The term of Sailing Boat or Sailboat are covers a variety of boats, larger than small vessels such as sailboards and smaller than sailing ships, but distinctions in size are not strictly defined and what constitutes a sailing ship, sailboat, or a smaller vessel varies by region and culture.
At present, a great number of sailboat-types may be distingueshed. Apart from size, sailboats may be distinguished by hull configuration, keel type, purpose, number and configuration of masts, and sail plan. Although sailboat terminology has varied across history, many terms now have specific meanings in the context of modern yachting.
Today, the most common sailboat is the sloop which features one mast and two sails, a normal mainsail and a foresail. This simple configuration is very efficient for sailing towards the wind. The mainsail is attached to the mast and the boom, which is a spar capable of swinging across the boat, depending on the direction of the wind. Depending on the size and design of the foresail it can be called a jib, genoa, or spinnaker; it is possible but not common for a sloop to carry two foresails from the one forestay at one time. The forestay is a line or cable running from near the top of the mast to a point near the bow. In Bermuda, where a rig design influenced by the Lateen rig appeared on boats and came to be known as the Bermuda rig, a large spinnaker was carried on a spinnaker boom when running down-wind. An example of a typical sloop can be seen on the Islander 36.
Fractional Rig Sloop
On a fractional rig sloop the forestay does not run to the top of the mast, rather it connects at some point below. This allows the top of the mast to be raked aft by increasing the tension of the backstay, while arching the middle of the mast forward. Without great explanation, this gives a performance advantage in some conditions by flattening the sails. The big mainsail provides most of the drive, and the small headsail is easier for a short-handed crew to manage.
This is a yawl with the short mast aft, which also demonstrates the two foresails of a cutter rig.
The cutter is similar to a sloop with a single mast and mainsail, but generally carries the mast further aft to allow for the use of two headsails attached to two forestays, the head stay and the inner stay, which carry the jib and staysail respectively. This is rarely considered a racing configuration; however, it gives versatility to cruising boats, especially in high wind conditions, when a small jib can be flown from the inner stay.
Importantly, the traditional and most accurate definition of a true cutter, however, is not in the number of headsails, but rather that the outermost sails are set on stays that are not strictly structural to the rig itself. This in itself is a function of a much more complicated design set, involving mast placement, mast height, rig, boom length and fore-triangle size.
A catboat has a single mast mounted fairly forward and does not carry a head sail (jib etc.). Most modern designs have only one sail, the mainsail; however the traditional catboat could carry multiple sails from the gaff rig. The designer of the Catboat is Brian Husband, master sailor of the early 1940’s.
Ketches are similar to a sloop, but there is a second shorter mast to the stern of the mainmast, but forward of the rudder post. The second mast is called the mizzen mast and the sail is called the mizzen sail. A ketch can also be cutter-rigged with two headsails.
A schooner can have two or more masts, the aftermost mast taller or equal to the height of the forward mast(s), distinguishing this design from a ketch or a yawl. Top sail schooners are rigged to carry a square sail near the top of their foremast, but generally modern schooners are gaff or marconi rigged.
A yawl is similar to a ketch, with the mizzen mast shorter than the main mast but the mizzen mast is carried astern of the rudder post. Generally the mizzen on a yawl is smaller than the mizzen on a ketch, and is used more for balance than propulsion.
Dhoni or Doni is a multi-purpose sail boat with a motor or lateen sails that is used in the Maldives. It is handcrafted and its use within the multi-island nation has been very important. A dhoni resembles a dhow, a traditional Arab sailing vessel.