Click Image For The Sailboat Company's Home Page

The Right Sailboat

Two different kinds of sailboats...

Most new sailors look for and purchase a new or used sailboat based on price. Buying a new boat that we can afford is very important. However, the most important consideration in buying a sailboat is getting one that will work well in your geographical area. Most sailboats under 30 feet in length are designed for a specific market. Some categories of small sailboats are coastal, lake, racing, shoal, day-sailing and variation on all of the above. Builders decide what type of sailboat to build and market when they start their business. They sell their boats in their home state or local sailing area in the beginning. As their business grows, they expand their market outward into new areas. A used sailboat that's very popular in a sailing area should fetch a high resale price. A bargain boat with almost new sails and really looks good may be a bad deal because it's the wrong boat for the area. Half of the new people in sailing don't stay in sailing because they purchased the wrong boat for their purpose or area and they never learn to sail. We need to do better.

The Internet has improved the marketing of new and used sailboats in this country. It's also a great way to get the wrong boat for your area. An good example of a territorial boat is the Cape Dory Typhoon. This boat has a displacement of 2000 pounds and has a moderate sail plan. This popular little boat was built in the northeast and sold everywhere. This boat is heavy and has a short water line length. That makes it a cruiser in the coastal sailboat class. The reason for the short water line length is this boat was originally sailed in the ocean off our northeast coast. They don't have barrier islands in that area and the pointed bow and fine stern reduce the up and down motion in ocean swells. Reduced buoyancy in the ends reduce sea sickness in that type of coastal environment. The boat was designed for the northeast, but everyone loved the Carl Alberg design and the boat's good looks. One of the problems with this boat is it's small cabin space. The size of the cabin was limited by the boat's hull buoyancy design. The builder wanted an easy riding boat for ocean sailing in the northeast. The Typhoon doesn't have a trailer eye on the bow because they don't launch small sailboats from ramps in the northeast. The tides prevent boat ramp construction and operation in that area. They launch with a crane connected to an eye in the boat's ballast. These are small inconveniences that may not be insignificant to some sailors. The Typhoon is not the best choice for a small lake with lots of surrounding high terrain. Typhoons like wind.

Where do you sail?

The majority of small sailboats built in the United States are designed for lake sailing. The number of small sailboats on lakes far exceed the number of sailboats sailed on our coasts. The majority of sailboat builders build sailboats for the lake market. The difference between lake sailing and coastal sailing is the average wind strength. Most lakes are surrounded by terrain that reduce wind speed. Coastal sailing is done close to the ocean and those areas generally have more wind. I can remember sailing a lake boat on the coast of North Carolina in 20 knots of wind. It can be exciting, but you don't learn how to sail in those conditions.

Shoal draft boats are normally coastal boats and racing boats are normally lake boats. Most lake boats don't need to be shoal and most race boats have deep thin keels for speed. Day-sailors are limited by wind conditions and that makes them more useful on lakes. You have to pick your wind with a day-sailor because it can turn over.

Picking the right boat...

Boat Selection Table

Sail Area Displacement Ratio

Displacement Water Line Length Ratio

14 and below is slow in light air

120 and below is performance plus

14 to 18 is below average

120 to 180 are performance cruisers

18 to 21 is above average

180 to 250 are moderate cruisers

21 and above will be fast in light air

250 to 300 are medium heavy cruisers

300 and above are slow in light air

We have 2 tools that help sailors identify different types of sailboats. The first tool is a database of 2500 boats with all of the important measurements pre-calculated. The other tool is a manual calculator for boats that are not in the database. Both tools are accessed by clicking on the links at the left. The "sail area-displacement ratio" (SADISP) identifies lake and coastal boats. Most lake boats have more sail area because we have less wind on lakes. Most lake boats have less displacement for the same reason. The "displacement-water line length ratio" (DISPWL) identifies cruising and performance sailboats. A light boat with a long water line is going to be fast. The specifications in the calculations are the numbers you get in brochures from the builder. Save all those old boat show handouts for future use.

The ratio numbers for the Cape Dory Typhoon are 16.08 and 362.89. The Typhoon's SADISP ratio is below average and its DISPWL ratio puts it in the "slow in light air" category. That's great for coastal sailing if your a cruiser. One of the best lake boat ever built is the Catalina 22. The ratio numbers for the Catalina are 18.50 and 153.90. The SADISP ratio of 18.50 is in the above average category and a DISPWL ratio of 153.90 makes it a performance cruiser. Not the best cruising boat for coastal sailing, but an excellent boat for most lakes.

Some builders try to build boats for both lakes and coastal areas. The middle of road boat will be a little slow on the lakes and a real hand full when it blows big time on the coast. The best boat for learning how to sail is a slow heavy boat. If you like performance and you already know how to sail, the boat with lots of sail area and light displacement is the right boat for you. In all three cases, it's the most popular boat in your area that's going to get the best return on your investment.

One secret in the learning process is mass. A sailor sailing a sailboat across an ocean must have a boat that can be self steered. The boat must be stable and balanced enough to maintain a heading without manual input. Some small boats have enough mass to visually identify trim changes as they occur. The way we learn to sail is through trial and error. It helps if the changes occur in slow motion.

The Sailboat Company
Richlands, NC 910-324-4005