

While we have mentioned that the main reason for sailboats to be white is because they are cooler, let’s take a more in-depth look as to why white has become the preferred color for sailboats:

1. White Helps to Keep The Inside of a Sailboat Cool

If you think about a boat out on the water, whether on a lake or the ocean, the image is often about having fun in the sun.

So a boat, especially a sailboat, is exposed to the elements, which includes sunlight, as there is no shade on the water. Add to that the reflection of the light from the water, and you can imagine how hot it can get inside a sailboat.

The white color of a sailboat helps to reflect the sunlight and doesn’t absorb as much heat as other colors:

Color % of the sunlight reflected from different colored surfaces
White 100% (close to 90%)
Gray 50%
Red 40%
Black 0%

Table courtesy of boatingvalley.com

This also explains why passenger vessels such as cruise ships are mostly white. As the color white reflects the sunlight, the interior of the vessel stays cooler.

This means that not much energy has to go into the air conditioning to keep the guests or passengers comfortable.

2. Reduces Manufacturing Costs

Today, the majority of modern sailboats are made from fiberglass.

This process involves lining a hull mold with epoxy (or the gelcoat) and then layering in the fiberglass sheets. This gelcoat becomes the outside surface of the sailboats’ hull.

The molds are used repeatedly, so it makes sense to manufacture several boats all in white.

If the manufacturer has to build boats in different colors, the process will take much longer as the molds will have to be specially cleaned after each use to ensure there is no residue from the previous color.

This becomes much more labor-intensive, which will increase costs.

In addition, sticking to one color makes buying the pigment (white) in bulk much cheaper than mixing different colors.

This cost-saving is therefore passed on to the customer.

3. White Hides Hull Imperfections

Within the manufacturing process, small imperfections on the hull are fairly common.

This could result from the hull mold not being cleaned properly or an imperfection in the mold itself. These minor imperfections will show with a dark-colored, glossy hull, whereas they don’t work on a white boat.

In addition, a darker-colored hull will fade due to the sunlight and saltwater. A white boat cannot fade. While both colors will need regular cleaning or waxing, a white boat will not often need repainting.

While a white hull hides imperfections, it will also act as a warning system for problems on your boat. Rust marks or algae growth that needs removing will all be more visible on a white hull.

4. Higher Visibility

White boats have higher visibility on the water than other, darker color boats.

While it is true that most safety equipment is in either red or orange, having a red or orange boat is the stuff of nightmares!

White symbolizes clean lines and luxury, plus a white sailboat is easier to spot in the water. This is especially useful in busy shipping lanes or if you get into trouble and rescue services need to come and find you.

5. Better Resale Value

A white sailboat has a timeless classiness compared to colored hulls that come and go in popularity.

If you ever find yourself in a position where you want or need to sell your boat, then it may be easier to resell a clean-looking, shiny white boat than, say, a dull, faded blue boat.

There might not be much difference between the two boats, but a well-maintained white boat looks more appealing than other colored hulls. A white boat can also be more tempting to a new owner, as they can better visualize any upgrades they may want to do.

This may include changing sail covers or other canvas work on the sailboat.

Is There Any Advantage To White Sails On Sailboats?

The most obvious advantage of having white sails on a sailboat is that they last longer when exposed to the sun.

Out at sea, the UV damage caused by the sun’s rays can be quite significant over prolonged periods of sailing. This is due to a combination of the sun itself and the reflection of UV rays from the water.

Dacron, the main fabric used for modern-day sails, is naturally white, reflecting damaging rays and heat effectively.

So cruising sails are usually white.

What Brands Make Sails In Other Colors Than White?

Most big sailmakers will make sails in colors other than white.

If your boat has a spinnaker, this will often be a very colorful sail. The following are the major sail brands to look out for:

  • Elvstrom Sails has created a range of six colorful sail plans for you to choose from.
  • Doyle Sails offer custom-made spinnaker sails in various colors for you to personalize your new sail.
  • Quantum Sails offers different colors of sails and the option to add custom graphics to your sails.
  • North Sails custom makes all their sails to their customer’s requirements, so different colors are not a problem!
  • One Sails is one of the world leaders in innovative sail design and can offer sails in different materials and different colors.

Are White Sails More Affordable?

The natural fabric used for sails is white, so if you want colored sails, the fabric must be dyed, which adds an extra expense.

So yes, white sails are more affordable.

Can You Dye A Sailboat Sail To Make It Brighter?

While it is not recommended to home dye your sails to make them brighter, it is possible.

However, Dacron has a reputation for not taking dyes very well, so make sure you buy the best quality dyes and try a small sample before tackling the whole sail.

If your sails get wet, you don’t want the dye to leach out of your sail onto your deck, where it may stain the gel coat.

If you want bright, colored sails, it’s best to speak to the experts.


Boat Hull Color Trends – Boats.com 

Why Are Boats White – Boating Valley

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