Dinghy Sailing: What Small Sailboat Type is Right For You

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Last Updated on March 7, 2023 by Brendan

Are you planning to pursue dinghy sailing? Whether it is for leisure or for sport, sailing in itself can be both relaxing and challenging. And for many people, it is this variety that makes it so appealing… there is always something to learn.

It, of course, goes without saying that to become an expert in the sport, you need proper training and lots of practice. But where do you start? And what small sailboat types do you consider?

There are so many different types of dinghies out there, all with different characteristics, making choosing the right one a difficult decision. Here we discuss some of the different types of dinghies, as well as some tips about learning to sail.

Dinghy Sailing Origin

Dinghy Sailing - a great way to learn to sail
Dinghy Sailing – a great way to learn to sail

The word dinghy originally means an East Indian rowboat or sailboat. However, today it is more popularly known to describe a small racing yacht or a recreational open sailing boat. As more and more people have discovered the pleasure of dinghy sailing, the term has become synonymous with the small sailing boat.

However, there are many kinds of sailing dinghies. Depending on its purpose, a dinghy can be designed for racing or for more relaxed purposes. Because this smaller boat is responsive and able to maneuver quickly, it is also a suitable option for those who really want to perfect their sailing skills, as well as those that are learning to sail.

Here are some different small sailboat types:

  • High-Performance dinghies – are dinghy sailing boats created to race around a sailing course, such as an Olympic Racing Course. They are commonly equipped with a trapeze and a symmetric or asymmetric spinnaker and are able to move easily through the water, even upwind. However, some single-handed high-performance boats do not have a spinnaker. A skiff is classified as a high-performance dinghy. More specific examples include 18-foot skiffs and the 49er class.
  • Racing dinghies – are vessels that are primarily created for racing, as the name implies. However, not all of these boats have the same level of performance as those classified under the type above, such as the Laser & the Finn. Many are inspired by the Uffa Fox’s designs of the early last century, whereby designs with flatter bottoms were introduced to the world that were more easily able to plane.
  • Cruising dinghies – are the types used for family sailing and for leisurely cruising because they are more steady compared to high-performance dinghies. Their sails are generally smaller, making them easier to handle. These smaller vessels make for a leisurely and pleasant cruising experience.
  • Cruiser-Racer dinghies – are dinghy sailing vessels that offer both superb sailing performance and excellent cruising pleasure. Examples of this kind of boat are the Wayfarer and the GP14 although the former is more suitable for cruising and the latter is advantageous for racing.
  • Classic dinghies – are beautiful boats. They are mostly used as shore boats or those boats used as tenders from shore to ship. Classic dinghies are more known for their versatility rather than their sailing capability.
  • Sports Boats – are considered the bigger versions of racing dinghies. Sometimes they are classified under yachts with fixed keels. Examples are Melges 24 and Laser SB3.
  • Development classes – are those that do not follow the usual hull designs and sail layout. Examples of this type are the International 14, and the National 12.

The right way to learn dinghy sailing

sailing dinghy types

Whatever is your reason for dinghy sailing, the key is to learn how to sail properly. Safety goes beyond wearing a life jacket. More importantly, it means understanding the language of the waves and the wind.

By heading out onto the water, you will be exposed to a wide variety of often unpredictable conditions. Being able to harness these conditions to work efficiently and effectively for you is every sailor’s aim, and one has to be equipped with adequate knowledge and skill in order to do this.

A good starting point for anyone looking to get into sailing is to have a better understanding of sailing theory, and understanding the principles of how a sail works. For more information, make sure that you check out this article. And for more general information on learning how to sail, click here.

On top of this, there are plenty of good organizations that run sailing courses available for beginners, and if you ask around, you may be lucky enough to get a ride on a yacht with someone who owns a boat down at your local sailing club. But make sure that you let them know you are just starting out, so that they can run through some safety information and what is expected when out on the water.

Spending a lot of time practicing is important. The more you become familiar with your sailing boat, the more in sync you will be with every movement or jerk your boat makes. Your maneuvers will become second nature to you, and you can better appreciate how the wind and the conditions affect the boat when sailing at different angles to the breeze. Dinghy sailing opens a whole new world of experience that even seasoned sailors cannot always aptly describe with words.

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About Brendan

Brendan has over 30 years experience sailing dinghies, yachts, and windsurfers, but has recently started Laser sailing. "I found it difficult to find all the information that I needed when I started sailing my Laser, and I am sure that others have had the same problem. So I combined all the information I could into this website to help other Laser sailors get the most out of this sport. If you have any questions or comments, let me know... I will get back to you as soon as I can."

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