Choosing the Right Sailboat

A sailboat is a boat whose main propulsion is provided by one or more sails. They come in all sizes, from small boats intended for solo leisure by the beach to superyachts over 30 meters long capable of sailing the oceans with many people on board. All sailboats have some points in common, however: they all have one to three hulls and a rig to support the sail(s).

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  • How to choose a sailboat?

    To choose the best sailboat for your needs, there are a number of key criteria to consider. Whether you’re just getting into sailing or have already gained experience, you will need to look into the points we mention in this guide.

    Your choice will mainly depend on the following criteria:

    • The number of hulls
    • The planned navigation program
    • The dimensions, particular the length, width and draft
    • Construction materials
  • How to choose between a monohull and a multihull?

    If you’re looking for the best option for you and are struggling to decide between a monohull and multihull, keep in mind that both types have their pros and cons. Sailboats can have one hull (monohull), two hulls (catamaran) or three hulls (trimaran).

    Advantages of monohulls:

    • Better seakeeping
    • Easier to find a berth (less wide)
    • Less expensive maintenance

    Disadvantages of monohulls:

    • Slower and heel more
    • Smaller living space, less comfortable

    Advantages of multihulls:

    • Do not heel
    • Large living area, very user-friendly when you stop
    • Faster, especially downwind

    Disadvantages of multihulls:

    • Behavior in navigation (less efficient upwind, less tolerant of heavy seas)
    • More difficult to find a berth
    • More expensive maintenance

    Nautitech catamaran sailboat

    Jeanneau monohull sailboat

    Corsair Marine International trimaran sailboat

  • Which sailboat should you choose for your navigation program?

    Choosing a sailboat greatly depends on the navigation program you’re planning on. Here are the main types of navigation programs:

    Cruising: The goal is to navigate without performance objectives while providing the necessary comfort to those on-board. Cruising sailboats are therefore equipped for sleeping, cooking and washing on-board. We generally distinguish between coastal cruising for trips up to several days and long-distance cruising (or blue water cruising) for longer trips that can last several weeks.

    Day-sailing: As the name suggests, day-sailing requires little or no comfort equipment. Sailboats intended for day sailing are generally small which makes them transportable by road (on a trailer) and makes it easy to change between waterways.

    Racing: The main objective here is performance. Comfort equipment is secondary and while it sometimes exists for races lasting several days, it is strictly optimized in terms of quantity and weight (weight being the enemy of performance).

    Cruising-racing: This is a mixed program when you are looking for a sailboat capable of performing well for a few races, but you also want a certain level of comfort for cruising.

    Wauquiez day-sailer sailboat

    X-Yachts cruising-racing sailboat

    Jeanneau cruising sailboat

    Bénéteau racing sailboat

  • Why are the dimensions of a sailboat important?

    The main dimensions to be taken into account include the overall length, width and draft.
    The length and width directly influence available space. The longer and wider a sailboat, the more passengers and equipment it can accommodate. These measurements also have an impact on the performance of the sailboat. The waterline length, for example, is decisive for the navigation speed. The larger this measurement, the faster a sailboat will be. Conversely, a greater width will have a penalizing effect on speed. The draft directly influences the sailboat’s ability to navigate in certain areas.

    The overall length takes into account the distance between the foremost fixed point and the rearmost fixed point of the hull of the boat. Movable elements or elements that are not permanently attached to the structure are not included in this measurement (for example: an anchor that protrudes is not counted in the overall length).

    The width, also called “master beam” (or “maximum beam”) corresponds to the greatest width of the sailboat. Like the overall length, moving parts are not taken into account in this measurement (for example: the boom while moving may temporarily increase the width of the sailboat).

    The draft represents the vertical distance between the waterline and the lowest submerged point. This dimension directly influences the sailboat’s ability to navigate in certain areas as it will never be able to access places where the water depth is less than the draft. A sailboat with a draft of 2 meters will not physically be able to move in a space with less than 2 meters deep of water.

  • What are the main materials used in the construction of sailboats?

    In this section, we will focus on the main materials used in the construction of the hull: fiberglass, carbon and aluminum.

    Fiberglass: This is the most widely used material for the construction of sailboats, especially for the hulls of mass-produced cruising sailboats. Combined with resin, fiberglass allows good quality construction, relatively light (compared to steel or wood, for example) and at a reasonable cost. It began to be used extensively in sailboat construction in the 1960s, so today we have a good idea of ​​its longevity in contact with water. This is pretty good, but still needs a little care in order to last. Fiberglass is protected by a gelcoat (outer layer of finish and protection) and this can become porous over time, which can cause problems on the fiberglass itself.

    Carbon: This is the flagship material in the construction of racing yachts since it has a very good ratio between lightness and rigidity, the 2 qualities sought after to obtain the best performance. The weight savings for the same hulls can be up to 50% between a carbon construction and a fiberglass one. But in addition to its much higher cost, its extreme rigidity can also represent a drawback: the lack of flexibility can lead to irreparable breakage.

    Aluminum: This material has an excellent ratio between strength and lightness and doesn’t rust. These qualities make it the preferred material for the construction of ocean cruisers. However, aluminum is subject to electrolysis (an electric current that forms between two submerged metals), so you must be careful with the sailboat’s electrical circuit and protect the hull well with the help of anodes.

    HH Catamaran carbon sailboat

    Alubat Chantier Naval aluminum sailboat

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