It is easy to distinguish a sailboat from a power boat because of the large billowing sails. However, further identification can become confusing. Here are five common types of sailboats, determined by their masts and sails, which have been around for centuries.
- Sloop: Sloops are easy to distinguish because of their simple mast and sail configuration. A sloop has one mast, one main sail and one head sail. A main sail is aft, or behind, the mast. A head sail is fore, or in front, of the mast. Small fore sails are often called jib sails. Large fore sails are called spinnakers. On a sloop, the mast is slightly forward from the center of the boat. Sloops are the most common design found in small, recreational sailboats.
- Cutter: Cutters are very similar to sloops when viewed from afar. Closer inspection will reveal a cutter mast is slightly aft of where a sloop’s would be located. This enables a cutter to have a second head sail to gather more wind. Cutters have only one mainsail but the mast placement limits the size of the mainsail, making it smaller than a similar length sloop’s would be.
- Ketch: A ketch is easy to spot due to the addition of a mast at the rear of the boat just forward of the rudder, this second mast is the same height as the main mast and holds one mainsail. To accommodate the second mast the main mast is farther forward on the boat. The rear mast has no head sail.
- Yawl: Yawls are similar to ketches due to the addition of an aft mast. On a yawl, this aft mast is much shorter than the main mast and is placed aft of the rudder. The small mast holds a noticeably smaller main sail and no head sail.
- Schooner: Schooner are multiple masted sailboats. Some schooners have up to five masts but most only have two. On a schooner, the aft mast is taller than the forward mast but does not include a head sail.