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Sailing Dinghy Guide: Which Dinghy is Right for You

A dinghy is an open sailing boat or a small racing yacht and built to accept one or two passengers.

Sailing Dinghy

Dinghies are classified in accordance with its intended use and usually powered via sail – although oar and outboard motor are alternative options.

Dinghies come in a variety of classes and sizes and built with different characteristics. This can make it difficult to decide on the right sailing boat to match the specific needs and skills. Dinghies are perfect for those learning to sail and are highly responsive and designed to quickly maneuver along the preferred course.

The main dinghies are outlined below.

Skiffs

Skiffs are considered the fastest dinghy. A skiff is built with a narrow, flat hull which can accept 1-2 persons. This dinghy has a large sail area to catch the wind and is easily able to plane in most situations. Plus, it can be powered using an outboard motor or oars.

High performance dinghies

A high-performance dinghy is designed with speed and racing in mind and comes equipped with a spinnaker (asymmetric or symmetric) and trapeze. Dinghies under this type are able to plane easily, even in upwind conditions. Skiffs are usually classified as a high-performance dinghy. Other models include the 470, Fireball, 505, and Flying Dutchman.

Cruising dinghies

Cruising dinghies are more stable, slow, and perfect for family and leisure sailing. These general-purpose dinghies are built with a less rounded or chined hull that offers larger displacement and sails that are smaller compared to high-performance dinghies, so easier to handle. Sailing cruising dinghies like the Laser 16, Mirror, Enterprise and Wayfarer can offer a pleasant and exciting cruising experience. Dinghies of this type are great for learning the basics of sailing.

Catamarans

A catamaran is built with a tall mast and joined hulls and still forms part of the sailing dinghy category. Catarmans sail very fast and high performance models include the Tornado and Hobie, which are designed with an inbuilt keel in each of the hulls.

Racing dinghies

As the name implies, this type of dinghy is very fast and light and designed primarily for competing in racing events. Many are built with features needed for out and out racing like those with racks to accommodate trapezing crews. Racing dinghies can vary in relation to level of performance and some are much more effective at intense racing than others. Popular race models include the International 14 and Laser. A single-hander like the Laser is able to combine performance, portability, and simplicity to help with advancing dinghy training and racing.

Cruiser-Racer dinghies

A cruiser-racing dinghy offers the crossover performance of both cruising pleasure and high-performance action. Dinghy types in this class include the GP14 and Wayfarer — although the former is more appropriate for advantageous racing and the latter is practical for cruising.

Classic dinghies

The classic dinghies are highly versatile and great used as a tender for ship to shore or used as shore boats. These dinghies are more appreciated for their versatility and not their sailing qualities.

Sports boats

Sports boats are large versions of the racing dinghy and offer high-performance for offshore racing. The majority of these dinghies are built to accept 2-3 crew members. Plus, certain models can fall under the classification of yachts with the keels in a fixed position. A Laser SB3 is a type of dinghy included in this category.

Development classes

Development class is a type of dinghy that doesn’t follow a fixed layout or structure. Many of these dinghies are built with experimental designs that result in notable innovations. Dinghies that don’t have the conventional sail layout or hull design include the National 12, International Moth, 18ft Skiff and International 14.

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