How to Choose a Small Sailboat

How to Choose a Small Sailboat

Imagine yourself out on the water, gliding along just above the water and waves, accelerating with every puff of wind.  That is the experience of a small sailboat.  But how do you choose?  There are hundreds of brands, many different styles, and all different price points.  At WindRider our goal is to help you Go Sail, so this is a great place to start.

What type of sailing are you interested in?

The great thing about sailing is that it is an activity which can provide a different experience to each person and each time you participate.  Do you want peace and quite all to yourself or take your family and friends out for a leisurely afternoon or pit yourself against other sailors and see who can be the fastest around the marks?


If you are interested in Racing I highly recommend checking out  they are the resource for sailboat racing in the US.  My number 1 recommendation is find a yacht club that is nearby and find out what classes they race there.  Here in Minnesota scows are extremely popular, whereas in other parts of the country other style of boats are popular, so if you want to race find out what people are racing near you and go from there.


If you just want to enjoy a beautiful day on the water with family or friends or even solo, then there is even more to think about.  Once again the first thing to think about is where you will be sailing.  Will you be sailing on small lakes or bays or even the ocean?  What types of conditions will you find?  Will it be shallow water such as what you find around the Florida Keys or Gulf of Mexico?  Or is it strong winds and bigger swells that you find in San Francisco bay?

For shallow water you will want to make sure you pay close attention to the draft of a boat.  A Catalina 22 with a 3.5ft draft probably doesn’t make as much sense in the Tampa Bay area, where you find many sand bars, as it does in the Pacific ocean where the extra ballast will be beneficial for the larger seas.

Where will you keep your boat?

Are you planning on keeping the boat on the water in a marina, or do you want to keep it on a trailer? If you plan on keeping it on a trailer consider how much time it takes to launch.  A Capri 22 can take 2-3 hours to rig, so if you plan on trailering, you probably won’t use the boat as frequently if the rigging takes that long.  On the flip side, if you plan on keeping the boat on the water, many smaller multihulls you either shouldn’t store on water, or they are much more expensive to do so, as the beam (width) means you need a larger slip (and therefore costs more).

That brings us to the next big question.

Monohull vs Multihull

Now I’ll be honest, we at WindRider sell trimarans and I do think they are better, but I will try and be objective.

Stability for a monohull sailboat comes from either a weighted keel that acts as a counter balance to the forces on the mast or on small dinghies a person or people using their weight by hiking out as a counter weight.  On multihulls, the stability comes from the width of the boat and the use of body weight can be an addition to enhance the stability.

Small catamarans (less than 25ft) are pretty much limited to racing, go-fast type boats.  Because boats of this size tend to be trailerable, the beam doesn’t allow for cabin space.  However, they do excel as go-fast boats.  Because of the large sail area, wide beam, low weight and low wetted surface (less drag), they can be much faster than a comparable monohull.  It is quite normal to be able to hit 20mph in a beach cat, whereas these speeds are rarely if ever seen in a monohull.

On the other hand, small trimarans have more variety.  There are racing style small trimarans: Diam 24 and Multi23 as well as the Weta – see the comparison here with the WindRider 17.  There are also cruising style trimarans like the Astus 24 or Corsair and there are the dayboats like the WindRider 16 and WindRider 17.

The racing style trimarans will have similar characteristics to the racing cats, but typically will be more stable as they have added beam, but will also cost more.

Small cruising trimarans on the other hand are able to provide the big advantage of small monohulls – cabin space, but also provide more stability, more speed, less heeling.  They do however cost more. Which brings us to the next piece:


New vs used

Once you have an idea of what type of boat it’s time to decide on new vs used.

Reasons to purchase used:

Price.  This is about 98% of the reason people buy used.

Nostalgia – This is the other 2%.  A person fell in love with the design of a boat that is no longer made, so they buy a used boat of that design.

To find used boats, check out our marketplace or craigslist.

Reasons to purchase new:

You know exactly the boat you want and can’t find a used one.  This is what we often times see with our WindRider boats. Our customers have been learning and watching our boats for a while and want to purchase, but because of the demand they can’t find a good quality used boat for sale.

Concerns about maintenance and repairs. Boats that were not well kept can be very expensive to repair.  This is especially true if you buy a boat brand that is no longer in existence, as it can be nearly impossible to get replacement parts.  Which means you will either need to be able to fabricate something yourself or pay someone to make a one-off piece.

A used boat may seem like it is a much cheaper option, however, if there are a lot of things to repair, that used boat could come close to costing as much as a new boat.  If you are buying used make sure to have it carefully checked out.

Ready to Go Sail?

WindRider’s goal is to help you Go Sail If you are looking for a new boat that is easy to sail, easy to setup, fun and stable check out our line of trimarans here.  Need some more help deciding?  Post in the comments and someone will respond.


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