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Small boat racing.

The fundamentals of racing are most easily learned in small boats. Many small boats are designed specifically for youth, and most provide a lifetime of enjoyment for adults as well. Because of their size and simplicity, many small sailboats can be sailed singlehanded or with a crew member or two.

These small boat options provide great racing opportunities

Match racing, windsurfing, team racing.

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Small boat sailing can bring you relaxing days on the water, adventurous family fun or challenging competition

One design racing-, click here to visit the new one-design central website.

One-design is a form of racing where all boats are virtually identical or similar in design. Class-legal boats race each other without any handicap calculations, start at the same time, and the winner is the first to cross the finish line.

There are more than 150 actively raced one-design classes in the U.S. The classes range from eight-foot Optimist dinghies to the 12 Meter sailboats and beyond.

One-design classes are broken down into fleets that are located at yacht clubs and community sailing programs. Club or fleet racing takes place on a regular basis all over the country, and many fleets welcome newcomers. Contact your local yacht club or community program to get involved in one-design sailing and ask for the name of the fleet captain(s).

International Class World Championships

World Sailing’s regulations require classes planning to hold a world championship in the U.S. to gain the approval of US Sailing (see World Sailing Regulations 10 and 25). US Sailing is pleased to consider world championship approval requests at its monthly Directors meetings. Classes that wish to request US Sailing’s approval should submit a world championship approval request form .

The following information is required when submitting the request: event name and dates; host organization’s name and address; event venue, if different from host organization; class association contact name and email; event contact name and email. The request must be accompanied by a draft notice of race, and both the class association and the event host must be members of US Sailing. If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact the Race Administration office .

One Design Classes

Below is a comprehensive list of one-design classes. To update the information for your class and access the many resources available, go to My US Sailing . Your class does not have to be a member of US Sailing in order to be listed, however, only member classes have links to their web pages

One-Design Awards

Each year US Sailing presents up to five awards to recognize outstanding individuals, classes, clubs and fleets in one-design sailing. The awards — Service, Leadership, Club, Regatta, and Creativity — highlight role models of creative leadership in one-design sailing.

Did your club run an outstanding regatta this year? Is there an exceptional person at your club who was responsible for making your fleet grow? Anyone can nominate a club, fleet, regatta or one-design spark plug for a US Sailing One-Design Award. US Sailing wants to hear about it – one superbly written nomination per nominee is all that is needed.

To recognize distinguished service and leadership in the promotion of one-design sailing and class organization.
In recognition of individual initiative, enthusiasm, organizing ability and leadership in creating the outstanding fleet building program.
To recognize administrative excellence, fleet growth, creative programming, regatta support, member contribution — at regional, national and international levels — of the one-design yacht club of the year.
To recognize excellence in development, promotion, and management by organizers and sponsors of the year’s outstanding multi-class or single class, international, continental, national or regional regatta.
To recognize outstanding individual creativity and contribution to the year’s most innovative one design event of national or international significance.

One-Design Insurance Program by Gowrie Group

Whether you sail for fun, race occasionally, or are pursuing an Olympic campaign, Gowrie Group's specialized insurance program will meet your unique needs as a One-Design sailor. Learn more and get a quote at

Multihull sailboats come in a variety of types and sizes, from the popular Hobie Cat to large cruising catamarans. Catamarans have two hulls, while trimarans feature three. In general, multihulls are faster and lighter than monohulls (single hull sailboats). The 2013 America’s Cup was raced in high-tech catamarans. Active multihull classes include: Hobie Cat , A-Class and F16 .

Youth sailors are looking for speed and excitement, and that what they get sailing multihulls. Check out this youth multihull sailing video .

Match Racing News, Events & Rankings

Made popular by the America’s Cup, match racing pits one boat against another around a short two-lap windward/leeward course. This race format emphasizes the need for great boat speed, strong boat handling, teamwork and communication. Match racing will improve all aspects of your sailing, specifically your time-on-distance skills, starting line positioning, understanding of the rules, short course strategy and boat-on-boat tactics. Additionally, the tournament-style format makes it fun by maximizing the number of races per day.

2023 U.S. Team Racing Championship Event Information:

Hosted by: Mission Bay Yacht Club, San Diego- Dates: September  8-10, 2023 Application Period: May 24 - July 5, 2023

For More Event Information Click Here

Club Team Racing Gets Its Due- Article:  Sailing World by Gary Jobson May 16, 2023

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Team Racing Calendar

Use these great team racing resources to learn more.

US Team Racing Championship

ISAF Team Racing World Championship

ISAF Team Racing Callbook

Team Racing: Bridging the Age Gap and Building Participation at Your Club

What Makes a Successful Team Racing Event by Joel Hanneman

Team Racing Publications and Resources by Gavin O’Hare

Teaching Team Racing by Steve Hunt

Team Racing DVD

Introduction to Types of Team Racing and Regatta Formats

Windsurfing, or boardsailing, combines elements of sailing and surfing. This is a fun and exciting sport sure to test your athleticism, whether cruising or racing. If you are looking for a pure form of sailing and want to experience the unlimited possibilities of instant hands-on adventure, windsurfing may be the sport for you.

To learn more about racing windsurfers, contact US Windsurfing .

Learn more about our windsurfing educational opportunities 


Kiteboarding , or kitesailing , is a young and growing sport that combines elements of sailing, surfing and wakeboarding. Kiteboarders can reach high speeds on the water, and like windsurfing, kiteboarding is great for those who like to perform jumps, aerial maneuvers and tricks, freestyle moves, or just for cruising. The gear is relatively simple and compact. The kite easily folds to fit into your sailing gear bag and the board is also lightweight.

To learn more about kiteboarding, contact the American Kiteboarding Association or the International Kiteboarding Association

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Diana Emmanuelli Competition Manager Email Diana Emmanuelli 401-342-7912

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Karen Davidson Adult Program Coordinator Email Karen Davidson (401) 342-7934

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PHRF Racing: Choosing a Boat

  • By Bruce Bingman
  • Updated: September 18, 2013

Many factors go into buying a sailboat, including price, availability, style, and how much the boat will be used off the racecourse. At the risk of adding another facet to an already complicated decision, we tasked PHRF guru Bruce Bingman with identifying a few boats that are likely to sail above their rating in certain conditions. As is the case with any single-number rating system, every boat will have a sweet spot, a combination of wind strength, sea state, and course configuration under which it will be tough to beat.

For this exercise we asked Bingman to focus on boats that would be predominantly raced in club-level weeknight or weekend races. We wanted boats that are lively, fun to sail, and available. In addition, we restricted him to boats with an average PHRF rating of 30 or greater. Below that number you tend to find dry-sailed race boats requiring professionally managed programs, which are beyond the scope of this exercise, and usually too fast to really race in most local series.

It goes without saying that for any even halfway serious racing, preparation is as important as the boat selected or the handicap rating with which it comes. We’ve all heard it 1,000 times before: There is no substitute for good sails, reliable gear, and a smooth bottom. You may think your two- or three-year-old sails look fine, but you will pick up 6 seconds per mile and more with a new inventory. The most carefully selected boat or the most favorable rating won’t help you overcome a mid-race breakdown such as a broken halyard or jammed winch. A dirty bottom can cost you 30-plus seconds per mile. Even a thin layer of slime will cost you 3 seconds per mile. So pick your weapon, gear up, burnish your bottom, and head for the start.

  • Typical conditions: Waves and chop, strong but fading sea breeze
  • **Typical racecourses: Multiple lap windward-leewards **

My summer weeknight beercan series is conducted outside the harbor, on an exposed ocean racecourse, so it’s usually choppy. Winds are typically strong sea breezes (15-plus knots) at the start of the race, but lighten as the race progresses. The race committee typically runs one long, three-leg, windward-leeward race.

Here’s where you want the dependable offshore workhorse, and there are many options. A moderate displacement boat, a powerful rig, and a sea-kindly hull will produce a boat that drives upwind, through chop, and carries a spinnaker large enough to preserve a lead.

PHRF 30 to 70: The Beneteau 40.7 is a great offshore racer that provides superior upwind ability in choppy, breezy conditions. Great for a distance races, too.

PHRF 71 to 114: The Beneteau 42s has power and waterline rolled together in a single package. The sails are big, so it requires recruiting some young bucks to help get around the course.

PHRF 115 and up: The Cal 40 is a classic design with the ability to go up and down the course in any condition.

  • ** Typical conditions: Flat water, shifty winds can be strong or light**
  • Typical racecourses: Mix of random leg and windward-leeward

My local weeknight beercan series is conducted on a sheltered, narrow lake, with very shifty winds, but no current. Winds tend to be at either end of the spectrum: It’s either drifter light or wipeout windy. Because of the prevailing direction and narrowness of the lake, there’s usually a lot of maneuvers on the random-leg courses.

In this scenario we’re looking for light boats that are on the smaller end of the size range for each of the rating bands, but still retain the ability to perform in breezier conditions.

PHRF 30 to 70: Although the Henderson 30 can be a handful in bigger breeze, it’s an excellent light-air performer and reaches like a bandit.

PHRF 71 to 114: The Antrim 27 is a very fast and fun light-air performer that’s great in a breeze, so long as there’s not a lot of chop.

PHRF 115 and up: The B-25 , Leif Bailey’s original sporty speedster, is almost unbeatable under these conditions. An excellent, all-around performer that’s easy to drive around the course, and can still be found at reasonable prices.

  • ** Typical conditions: Flat water, moderate winds**
  • Typical racecourses: Random legs, all points of sail

My weeknight series is conducted in protected bay waters, with an average current of .5 to 1 knot, and generally flat water (with some chop at the upper wind range). Winds in the summer average 10 to 15 knots, and the organizing committee will typically run courses using government marks, requiring a mix of sailing angles.

In this scenario we want a boat with good all-around performance, especially for headsail reaches, a point of sail where many modern boats with non-overlapping headsails struggle. The 10- to 15-knot wind range is plenty to power most boats, so a very light boat, carrying a penalty for high sail-area-to-displacement ratio, will be at a disadvantage. This is particularly true in a “waterline” race, where a higher hull speed trumps maneuverability. On the other hand, a moderately light displacement boat with not too much wetted surface will ensure you’re not left out in the cold should the wind go light.

PHRF 30 to 70: The J/120 has consistently demonstrated excellent all-around performance to its typical rating.

PHRF 71 to 114: Either the Frers 41 or the J/29 masthead outboard. Both of these boats have overlapping headsails and enough power to get around the course and through the reaches. Which one is best would be dictated by local class splits. It’s generally desirable to be toward the faster end of the class.

PHRF 115 and up: The S2 9.1 was a MORC slayer in its heyday. It’s a very fast, but comfortable, 30-footer with a powerful overlapping headsail and long waterline.

  • Typical conditions: Steep chop, moderate winds
  • ** Typical racecourses: Windward-leeward**

The races in my weeknight series are held on open, exposed, and typically choppy water, especially in moderate winds. The summer average is 10 knots, and the race committee usually runs windward-leeward courses.

Windward-leeward races are typically won upwind and lost downwind. In this scenario we’re looking for boats that will have good light-air performance to weather while retaining the advantage downwind. We also want to look for boats with relatively fine bow sections to get through the chop.

PHRF 30 to 70: The Farr 30 is still one of the best small windward-leeward boats ever designed (owner bias aside). It’s light and easily driven, but has a fine bow that can cut through the chop when needed. Thanks to the masthead spinnaker, it excels downwind in all breezes.

PHRF 71 to 114: The J/35 has excellent all-around traits. This workhorse provides great performance in the medium breeze, and the overlapping headsail really helps drive through the chop.

PHRF 115 and up: The C&C 35 MK I is often overlooked. With its low wetted surface, overlapping headsail, and narrow beam, it’s an excellent performer, particularly in the chop. The Mark III model, which has a deeper keel and more modern rudder design, is a strong windward performer, but pays in the rating game and is typically a good deal more costly.

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RS500 – international double-hander with gennaker, trapeze and competitive circuit lifestyle

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11 Best Small Sailboat Brands: How to Choose Your Next Daysailer or Pocket Cruiser

12th oct 2023 by samantha wilson.

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Sailing is a relaxing, invigorating pastime that allows you to harness wind and waves in a unique and historic way without requiring a 50-foot yacht to enjoy what’s special about the experience. In fact, small sailboats allow a delightful back-to-basics experience that often gets lost on larger, systems-heavy sailboats.

On a small sailboat you can connect with the sea, feeling the boat move beneath you. The boat is typically easy to rig, simple to sail, and can even be sailed solo. Small sailboats give you the freedom to trailer your or car-top your boat and go anywhere, and they’re perfect for learning the nuances of sailing. There are many excellent brands and models of small sailboat, each with their own appeal, and here we narrow down some of our favorite in the daysailer and pocket cruiser categories under 30 feet. 

Difference Between a Daysailer and a Pocket Cruiser

While there are many different types of sailboat on the market and there is no single definition of either a daysailer or a pocket cruiser, they are used in a particular way, as the names imply. The term daysailer covers a huge array of sailboats, smaller and sometimes larger, and is generally defined as any day boat used for local sailing, with a simple rig, and easy to get underway. A pocket cruiser typically offers a cabin and head, and adequate accommodations for an overnight stay and sometimes longer cruises. Having said that, there is a large overlap between the two in many instances, so the lines may become blurred. 

What Size is a Small Sailboat?

Small is a relative term of course, but in general—and for the purposes of this article—a small sailboat is one that could be sailed by a small crew, often with one or two people aboard. It will have a simple rig and be trailerable, and it might be either a daysailer or pocket-cruiser style vessel as above. Within those categories, there are many models and styles, but when it comes to length we consider a sailboat as small when it’s under 30 feet in overall length. 

The Best Sailboats Under 30 Feet

Pocket cruiser: Beneteau First 27.  The Beneteau First 27 is a modern example of a pocket cruiser, earning Cruising World ’s Boat of the Year award in the Pocket Cruiser category in 2022. With space for up to six people accommodated in a separated bow-cabin and open saloon, it offers families the chance to go farther, explore more, and cruise in comfort. There is a galley with freshwater and a head, adding to the interior home comforts. The sailboat itself is modern, fast, and stable, designed by Sam Manuard, and has been designed to be incredibly safe and almost unsinkable thanks to its three watertight chambers. The handling is also refreshingly intuitive, with a well-designed cockpit, simple deck controls, and double winches allowing it to be sailed solo, by two people, or a small crew. 

Beneteau First 27

Photo credit: Beneteau

Daysailer: Alerion 28.  You’ll certainly turn heads cruising along in an Alerion 28, a daysailer whose forerunner by the same name was designed by Nathanael Herreshoff in 1912 and then updated with a modern underbody for fiberglass production by Carl Schumacher in the late 1980s. This pretty daysailer manages to combine a traditional silhouette and classic feel, with very modern engineering creating an excellent package. Over 470 of these sailboats were built and sold in the past 30 years, making it one of the most popular modern daysailers on the water. With a small cabin and saloon, complete with miniature galley area, it offers respite from the sun or wind and the option for a night aboard. The cockpit offers a beautiful sailing experience, with plenty of space for the whole family. 


Photo credit: Alerion Yachts

The Best Sailboats Under 25 Feet

Pocket cruiser: Cornish Crabber 24.  British manufacturer Cornish Crabber has been producing beautiful, traditional style small sailboats for decades, ensuring they honor their heritage both in the construction style and appearance of their boats. The Cornish Crabber 24 is the most iconic of their range and dates back to the 1980s. It offers a simple yet surprisingly spacious interior layout with cabin, galley, and head, and a good sized cockpit, as well as seating for up to six people. It’s the perfect family sailboat, with clever use of storage as well as just under 5000 pounds of displacement providing stability and easy tacking. Aesthetically the 24 is simply beautiful, with a traditional silhouette (combined with modern engineering), finished in hardwood trims. 

Cornish Crabber 24

Photo credit: Cornish Crabber

Daysailer: Catalina 22 Capri.  Catalina sailboats need little introduction, and are one of the world’s best-known, most-respected brands building small sailboats. The Catalina 22 Capri (also available in a sport model) is a great example of what Catalina does so well. While we’ve classified it as a daysailer, it could easily cross into the pocket cruiser category, as it offers excellent sailing performance in almost all conditions as well as having a small cabin, galley, and head. Loved for its safety, stability, ease of handling and simple maintenance, it makes for a good first family boat for getting out onto the bay or lake. 

Catalina 22 Capri

Photo credit: Catalina

The Best Sailboats Under 20 Feet

Pocket cruiser: CapeCutter 19.  This is another model that combines the beauty of the traditional silhouettes with modern-day advancements. The design originates from the classic gaff cutter work boats, but today offers excellent performance—in fact it’s one of the fastest small gaffers in the world. The interior is cleverly spacious, with four berths, two of which convert into a saloon, as well as a simple galley area. With quick rigging, it can be sailed solo, but is also able to accommodate small groups, making it a capable and hugely versatile pocket cruiser. 

CapeCutter 19

Photo credit: Cape Cutter 19

Daysailer: Swallow Yachts’ BayRaider 20.  Classic looks with modern performance are combined in Swallow Yachts’ beautiful BayRaider 20. This is one of the most capable and safest daysailers we’ve seen, but also incredibly versatile thanks to the choices of ballast. Keep the ballast tank empty and it’s light and fast. Fill the tank up and you’ve got a stable and safe boat perfect for beginners and families. While it’s got an eye-catching traditional style, the engineering is modern, with a strong carbon mast and construction. While this is a true daysailer, you can use the optional spray hood and camping accessories to create an overnight adventure. 

Swallow Yachts BayRaider 20

Photo credit: Swallow Yachts

The Best Sailboats Under 15 Feet

Pocket Cruiser: NorseBoat 12.5.  Can we truly call the NorseBoat 12.5 a pocket cruiser? Yes we can! The sheer versatility of this excellent little sailboat has convinced us. These beautiful hand-crafted sailboats offer exceptional performance and are described by the manufacturer as ‘the Swiss Army Knives of sailboats’. The traditionally styled 12.5 can be sailed, rowed, and motored. It can be trailered, easily beached, and even used as a camp cruiser, allowing for overnight adventures. There is no end to the fun that can be had with this easy-to-sail and easy-to-handle boat, which makes it a dream to learn in. With positive flotation, lots of clever storage, and a full-size double berth for camp cruising, it really is the perfect mini pocket cruiser. 

NorseBoat 12.5

Photo credit: NorseBoats

Daysailer: Original Beetle Cat Boat 12: All across the bays of the US east coast cat boats have long been part of the ocean landscape. Able to access shallow rocky coves yet also withstand the strong coastal winds, these traditional New England fishing boats have an iconic shape and gaff-rigged mainsails. Beetle Cat have been producing elegant wooden cat boats for over 100 years – in fact they’ve made and sold over 4,000 boats to date. Their 12 foot Cat Boat 12 is one of their finest models, offering lovely daysailing opportunities. It has a wide beam and centerboard that lifts up, allowing it to access shallow waters, as well as a forward mast and single sail gaff rig in keeping with the traditional cat boats. To sail one of these is to be part of the heritage of New England and Cape Cod, and to honor the ancient art of hand-made boat building. 

Beetle Cat official website

Beetle Cat Boat 12

Photo credit: Beetle Cat

The Best Small Sailboats for Beginners

When it comes to learning to sail, it’s important to have a boat that is easy to handle. There’s no quicker way to put yourself or your family off sailing than to start off with a boat that is either too big or too complicated. When choosing your first boat we recommend the following characteristics:

  • Small: The benefits of starting off with a small boat are many, as we’ve seen above. They’re easier to control as well as to moor, and they react more quickly to steering and sails. They can be trailered and launched easily, and the loads generated are much lower than on bigger, heavier boats.
  • Easy to sail: You want a boat that is stable and forgiving of mistakes, doesn’t capsize easily, and isn’t too overpowered in a stronger breeze. Keep things simple and learn as you go.
  • Simple sail configuration: Choosing a boat that can be rigged by one person in a few minutes, and easily sailed solo, makes it easier to take along inexperienced crews. With regards to the rig, all you need are a halyard to hoist the mainsail and a sheet to control the mainsail.
  • Tiller steering: We recommend boats with tiller steering over wheel steering when starting out. The tiller allows you to get a real feel for the boat and how the rudder works as it moves through the water. 

For more information on choosing the best beginner sailboat check out our full guide. There are many popular brands of beginner boats including Sunfish, Laser, and Hunter Marlow. Some of our favorites include;

Hobie 16: The classic Hobie catamaran has been a well-loved beginner sailboat for years, and the Hobie 16 started life back in 1969. Since then they’ve made and sold over a staggering 100,000 of the 16s. It has twin fiberglass and foam hulls, a large trampoline, and a pull-up rudder so it can be sailed straight onto the beach. The basic package comes with an easy to handle main and jib with plenty of extras available too such as a spinnaker and trailer. The Hobie 16 promises a great learning experience and lots of fun in a very nifty and inexpensive package. 

Hobie 16

Photo credit: Hobie

Paine 14: You’ll immediately fall in love with sailing when you step into a beautiful Paine 14. Made from seamless epoxy cold-molded wood, the P-14 is simply beautiful and offers the classic sailing experience with the design and innovation of a more modern hull and rig. Two people will be able to enjoy getting out on the water together and learning the ropes. The Paine 14 has a lead ballast keel that accounts for nearly half her weight, giving her the feel of a much larger boat, but is still trailerable and easy to manage offering the best of both worlds.

Paine 14

Photo credit: Chuck Paine

High-Performance Small Sailboats

Small sailboats generally become high performers if they are light, have a lot of sail area, or they have more than one hull. More recently, some of have been designed with foiling surfaces, as well. For the purposes of this article, we’d like to close by pointing out one model that is super fast and has versatile pocket-cruising capabilities.

Corsair 880 trimaran : The Corsair 880 trimaran is the grandchild of the company’s F27, a model that launched the popularity of trailerable leisure trimarans about 40 years ago. The 880 has taken the model to new heights and exemplifies the incredible space benefits you can achieve in a 29-foot sailboat. We’re talking an aft cabin, room to sleep 5 people, an enclosed head, and standing headroom in the galley and main saloon. It brings many of the opportunities that a much larger yacht plus the ability to cruise in extremely shallow water. Whether you want to cruise to the Bahamas or enjoy a high-adrenaline race, the Corsair 880 offers incredible performance and unlimited adventures in a truly pocket size. 

Corsair 880

Photo credit: Corsair

Written By: Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.


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11 Best Pocket Cruiser Sailboats to Fit a Budget

  • By Cruising World Staff
  • Updated: May 24, 2024

Looking for a trailerable pocket cruiser that offers that liveaboard feeling? This list features 11 small sailboats with cabins that have the amenities often found on larger vessels. They may not be ocean crossing vessels, but they’re certainly capable of handling big bays and open waters.

What is a pocket cruiser? It’s a small trailerable sailboat, typically under 30 feet in length, that’s ideal for cruising big lakes, bays, coastal ocean waters, and occasionally bluewater cruising. Pocket cruisers are usually more affordable, compact, and offer a level of comfort that’s comparable to bigger liveaboards.

Small cruising sailboats are appealing for many reasons, but if you’re like most of us, you want to maintain a certain level of comfort while on the water. We took a poll and these are what we found to be the best cruising sailboats under 30 feet.

– DON’T LET CARBON MONOXIDE SNEAK UP ON YOU – Install detectors on your boat to sniff out any buildup of carbon monoxide gas. Avoid running engines or generators while anchored or stopped for extended periods. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

Andrews 28

Open and airy below deck, the Andrews 28 doesn’t sacrifice comfort for speed. Designed by Alan Andrews, the Southern California naval architect renowned for his light, fast raceboats, this 28-footer will certainly appeal to the cruiser who also enjoys a little club racing. Sporting a total of 6 berths, a galley, head and nav area, you might forget you are on a boat small enough to be easily trailered. The retractable keel allows the Andrews 28 to be easily launched and hauled and ensures it’s as comfortable as a daysailer as it is a racer. Click here to read more about the Andrews28.

Beneteau First 20

First 20 at sunset

Small sailboat with a cabin? Check! Fun to sail? Modern design? Capable of flying a spinnaker? Check! Check! Check! The Finot-Conq-designed Beneteau First 20, which replaced the popular Beneteau first 211 nearly a decade ago now, is a sporty-but-stable pocket cruiser suitable for newcomers to the sport who are eager to learn their chops before moving up to a bigger boat or for old salts looking to downsize to a trailerable design. The boat features twin rudders, a lifting keel, and a surprisingly roomy interior with bunks for four. Click here to read more about the Beneteau First 20 .

Ranger 26

Conceived as a way to bridge the gap between a safe, comfortable, family cruiser and a competitive racer, Gary Mull’s Ranger 26 does exactly as it was designed to. Undeniably fast, (one won the 1970 IOR North American Half-Ton Cup) the boat sails as well as it looks. However speed isn’t the Ranger’s only strong-suit, with over 7 feet of cockpit there’s plenty of room for socializing after an evening of racing. The Ranger 26 sports a nice balance of freeboard and cabin height ensuring that a handsome profile wasn’t sacrificed for standing headroom. Click here to read more about the Ranger 26.

Nonsuch 30 left side

Catboats were once a common site in coastal waters, where they sailed the shallow bays as fishing or work boats. Their large single and often gaff-rigged sail provided plenty of power, and a centerboard made them well-suited for the thin waters they frequently encountered. In the late 1970s, Canadian builder Hinterhoeller introduced the Nonsuch 30, a fiberglass variation of the catboat design, with a modern Marconi sail flown on a stayless mast, and a keel instead of a centerboard. The boat’s wide beam made room below for a spacious interior, and the design caught on quickly with cruising sailors looking for a small bluewater sailboat. Click here to read more about the Nonsuch 30 .

– SHOW THEM HOW MUCH YOU CARE – Nothing says ‘I love you’ like making sure the kids’ life jackets are snugged up and properly buckled. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

Newport 27

Debuted in 1971 in California, the Newport 27 was an instant success on the local racing scene. For a modest 27-footer, the Newport 27 has an unusually spacious interrior with over 6 feet of standing headroom. With 4 berths, a table, nav station, head and galley the Newport 27 has all the amenities you might find in a much bigger boat, all in a compact package. While quick in light air, the drawback of the tiller steering becomes apparent with increasing breeze and weather helm often leading to shortening sail early. Click here to read more about the Newport 27.

Balboa 26

First splashed in 1969, the Balboa 26 continues to enjoy a strong following among budget-minded cruisers. Built sturdy and heavy, all of the boat’s stress points are reinforced. The spacious cockpit comfortably seats 4 and is self bailing, ensuring that sailors stay dry. While only 26 feet, the Balboa still has room for a double berth, galley with stove and freshwater pump, and an optional marine head or V-berth. The Balboa has the ability to sleep five, though the most comfortable number is two or three. Under sail, the Balboa is fast and maneuverable, but may prove a handful in heavy breeze as weather helm increases. Click here to read more about the Balboa 26.

Cape Dory 28

Cape Dory 28

While the sleek lines and the teak accents of the Cape Dory 28 may grab the eye, it is the performance of the boat that make it unique. The Cape Dory comes with all amenities that you might need available, including a V-berth, 2 settees, and a head. Safe, sound and comfortable as a cruiser it is still capable of speed. Quick in light wind and sturdy and capable in heavy air, it is off the wind where the Cape Dory 28 shines with a balanced helm and the ability to cut through chop and still tack perfectly. Click here to read more about the Cape Dory 28.

Islander Bahama 28

Islander Bahama 28

On top of being a real eye-catcher, the Islander Bahama 28, with its 5-foot-6-inch draft and 3,300 pounds of ballast, sails beautifully, tracks well, and responds quickly to the helm. Inspired by the International Offshore Rule, it is unusually wide, offering stability in breeze without sacrificing the sheer and lines that make it so attractive. Below deck, the Islander Bahama 28 comes standard with plenty of berths and storage space and a galley complete with stove, icebox and sink. Click here to read more about the Islander Bahama 28.

– CHECK THE WEATHER – The weather changes all the time. Always check the forecast and prepare for the worst case. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

S2 8.6

Much like its older sibling, the S2 8.6 still holds its contemporary style, despite its 1983 introduction. Like all other S2 Yachts, the 8.6 is recognized for the quality craftsmanship that allows the boat to hold up today.The S2 8.6 is a very comfortable and easily managed coastal cruiser and club racer. It’s relatively stiff, its helm feels balanced, and it tracks well. On most points of sail, it compares favorably with other boats of similar size and type. Click here to read more about the S2 8.6.

Contessa 26

Contessa 26

When the Contessa 26 was released in 1965, it immediately proved itself to be a strong, seaworthy vessel. The Contessa has continued to prove itself throughout its lifetime, being the boat of choice for two solo circumnavigations under the age of 21. While upwind performance leaves some wanting, the boat is sturdy and can carry full sail in up to 20 knots of breeze. Suited more for single-handing, the Contessa lacks standing headroom and the accommodations are sparse. Nonetheless, the Contessa 26 performs well as a daysailer with guests aboard. Click here to read more about the Contessa 26.

Hunter 27

The Hunter 27 perfectly encompasses the pocket cruiser ideal. Even if you don’t want a big boat, you can still have big boat amenities. With the generously spacious layout, wheel steering and a walkthrough transom the Hunter feels much larger than 27 feet. Step below deck and any doubts you had that the Hunter was secretly a big boat will be gone. The amenities below are endless; a full galley including stove, microwave and cooler, head with full shower, several berths and not to mention a saloon with seating for 6. The Hunter 27 has reset the benchmark for 27-footers. Click here to read more about the Hunter 27.

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Small Sailboat Types: Choose the Perfect One For You

A boat's weight, draft, and sail area often affect its performance in different wind and water conditions. For this reason, sailors often prefer small sailboats because they are easy to handle, have simple rigging and sail plans, and are also more affordable. In this article, we'll help you choose the perfect type of small sailboat that fits your experience and budget.

The most common types of small sailboats include dinghies, daysailers, sloops, and catamarans. Dinghies are small, lightweight boats that are easy to launch and sail, while daysailers are slightly larger but more comfortable. Sloops are characterized by a single-mast rig, while a catamaran has two hulls, which provide stability.

To choose the right small sailboat for your needs, there are three important factors to keep in mind: your skill level, the intended use of the boat, and your budget limits. Let's find out how each of these factors can affect your choice.

  • Dinghies are lightweight and easy to transport, but they can capsize easily, have limited space, and are not suitable for long distances or overnight trips.
  • Daysailers are more spacious than dinghies, but they are heavier and less maneuverable.
  • Small sloops are more spacious and comfortable than dinghies or daysailers; however, they are heavier and more expensive and require a larger vehicle or trailer for transport.
  • Small catamarans are fast and fun to sail but may require more maintenance and are less comfortable than sloops for overnight trips.
  • If you plan to race, you may want a boat that is lightweight and fast, such as the J/70 or the Melges 24, but for day sailing, opt for small sailboats like the Hobie 16 or the Flying Scot.

small racing sailboats

Types of Small Sailboats

Below is a table showing the different types of small sailboats and a short list of popular sailboats under each one:

Small, lightweight sailboats that are easy to maneuver and great for learning basic sailing skills. 6–15 feet in length Optimist, Laser, Sunfish, 420, 29er
Slightly larger sailboats that can accommodate small groups and are good for day trips and weekend outings. 16–20 feet in length Catalina 16.5, Flying Scot, Precision 15, O'Day Daysailer
Larger sailboats that are more spacious and comfortable than dinghies or daysailers. Good for day trips and overnight trips. 20–30 feet in length Catalina 22, Hunter 22, J/22, San Juan 21
Fast and fun sailboats that can accommodate small groups and are good for day trips and weekend outings. 14–20 feet in length Hobie 16, Nacra 15, Prindle 16, Dart 16

Dinghy is a common type of small sailboat

A dinghy is a small sailboat that is typically used for racing or sailing in shallow water. It can be sailed by one or two people, and they are usually very lightweight and easy to handle.

They also cost less compared to other types of small sailboats. If you're curious as to how much a dinghy costs , here's an article for you.

small racing sailboats

They are also very versatile and can be used for a variety of different sailing activities. Here are the pros and cons of choosing a dinghy:

  • Pros: Lightweight and easy to transport, great for racing, maneuverable, good for learning basic sailing skills.
  • Cons: Can capsize easily, limited space for passengers, not suitable for long distances or overnight trips.
To know which type of dinghy suits you best , you can read this article.

Daysailers are another popular small sailboat choice

Daysailers are slightly larger than dinghies and are designed for day sailing. They are usually between 16 and 20 feet in length and can be sailed by two or more people.

small racing sailboats

Daysailers are designed for comfort and ease of use, with features such as a small cabin or cockpit for shelter and storage. They are also often equipped with amenities such as a small galley or a portable toilet.

  • Pros: More spacious than dinghies, can accommodate small groups, good for day trips and weekend outings, stable and easy to handle.
  • Cons: Heavier and less maneuverable than dinghies, may require a trailer for transport, not suitable for long distances or overnight trips.

Small sloop is a classic and versatile small sailboat option

A sloop is a type of sailboat that has a single mast and a fore-and-aft rig. This means that the sails are set parallel to the centerline of the boat.

small racing sailboats

Sloops are one of the most popular types of sailboats because they are easy to handle and can be sailed by just one person. They are also very versatile and can be used for racing or cruising.

  • Pros: More spacious and comfortable than dinghies or daysailers, can accommodate small groups, good for day trips and overnight trips, good for learning intermediate sailing skills.
  • Cons: Heavier and more expensive than dinghies or daysailers, may require a larger vehicle or trailer for transport, may require more maintenance.

Small catamarans are a lightweight and stable small sailboat option

A catamaran is a type of sailboat that has two hulls instead of one. The hulls are connected by a trampoline, which provides a stable platform for sailing.

Catamarans are very fast and can be used for racing or cruising. They are also very spacious and can accommodate a lot of people.

  • Pros: Fast and fun to sail, can accommodate small groups, good for day trips and weekend outings, stable and easy to handle.
  • Cons: More expensive than dinghies or daysailers, may require a larger vehicle or trailer for transport, may require more maintenance, less comfortable than sloops for overnight trips.
If you want to know the costs of buying and owning a catamaran , either new or used, you might find this article helpful.

Small Sailboats for Different Skill Levels, Intended Use, And Budget

Below is a table showing how to choose a specific small sailboat model based on skill level, intended use, and budget:

Beginner Day sailing, learning $1,000-$4,000
Intermediate-advanced Racing, day sailing $2,000-$9,000
Intermediate-advanced Racing, day sailing $5,000-$15,000
Intermediate-advanced Cruising, day sailing $10,000-$20,000
Advanced Racing $10,000-$30,000

Choosing the perfect small sailboat based on skill level

small racing sailboats

When choosing the perfect sailboat for you, try to choose a boat that matches your skill level so that you can enjoy sailing safely and comfortably.

Small sailboat for beginner sailors

If you are new to sailing, you may want to choose a small dinghy or daysailer that is easy to handle and control. Boats like the Sunfish or the Laser are popular choices for beginners, as they are lightweight and simple to rig.

These boats are also relatively forgiving, which means that they are less likely to capsize or cause injury if you make a mistake.

Small sailboat for intermediate sailors

If you have some sailing experience but are not yet an expert, you may want to consider a slightly larger boat that can handle more wind and waves.

Boats like the Catalina 22 or the Hunter 26 are popular choices for intermediate sailors, as they are larger and more stable than dinghies, but still relatively easy to handle. These boats also offer more amenities, such as a small cabin or a head, which can make them more comfortable for longer trips.

Small sailboat for advanced sailors

If you are an experienced sailor, you may want to choose a larger boat that can handle more challenging conditions. Boats like the J/105 or the J/120 are popular choices for advanced sailors, as they are designed for racing and cruising in open waters. These boats are more complex to rig and operate, but offer greater speed, stability, and control in high winds and waves.

Choosing the perfect small sailboat based on intended use

Are you planning to use the boat for day sailing, racing, or cruising? Different boats are designed for different purposes, so choose a boat that is well-suited for your intended use.

Small sailboat for day sailing

If you plan to use your boat for day sailing, you may want to consider a small dinghy or daysailer that is easy to launch and retrieve. Boats like the Hobie 16 or the Flying Scot are popular choices for day sailing, as they are fast and fun to sail in open waters. These boats are also relatively easy to rig and maintain, which makes them a great choice for recreational sailing.

small racing sailboats

Small sailboat for racing

If you plan to use your boat for racing, you may want to consider a lightweight and fast boat that is designed for speed and agility. Boats like the J/70 or the Melges 24 are popular choices for racing, as they are designed to be fast and responsive in all conditions. These boats are also highly maneuverable, which makes them a great choice for competitive sailing.

Small sailboat for cruising

If you plan to use your boat for cruising, you may want to consider a boat that is more comfortable and has more amenities. Boats like the Catalina 27 or the Hunter 31 are popular choices for cruising, as they offer more space, storage, and comfort than smaller boats. These boats are also designed to be stable and seaworthy, which makes them a great choice for longer trips.

Choosing the perfect small sailboat depending on your budget

Consider choosing a boat that fits within your budget so that you don't overspend and end up with a boat that you can't afford to maintain or use. The price for used dinghies ranges from $1,000 to $5,000.

For used sailboats within 20–40 feet, the prices range from $5,000 to $50,000 . Keep in mind that there are also additional costs to consider, such as storage, maintenance, and repairs.

To get an idea of the pricing for used sailboats , you can use this article as a reference. Meanwhile, for the annual maintenance costs for sailboats , here's an article you can refer to.

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Small Sailboat Sizes: A Complete Guide

Small Sailboat Sizes: A Complete Guide | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

October 30, 2022

‍ Key Takeaways

  • Small sailboats are easy to sail, rig, and are affordable
  • They are usually under 20 feet to be considered small
  • Might not fit a particular sailing goal

‍ There are plenty of small sailboat sizes to accommodate any sailing experience. But what kinds of small sailboats are there?

Small sailboats are generally under 20 feet in length, come in a variety of designs, and have different hulls. These include monohulls, catamarans, and trimarans. As long as they have a mast, rudder, sail, and are under 20 feet, it is considered a small sailboat.

According to experienced sailors that use a smaller boat, it is best to have one that is easy to handle and accommodates their sailing goals. When searching for the best small sailboat, it will likely differ from one person to the next.

Table of contents

‍ 23 Small Sailboats to Compare

When looking at different types of small sailboats, it is important to see how they are designed. Depending on the sailing goals a person has will ultimately affect how they intend to sail.

If I have a Hobie catamaran, I am likely going to use it for recreational purposes like coastal cruising instead of racing. For shallow drafts, I would need something that can handle entering that territory and not risk damaging a keel on some monohulls.

Marblehead Daysailer

The Marblehead 22 daysailer is a traditional looking monohull perfect for everything related to small sailboats. Even though it is compact, there is enough room for guests on board.

It has almost a 12 foot cockpit to seat several people, along with a stowaway cuddy in the front to put some gear into. With its bulb keel, however, I would not take it into shallow waters.

A Laser is a great small sailboat that is commonly raced. In fact, they have been used in the Olympics every year since 1996.

Laser’s have a tendency to capsize if mishandled by inexperienced sailors in rough conditions, but are good to learn how to sail. I would recommend taking them out on lighter days and calmer conditions.

Catalina Sport

The Catalina 22 Sport has earned the reputation for the best small sailboat for years. It has simple amenities for different sailing goals, but also has a retractable keel to allow for shoal draft exploration.

For a boat this size, it can sleep four people and has a swim ladder in the back. Sailors that are used to simple designs will be happy that it has a roller furling jib, a fractional rig, and a mainsail. For a boat that is under 25 feet, it is arguably the epitome of small sailboats.

Cape Cod Daysailer

The Daysailer by Cape Cod was a first of its kind back in the 1950’s. It could travel however a sailor saw fit, with capabilities of racing, cruising, or simple pleasure.

Roughly a thousand were built by various shipyards, but Cape Cod still continues to produce them. For a 16 foot sailboat, it packs a punch with an affordable price and enough room for a few people.

The BayRaider from Swallow Yachts is another great example of a small sailboat that is easy to navigate and to put on a trailer for transport. What I love about it is that just about all of the 20 feet of the boat is an open cockpit.

If I were consistently using it in rougher waters, I would recommend adding a spray hood to help keep sections of the boat dry. In addition, I would look for the option to add stability with 300 pounds of water ballast.

For those that enjoy a solo ride, the Beetle Cat is one to consider. This boat has a draft of two feet and is roughly 12 feet long, which makes it perfect for coastal cruising or much tighter spaces.

With its single gaff-rigged sail, it offers tons of power even with lighter air. It is also nice to use when the conditions become rough and it is easy to reef down.

West Wight Potter

The West Wight Potter has a particular model, the P19, that is on many sailors’ lists of great small sailboats. A lot of sailors prefer this boat due to a variety of features for its size.

At just under 20 feet, it has four berths, galley, sink, stove, and even a cooler. This boat also has closed-cell foam on the fore and aft, making it virtually unsinkable.

The Norseboat 17.5 is the perfect sailboat in mind when it comes to rowing and sailing. Whether it has one or two people, there is plenty of room to sail comfortably.

While it is not the best boat to probably have in rough conditions, I would likely use this to find coastal areas with good camping spots. With its excellent load capacity, there are plenty of opportunities to bring all kinds of gear without fear of weighing the boat down.

Even though the Montgomery 17 is advertised as a trailerable pocket cruiser, it packs a punch for a smaller sloop rig. It even comes with a centerboard keel that can be retracted to make the boat draft just two feet. This is great for those that want to cruise along the coast or beach it and go exploring.

The cuddy cabin has plenty of headroom and two bunks for guests. There are other models that Montgomery offers such as the 15 and 23, but the 17 is arguably the most attractive for tighter spaces navigating and the best bang for buck scenario.

The CW Hood 32 is somewhat misleading for a small sailboat since it is roughly 32 feet in length. However, sailors will only use about half of the boat in the cockpit with seating and navigating.

This boat is specifically designed for day sailing in mind, with nothing on board to distract anyone from sailing. It is a perfect sailboat for a family without being too large to handle.

The 17 foot and half Sun Cat from Com-Pac Yachts is a great looking small sailboat. With its gaff-rigged mainsail, it powers easily with light conditions.

It can be for solo sailing or a small group that wants to share twin six foot berths. It has a handful of amenities to make this a great boat to have on the weekend or small trips.

There was a time that the Sunfish was the most popular small sailboat in existence. But price and competition flooded the market and other top names are pushing them away from the top.

However, this might be a good opportunity to find one at a discount. The Sunfish is excellent for those wanting to day sail or learn how to sail, meaning anyone can enjoy time on the water with this simple 14 foot setup.

The Catalina 16.5 is considered the middle child between its models of 12.5 and the 22. It can come in two different models, one with a centerboard or another with a shoal draft fixed keel.

At slightly over 17 feet, the centerboard model can draft as low as five inches on the water or a little over four feet with the board down. It also features plenty of room in the cockpit and a waterproof hatch for storage.

For those that want a taste of stability from a catamaran and a small sailboat that is easy to trailer, a Hobie 16 is the right boat. Since 1969, there have been plenty of models from that brand but over 100,000 have been made with the 16 alone.

All catamarans can be beached, but some might need some attention beforehand to ensure so. For example, this one will need rudders kicked up before beaching.

The Hunter 15 is the pinnacle of simplicity and functionality. This boat, whether an experienced sailor or newbie is navigating, is one of the best boats without having to think too much about while underway.

With its kick up rudder, any sailor can relax as they enter shoal drafts. This 15 footer is great for day sailing since there are not any special features on board.

Super Snark

The Super Snark has been around since 1970 and has proven to be successful at just 11 feet in length. It is easy to transport, either on a trailer or on top of a vehicle.

The boat weighs just 50 pounds and has a payload capacity of about 310 pounds. For those that want a small unsinkable boat built for two people, it is hard to pass up a Super Snark.

Flying Scot

The Flying Scot is another great small sailboat that is just under 20 feet in length. Not much has changed since it was produced in 1957 with its sloop rig and spinnaker.

Even though it is a good racer for just one or two people, it can comfortably be used as a family boat for up to eight people. It also has a centerboard keel that can be retracted to make it have an eight inch draft.

RS Sailing typically builds racing dinghies, but the Venture model is a 16 footer that is great for those newer to sailing. This boat is commonly used in training classes across the U.S.

The cockpit can comfortably hold a handful of people or a group of smaller kids. It also features an outboard motor mount and a swim ladder in case anyone wants to take a swim.

The RS Sailing brand needs one more mention due to the amount of small sailboats they put out. The RS Aero, for example, is an award winning racing dinghy just shy of 14 feet that has been used in competitions all over the world.

It is not a boat that can be easily learned for a newbie to reach top speeds, but experienced racers love the performance it offers. It only seats one, but it is perfect for those that have sailing experience, whether they are young or old.

Topaz makes a variety of smaller sailboats, but the one that is most popular is the Taz. At just under 10 feet in length, it is one of the smaller sailboats out there that can accommodate an adult and maybe a small child.

This could also be used for larger boats that need a dinghy to make it to shore. For the price point, it will be difficult to ignore for a compelling dinghy.

The WRTango by WindRider is a perfect trimaran at 10 feet that is easy to sail and to transport. It is the smallest edition of trimarans offered by this brand, just behind the WR 16 and 17.

Since it has forward facing seating, steering with a foot pedal, and a lower center of gravity, sailors will feel like they are sitting in a kayak. It has a six inch draft, a single sail, and heavy duty outriggers that are designed to take a beating.

Minicat has a special line of inflatable catamarans available in various sizes. These come equipped with a multi-piece mast and even a trampoline, along with the inflatable hulls of course.

It is arguably the easiest small sailboat to travel with, as it can be put away in one or two bags for transport. As for sailing, it rivals the speeds and handle of other popular small catamarans.

Vancouver 28

The Vancouver 28 is outside the range of what would be considered a dinghy, but it still offers a lot of value for being a smaller bluewater sailboat. At 28 feet, there is a little something for everyone.

This boat is considered a pocket cruiser that can essentially go anywhere. For those that are trying to downsize from other larger sailboats, they should strongly consider a change with the Vancouver 28.

Pros and Cons to Small Sailboats

Small sailboats have become more popular over the last few decades. Smaller bluewater sailboats have a lot to like, but also present some disadvantages that might not fit into a sailor’s category to sail.

It is important to figure out what sailing goals a sailor wants to take part in. Whether it is cruising, weekend sailing, or day sailing, small sailboats are potentially a good fit.

There are a handful of pros to look at for small sailboats. The key is to find one that fits specific to a sailing goal, such as racing or cruising.

It is easy to see why small sailboats are common, especially since they cost much less than larger ones. They are even less expensive models if a sailor can find a used one.

Depending on how long a boat is will determine how much it costs to build. It is easier and costs less to make repairs on smaller boats since the damaged areas are smaller as well. So finding a small, yet functional sailboat will be the most cost effective.

Simpler Systems

Small sailboats are easier to maintain and have a lot less issues than larger boats. This is simply because they have a lot less to offer, such as a watermaker or an electric anchor windlass.

Some are just bare bones when it comes to sailing, while others have galleys or berths. Depending on the model and brand will determine how easy it is to maintain.

Easy to Sail

Inexperienced sailors often gravitate to smaller sailors simply because they are easier to sail. Imagine the difference between raising a sail between an 18 footer and a 48 footer, or even the difference between one or a few sails.

These boats are also meant for solo sailing or for smaller groups, making it easier to handle functions on board. These are also used in training schools that teach how to sail. There is also less stress on the boat in general, making it easier to maintain.

Easy to Rig

Whether a sailor wants to put a small sailboat on a trailer or the top of their car, no one can deny how convenient it is to move around. No special tricks are needed for these types of boats, as they are simple to put up once they are done being used.

When looking at the inflatable catamaran for example, it is one of the easiest to set up and put away. Larger boats require to be parked at a dock or will be more difficult to pull out of the water.

Easy to Find Parts

Every sailboat will need something replaced or fixed at some point. For small sailboats, it will be easier to find parts or replacement items because these boats are often made in bulk.

Smaller boats can be found everywhere and a lot were made back in the early 1950’s and 60’s. Some will have compatible parts to newer ones and the other way around.

As good as small sailboats might be to some, sailors might choose to look elsewhere if their sailing goals do not fit what a small sailboat offers. If sailors are simply wanting to get out on the water and not have a lot of amenities, this could work for them. So depending on what a sailor is expecting to get out of a boat makes the biggest difference.

Much Slower

If sailors were to travel the same distance at the same time in different sized boats, more often than not the large boat will win. While some small sailboats are only meant for racing, a lot of them are not meant to travel very fast.

The hull speed is in conjunction with the square root of the length of the water, meaning you need more hull to go faster. This could become an issue when trying to evade a storm and get to safety quickly.

Larger boats tend to average between seven to 10 knots while small sailboats average less. Depending on how much the difference is in length and sail area will determine the speed.

Not as Much Space

Small sailboats under 20 feet are difficult to live aboard or travel long distances with a lack of gear or food. There are some that can cater to one or two people for full time sailing, but these have limited space as well.

Unless sailors are able to effectively downsize from larger boats to smaller boats, there will likely be some issues with the amount of gear or other items they are taking on board. In addition, it makes it difficult to travel with a crew or even a pet.

Not as Comfortable

There will be some debate between how comfortable small sailboats are, but the argument can be made that they are not as comfortable as larger sailboats. Generally, anything over 20 feet is recommended to live aboard or engage in bluewater sailing long term.

For those that want to be as comfortable as possible while sailing, smaller sailboats might lack in that regard. Since there is not as much seating and a lack of a galley or berth, sailors might pass on small sailboats for comfort.

Why A Small Sailboat Could Be Beneficial

A variety of factors will contribute to a sailor wanting to select a specific boat to sail in. These include budget, sailing goals, and availability nearby. Small sailboats have proven to be effective for a variety of purposes.

For newer sailors, small sailboats are definitely the way to go to learn how to sail without blowing tons of money on a larger setup. After sailors have developed a comfortable amount of experience with their small sailboat or if their sailing goals have changed, then it would be ideal to move onto a larger boat to fit their needs.

Small sailboats definitely have their place in today’s market. From racers to cruisers, or daysailers to weekenders, small sailboats can fit any category that a sailor could possibly want to experience.

It is ultimately up to the individual on how they want to approach a small sailboat and its capabilities. In the best scenario, one should find a boat that is in good condition, is affordable for their budget, and is easy to handle based on their sailing goals.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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25 of the best small sailing boat designs

Nic Compton

  • Nic Compton
  • August 10, 2022

Nic Compton looks at the 25 yachts under 40ft which have had the biggest impact on UK sailing

25 of the best small sailing boat designs

There’s nothing like a list of best small sailing boat designs to get the blood pumping.

Everyone has their favourites, and everyone has their pet hates.

This is my list of the 25 best small sailing boat designs, honed down from the list of 55 yachts I started with.

I’ve tried to be objective and have included several boats I don’t particularly like but which have undeniably had an impact on sailing in the UK – and yes, it would be quite a different list if I was writing about another country.

If your favourite isn’t on the best small sailing boat designs list, then send an email to [email protected] to argue the case for your best-loved boat.

Ready? Take a deep breath…

A green hull Centaur yacht, named as one of the 25 best small sailing boat designs

Credit: Bob Aylott

Laurent Giles is best known for designing wholesome wooden cruising boats such as the Vertue and Wanderer III , yet his most successful design was the 26ft Centaur he designed for Westerly, of which a remarkable 2,444 were built between 1969 and 1980.

It might not be the prettiest boat on the water, but it sure packs a lot of accommodation.

The Westerly Centaur was one of the first production boats to be tank tested, so it sails surprisingly well too. Jack L Giles knew what he was doing.

Colin Archer

The Colin Archer - one of the 25 best small sailing boat designs

Credit: Nic Compton

Only 32 Colin Archer lifeboats were built during their designer’s lifetime, starting with Colin Archer in 1893 and finishing with Johan Bruusgaard in 1924.

Yet their reputation for safety spawned hundreds of copycat designs, the most famous of which was Sir Robin Knox-Johnston ’s Suhaili , which he sailed around the world singlehanded in 1968-9.

The term Colin Archer has become so generic it is often used to describe any double-ender – so beware!

Contessa 32

Assents performance in the 1979 Fastnet Race earns the Contessa 32 at place on the 25 best small sailing boats list. Credit: Nic Compton

Assent ‘s performance in the 1979 Fastnet Race makes the Contessa 32 a worth entry in the 25 best small sailing boat designs list. Credit: Nic Compton

Designed by David Sadler as a bigger alternative to the popular Contessa 26, the Contessa 32 was built by Jeremy Rogers in Lymington from 1970.

The yacht’s credentials were established when Assent , the Contessa 32 owned by Willy Kerr and skippered by his son Alan, became the only yacht in her class to complete the deadly 1979 Fastnet Race .

When UK production ceased in 1983, more than 700 had been built, and another 20 have been built since 1996.

Cornish Crabber 24

A Cornish crabber with a blue hull and white sails

It seemed a daft idea to build a gaff-rigged boat in 1974, just when everyone else had embraced the ‘modern’ Bermudan rig.

Yet the first Cornish Crabber 24, designed by Roger Dongray, tapped into a feeling that would grow and grow and eventually become a movement.

The 24 was followed in 1979 by the even more successful Shrimper 19 – now ubiquitous in almost every harbour in England – and the rest is history.

Drascombe Lugger

A Drascombe lugger with orange sails

Credit: David Harding

There are faster, lighter and more comfortable boats than a Drascombe Lugger.

And yet, 57 years after John Watkinson designed the first ‘lugger’ (soon changed to gunter rig), more than 2,000 have been built and the design is still going strong.

More than any other boat, the Drascombe Lugger opened up dinghy cruising, exemplified by Ken Duxbury’s Greek voyages in the 1970s and Webb Chiles’s near-circumnavigation on Chidiock Tichbourne I and II .

An Eventide lunch with white sails and a blue hull sailing offshore

The 26ft Eventide. Credit: David Harding

It’s been described as the Morris Minor of the boating world – except that the majority of the 1,000 Eventides built were lovingly assembled by their owners, not on a production line.

After you’d tested your skills building the Mirror dinghy, you could progress to building a yacht.

And at 24ft long, the Eventide packed a surprising amount of living space.

It was Maurice Griffiths’ most successful design and helped bring yachting to a wider audience.

A Fisher 30 yacht with blue hull and red sails

You either love ’em or you hate ’em – motorsailers, that is.

The Fisher 30 was brought into production in 1971 and was one of the first out-and-out motorsailers.

With its long keel , heavy displacement and high bulwarks, it was intended to evoke the spirit of North Sea fishing boats.

It might not sail brilliantly but it provided an exceptional level of comfort for its size and it would look after you when things turned nasty.

Significantly, it was also fitted with a large engine.

A Folkboat with white sails and blue hull

Credit: Rupert Holmes

It should have been a disaster.

In 1941, when the Scandinavian Sailing Federation couldn’t choose a winner for their competition to design an affordable sailing boat, they gave six designs to naval architect Tord Sundén and asked him to combine the best features from each.

The result was a sweet-lined 25ft sloop which was very seaworthy and fast.

The design has been built in GRP since the 1970s and now numbers more than 4,000, with fleets all over the world.

A Freedom 40 yacht with a blue hull and two masts carrying white sails

Credit: Kevin Barber

There’s something disconcerting about a boat with two unstayed masts and no foresails, and certainly the Freedom range has its detractors.

Yet as Garry Hoyt proved, first with the Freedom 40, designed in collaboration with Halsey Herreshoff, and then the Freedom 33 , designed with Jay Paris, the boats are simple to sail (none of those clattering jib sheets every time you tack) and surprisingly fast – at least off the wind .

Other ‘cat ketch’ designs followed but the Freedoms developed their own cult following.

Hillyard 12-tonner

A classic sailing boat with a white hull and white sails

The old joke about Hillyards is that you won’t drown on one but you might starve to death getting there.

And yet this religious boatbuilder from Littlehampton built up to 800 yachts which travelled around the world – you can find them cruising far-flung destinations.

Sizes ranged from 2.5 to 20 tons, though the 9- and 12-ton are best for long cruises.

The yacht Jester with a junk rig and yellow hull at the start of the OSTAR

The innovations on Jester means she is one of the best small sailing boat designs in the last 100 years. Credit: Ewen Southby-Tailyour

Blondie Hasler was one of the great sailing innovators and Jester was his testing ground.

She was enclosed, carvel planked and had an unstayed junk rig.

Steering was via a windvane system Hasler created.

Hasler came second in the first OSTAR , proving small boats can achieve great things.

A yacht with a white hull and blue and white sails

Moody kicked off the era of comfort-oriented boats with its very first design.

The Moody 33, designed by Angus Primrose, had a wide beam and high topside to produce a voluminous hull .

The centre cockpit allowed for an aft cabin, resulting in a 33-footer with two sleeping cabins – an almost unheard of concept in 1973 –full-beam heads and spacious galley.

What’s more, her performance under sail was more than adequate for cruising.

Finally, here was a yacht that all the family could enjoy.

Continues below…

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Nicholson 32

A Nicholson 32 with a blue hull. Its solid seakeeping qualities means it is one of the best small boat sailing designs produced

Credit: Genevieve Leaper

Charles Nicholson was a giant of the wooden boat era but one of his last designs – created with his son Peter – was a pioneering fibreglass boat that would become an enduring classic.

With its long keel and heavy displacement, the Nicholson 32 is in many ways a wooden boat built in fibreglass – and indeed the design was based on Nicholson’s South Coast One Design.

From 1966 to 1977, the ‘Nic 32’ went through 11 variations.

A yacht with two masts sailing

Credit: Hallberg-Rassy

In the beginning there was… the Rasmus 35. This was the first yacht built by the company that would become Hallberg-Rassy and which would eventually build more than 9,000 boats.

The Rasmus 35, designed by Olle Enderlein, was a conservative design, featuring a centre cockpit, long keel and well-appointed accommodation.

Some 760 boats were built between 1967 and 1978.

Two classic wooden yachts with white sails sailing side by side

Credit: Larry & Lin Pardey

Lyle Hess was ahead of his time when he designed Renegade in 1949.

Despite winning the Newport to Ensenada race, the 25ft wooden cutter went largely unnoticed.

Hess had to build bridges for 15 years before Larry Pardey asked him to design the 24ft Seraffyn , closely based on Renegade ’s lines but with a Bermudan rig.

Pardey’s subsequent voyages around the world cemented Hess’s reputation and success of the Renegade design.

A Rustler 36 yacht being sailed off the coast of Falmouth

Would the Rustler 36 make it on your best small sailing boat list? Credit: Rustler Yachts

Six out of 18 entries for the 2018 Golden Globe Race (GGR) were Rustler 36s, with the top three places all going to Rustler 36 skippers.

It was a fantastic endorsement for a long-keel yacht designed by Holman & Pye 40 years before.

Expect to see more Rustler 36s in the 2022 edition of the GGR!

An S&S 34 yacht sailing offshore with white sails

It was Ted Heath who first brought the S&S 34 to prominence with his boat Morning Cloud .

In 1969 the yacht won the Sydney to Hobart Race, despite being one of the smallest boats in the race.

Other epic S&S 34 voyages include the first ever single-handed double circumnavigation by Jon Sanders in 1981

A yacht with a red, white and blue spinnaker sailing into the distance

Credit: Colin Work

The Contessa 32 might seem an impossible boat to improve upon, but that’s what her designer David Sadler attempted to do in 1979 with the launch of the Sadler 32 .

That was followed two years later by the Sadler 29 , a tidy little boat that managed to pack in six berths in a comfortable open-plan interior.

The boat was billed as ‘unsinkable’, with a double-skinned hull separated by closed cell foam buoyancy.

What’s more, it was fast, notching up to 12 knots.

The Sigma 33 yacht - named as one of the 25 best small sailing boat designs

Credit: Dick Durham/Yachting Monthly

Another modern take on the Contessa theme was the Sigma 33, designed by David Thomas in 1979.

A modern underwater body combined with greater beam and higher freeboard produced a faster boat with greater accommodation.

And, like the Contessa, the Sigma 33 earned its stripes at the 1979 Fastnet, when two of the boats survived to tell the tale.

A lively one-design fleet soon developed on the Solent which is still active to this day.

A replica of Joshua Slocum's Spray. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

A replica of Joshua Slocum’s Spray . Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

The boat Joshua Slocum used for his first singlehanded circumnavigation of the world wasn’t intended to sail much further than the Chesapeake Bay.

The 37ft Spray was a rotten old oyster sloop which a friend gave him and which he had to spend 13 months fixing up.

Yet this boxy little tub, with its over-optimistic clipper bow, not only took Slocum safely around the world but has spawned dozens of modern copies that have undertaken long ocean passages.

James Wharram drew many pioneering designs during his lifetime, which is why Tangaroa, which opened up cruising to many, is on the 25 best sailing boat designs list. Credit: James Wharram Designs

Credit: James Wharram Designs

What are boats for if not for dreaming? And James Wharram had big dreams.

First he sailed across the Atlantic on the 23ft 6in catamaran Tangaroa .

He then built the 40ft Rongo on the beach in Trinidad (with a little help from French legend Bernard Moitessier) and sailed back to the UK.

Then he drew the 34ft Tangaroa (based on Rongo ) for others to follow in his wake and sold 500 plans in 10 years.

A Twister yacht with a white hull and white sails

Credit: Graham Snook/Yachting Monthly

The Twister was designed in a hurry.

Kim Holman wanted a boat at short notice for the 1963 season and, having had some success with his Stella design (based on the Folkboat), he rushed out a ‘knockabout cruising boat for the summer with some racing for fun’.

The result was a Bermudan sloop that proved nigh on unbeatable on the East Anglian circuit.

It proved to be Holman’s most popular design with more than 200 built.

A black and white photos of a wooden yacht

Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Laurent Giles’s design No15 was drawn in 1935 for a Guernsey solicitor who wanted ‘a boat that would spin on a sixpence and I could sail single-handed ’.

What the young Jack Giles gave him was a pretty transom-sterned cutter, with a nicely raked stem.

Despite being moderate in every way, the boat proved extremely able and was soon racking up long distances, including Humphrey Barton’s famous transatlantic crossing on Vertue XXXV in 1950.

Wanderer II and III

Wanderer 3 yacht sailing with red brown sails

Credit: Thies Matzen

Eric and Susan Hiscock couldn’t afford a Vertue, so Laurent Giles designed a smaller, 21ft version for them which they named Wanderer II .

They were back a few years later, this time wanting a bigger version: the 30ft Wanderer III .

It was this boat they sailed around the world between 1952-55, writing articles and sailing books along the way.

In doing so, they introduced a whole generation of amateur sailors to the possibilities of long-distance cruising.

Westerly 22

A Westerly 22 yacht with a white hull and a white sail

The origins of Westerly Marine were incredibly modest.

Commander Denys Rayner started building plywood dinghies in the 1950s which morphed into a 22ft pocket cruiser called the Westcoaster.

Realising the potential of fibreglass, in 1963 he adapted the design to create the Westerly 22, an affordable cruising boat with bilge keels and a reverse sheer coachroof.

Some 332 boats were built to the design before it was relaunched as the Nomad (267 built).

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The 7 Best RC Boats for Racing Around Lakes, Riding Upstream, and Ripping Through Waves

Like sailing or speedboating, but tiny.

rc boat

Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. Why Trust Us?

RC boats come in lots of shapes, sizes, and styles, but the best models can shred water from afar without becoming sinking ships. We’ve rounded up the best remote-control boats for beach visits, lakefront races, poolside entertainment, and some advice on picking the best RC boat for you.

Stay in play and check out our picks for the best magnetic toys , remote-control trucks , and remote-control planes .

The Best RC Boats

  • Best Overall: ALPHAREV RC Boat with Case R308
  • Best for Beginners: DEERC RC Boat with LED Light
  • Most Well-Rounded: Altair Aerial AA102 RC Boat
  • Best Value: Force1 Velocity H102
  • Best Sailboat: PLAYSTEAM Voyager 400 RC Sailboat

What to Consider

While you can likely get away with using a larger RC boat on a pond or lake, you may want to stick to a smaller model if you’ll be floating yours in a backyard swimming pool or need to pack something tiny. RC boats can be up to two feet long, so make sure to consider the journey to the water, too, especially if the boat you’re eyeing doesn’t come with a carrying case.

Weight and Speed

The RC boat’s weight helps determine how fast it can move. Heavier boats are better equipped to move at high speeds without capsizing, whereas lighter boats can be speedy using less power, a.k.a., slower acceleration. Think of it like torque on a car (or a full-sized boat, for that matter)—the more power the boat gets from the battery, electric, or gas motor, the faster it can accelerate.

Speed is also dependent on the type of hull—some boats are shaped for optimal turning and curves, while others are built for picking up speed while driving in a straight line.

The priciest models can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. We mostly recommend recreational, battery-powered RC boats that reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour, since the more powerful, expensive models are meant for hardcore hobbyists and professional racers.

Capsize Recovery

Many RC boats have anti-capsize, or capsize recovery, functionality to prevent them from flipping over (and staying overturned). Flipping an RC boat is extremely easy, especially if you lack experience, and can lead to a sinking ship. If you’re new to RC boating, consider grabbing one with capsize recovery, making your boat rebalance and flip back over if it tips.

How We Selected

We researched each model’s speed, customer rating, durability, and unique features. We also consulted buying guides from several top hobbyist publications. We’ve picked options for every type of RC boat customer, whether you’re a casual hobbyist, buying a first boat for your kids, or you’re a dedicated RC enthusiast.

ALPHAREV RC Boat with Case R308

RC Boat with Case R308

This boat features capsize recovery, so if it tips over or gets hit by a wave, it’ll flip back over to recover. It also has LED lights installed to make it easy to see when it’s dark. Thanks to the autopilot mode that loops the boat into a figure-eight shape, children can easily use it, too.

The R308 comes with two batteries and a charger, with users reporting approximately 20 minutes of power (counting both batteries) when operating the boat at full speed. It has a 400-foot signal range for distance driving and tops at 20 miles per hour. With its carry case, the R308 is a solid RC boat for most users.

Dimensions 15.86 x 9.13 x 5.31 in.
Weight8 oz.
Speed20+ mph

DEERC RC Boat with LED Light

RC Boat with LED Light

This is an excellent option for anyone eager to get into RC boating but unsure of their prowess on the water. It features two autopilot modes, so there’s plenty of opportunity to learn how to use it. It also has an extended playtime of 30 minutes, giving you plenty of time to practice.

With features like capsize recovery, double hatch design, and low-battery and signal alarms, this boat is pretty much goof proof, making it the perfect boat for beginners on their way to becoming enthusiasts.

Dimensions15.98 x 7.44 x 6.77 in.
Weight2.03 lbs.
Speed20+ mph

Altair Aerial AA102 RC Boat

AA102 RC Boat

If you need a well-rounded RC boat, this one has ample protection, zippy speeds, and excellent customer service, all in one attractive package. Its anti-capsize feature prevents it from tipping over, while several users say its nose bumper saved their boats from getting totaled through crashing.

It has an extra battery for more playtime, and several users say it provides up to 20 minutes of action after swapping it. Users who experienced issues with their boats were able to find replacement parts and products thanks to the company’s customer service help. Others say that it’s a terrific value, though the lack of a carry case is disappointing.

Dimensions17.32 x 10.12 x 5.98 in.
Weight1.38 lbs.
Speed18 mph

Force1 Velocity H102

Velocity H102

This boat reaches speeds of 20-plus miles per hour, making it great for anyone who wants their toy to fly on the water. This boat features a capsize recovery mode, a water-cooled engine, and a double-hatched body, making it easier to control on waves. The charge time is a little long, three to four hours, but it can ride for up to 15 minutes at full power.

Customers say this boat reaches top speed fairly quickly, though some report that the controller is difficult to use and not very responsive. Still, it handles well on the water and is a super speedy boat.

Dimensions10.85 x 2.75 x 2 in.
Weight5.9 oz.
Speed20+ mph

PLAYSTEAM Voyager 400 RC Sailboat

Voyager 400 RC Sailboat

If sailing is your preference, the Voyager 400 is the way to go. Rather than rely on an electric motor to push it forward, the Voyager 400 can sail in any body of water via wind power. Its remote controls the rudder and the propulsion, and just in case wind isn’t in the forecast, it comes with a detachable motor to help propel it.

Customers say it’s easy to use, and everything is sealed to keep interior components dry when it tips over. Its rechargeable remote battery can work for up to one hour, which puts most RC speedboats to shame. A drawback, however, is that if it gets stuck at sea without the motor attached, you’ll have to wait for it to wash ashore.

Dimensions27.25 x 17 x 5.25 in.
Weight1.34 lbs.

Cheerwing RC Racing Boat

RC Racing Boat

Cheerwing RC boats are fantastic if you’re looking for an affordable toy to race with your friends. This boat can hit up to 15 miles per hour and has some great features, including capsize recovery and automatic yaw correction, which rebalances your boat. It also signals when the battery is low or starts to lose signal, giving you peace of mind.

If you want to try RC boating without spending much, this is a solid buy. Its biggest downside is in its battery life—just six to eight minutes per charge—and it doesn’t come with the option to buy a second battery, so it requires frequent recharging.

Dimensions13.5 x 3.5 x 3.5 in.
Weight11.4 oz.
Speed15 mph

VOLANTEXRC Brushless RC Boat

Brushless RC Boat

If you need speed and don’t mind investing more money into your hobby, this boat is fantastic. The fastest model on this list, this boat has a top speed of 40 miles per hour, a range of up to 656 feet, and a water-cooled system that prevents the motor from overheating.

It also has safety features to prevent damage from the high speeds, like waterproofing and a one-piece hull to prevent cracks.

The biggest flaw is its lack of capsize recovery, and several users say their boats flipped in action, causing them to swim out to retrieve their toys. It also only comes with one battery.

Dimensions27.56 x 7.48 x 5.31 in.
Weight5.39 lbs.
Speed40 mph

Headshot of Kevin Cortez

Kevin Cortez is an editor for Runner's World, Bicycling, and Popular Mechanics covering reviews. A culture and product journalist for over ten years, he’s an expert in men’s style, technology, gaming, coffee, e-bikes, hiking, gear, and all things outdoors. He most recently worked as the Style Editor for Reviewed, a top product recommendation site owned by USA TODAY. He also helped with the launch of WSJ's Buy Side commerce vertical, and has covered the music and podcast industries for Mass Appeal, Genius, Vulture, Leafly, Input, and The A.V. Club. Equally passionate about leisure as he is his penmanship, Kevin dedicates his spare time to graphic novels, birding, making cold brew, and taking long, meandering walks.

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Travel + Leisure Readers' 5 Favorite Small-ship Ocean Cruise Lines of 2023

Readers shared why great things come in small (ship) packages in our annual "World’s Best Awards" survey for 2023.

Paul Brady is the news director at Travel + Leisure and the brand's expert on cruise travel. He has been covering the travel industry for more than 15 years for outlets including Condé Nast Traveler , Skift , and The Huffington Post .

small racing sailboats

How Voting Works

  • What Readers Loved
  • The Full List

This year, small ships seem to be hitting the mark. These vessels, which Travel + Leisure defines as those with 150 to 299 cabins, offer what many readers consider the perfect blend of choice and comfort, with plenty of onboard dining and activities without the at-times overwhelming selection found on much larger ships. In fact, small ships may be driving a surge of interest in cruising generally, as new and newly refreshed options in this range are drawing both longtime cruisers and those eager to try a new way of traveling.

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Nearly 165,000 T+L readers completed the 2023 survey, an increase of nearly 25 percent over pre-pandemic voting levels. A total of more than 685,000 votes were cast across over 8,500 unique properties (hotels, cities, cruise lines, etc.).

For the cruise category, respondents were asked to rate individual ships; the results were combined to generate scores for cruise lines in different categories based on number of cabins. The small-ship ocean cruise line category is only for ships with 150 to 299 cabins. Some cruise lines may appear in multiple categories depending on the makeup of their fleet.

Ships were specifically rated on the criteria below:

  • Cabins/facilities
  • Itineraries/destinations
  • Excursions/activities

For each characteristic, respondents could choose a rating of excellent, above average, average, below average, or poor. The final scores are averages of these responses. 

Tim McKenna/Courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises

What Readers Loved 

In the 2023 voting, readers gave high marks to established brands that have reinvigorated their offerings. Consider No. 2 Windstar Cruises, which recently rebuilt three of its small ships at an investment of $250 million, adding more suites, improved culinary options, and enhanced spa facilities to each. “I'm never going to be able to get on another cruise line,” said one convert, who traveled on Star Legend .

Meanwhile Paul Gauguin Cruises (No. 3) may have slipped a bit from its 2022 ranking but still posted a score of more than 92 points. That’s thanks to its luxurious service — most rooms come with butler service — and, no doubt, its dreamy itineraries that visit remote atolls in South Pacific and the cruise line’s private beach on Bora Bora. “It's the only way to see this part of the world,” one voter shared.

This year’s small-ship leader, though, made its mark with two new vessels that are unlike anything else sailing today. Read on to see how Viking captured this category — and for more details on all the top lines.

Courtesy of Viking

Typically thought of as a midsize-ship line, Viking took top honors in this category, too, thanks to its twin ships Viking Polaris and Viking Octantis . The expedition vessels, both of which have 189 cabins, are built for out-there adventures, whether on the waters of the Great Lakes or in the Southern Ocean on the way to Antarctica. “I can't say enough about how wonderful our experience was on the Viking Octantis to Antarctica. The ship is stunning in every way,” one voter said. “The excursions were all well-planned and executed — and the science and educational sessions were excellent,” another added. While shorter trips aboard these ships are possible, Viking can also arrange for a “ longitudinal world cruise .” These multi-month journeys will take intrepid guests from Minnesota to Ushuaia, Argentina — or the other way around — in small-ship comfort, with port excursions and insightful lectures along the way. 

The Full List 

Reader Score: 95.35

2. Windstar Cruises

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 92.72

3. Paul Gauguin Cruises

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 92.56

4. Seabourn

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 92.51

5. Silversea

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 90.56

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