Are you planning to buy a sailing boat or just want to find out more about sailing? Then you are exactly right here. In this article you will find out everything you need to know about sailboats – from the definition of a sailboat to how it works and detailed questions. But let’s start from the beginning …
What is a sailboat anyway?
A sailboat is a sport boat that moves using the force of the wind. Small, light and sporty boats are called dinghies, while larger ones are called sailing yachts – especially if they are equipped with a cabin or are longer than ten meters. The various sailing boats differ not only in their size, but also in a variety of other features.
Which sailboats are there?
In addition to the dinghies and yachts just mentioned, numerous other types of sailing boats can be distinguished, including schooners, a ketch and a yawl. In order to categorize boats, one must first of all know which parts are floating in the water (hull), protruding into the sky above the water (rigging) and which are under water (rigging / rigging).
Specifically, this means that sailboats can have one, two or three hulls, for example. Boats with one hull are called monohulls, while those with two or three hulls are called catamarans or trimarans.
The same applies to the number of masts and their position on deck. They are another feature that can be used to differentiate the different sailing boats, for example between sloop and cutter. Both have a mast and two sails, but differ in the position of the mast on deck.
Finally, the types of sailboats can be distinguished by the appendix under the hull. There is a difference in the attachments between the keel and the sword. The former denotes a fin under the sailboat that also contains a large weight. The latter consists of a flat profile and can be lowered or raised.
How does a sailboat work?
When sailing, the combination of two forces is at work: propulsion through resistance and propulsion through lift. When propelling through resistance, the wind blows into the sails and pushes the boat forward. Here you have no influence on the direction, because you are only pushed where the wind is blowing.
That is why propulsion through buoyancy now comes into play. That means: the closer a sailboat gets to the wind, the more the sails are arched. The wind flow now passes the sail and pulls the boat, similar to the negative pressure on the wing of an airplane. This works because the air that passes by the outside of the sail has to travel a longer distance than the air that passes along the inside.
The lower pressure on the outside and the stronger pressure on the inside create a force pointing diagonally forward. Unlike an airplane, the buoyancy does not pull a boat up, but forwards.
Why can a sailboat sail faster than the wind?
Sailors make use of two winds: the true wind and the head wind. The real wind is the meteorological wind. The airflow describes the wind that is generated by the movement of a ship, i.e. the “headwind”. The mixture of both air currents is called the apparent wind.
As a rule of thumb, more wind leads to more power in the sail and thus to a higher speed. If the wind comes directly from behind, the higher the boat speed, the lower the wind speed. This leads to the fact that the true wind and the head wind cancel each other out completely at some point. If the second force, i.e. buoyancy, comes into play, a sailing boat can become extremely fast.
It can reach even higher speeds from the lift than from the propulsion from the tail wind. So it’s fair to say that a sailboat can sail faster than the wind.
Which sailboats are suitable for the ocean?
Opinions are divided on the question of which boats are suitable for the ocean. Because there is no concrete answer. After all, the sailboats that have already circumnavigated the world were as different as their owners themselves. A few criteria can still be defined.
A sailboat suitable for the ocean should be at least big enough to be able to carry enough food and water for the longest stages without a port. Because you spend most of the time on board when sailing around the world, comfort should be the central quality of a sailboat. Comfort, for example through a protective deckhouse, can be rated much higher than the sailing properties of a boat.
The ideal blue water yacht also has as little draft as possible, so that you can moor in smaller bays or tranquil harbors. It is also functional and reliable. Furthermore, it is characterized by a solid construction. A sailing boat suitable for the ocean can be made of aluminum, GRP, wood, plastic or steel.
Which sailing license do you need?
If you want to sail in Germany, you need a sailing license. There is a large selection of compulsory and voluntary sailing licenses. The two sports boat driving licenses are among the mandatory licenses required by law. For the coast you need a sports boat license for sea, for inland waters you need a sports boat license for inland. This is, so to speak, the driving license for dinghies.
You must always have your sports boat license with you and show it in case you are being checked by the police, for example. Although the sports boat license for See is a pure motorboat license, it is also essential for sailors if their sailing boats are equipped with an auxiliary engine with more than 15 hp. We have summarized all the important information for you in our guidebook sports boat license – cost tips & information.
In addition to the sports boat license for the lake, every skipper also needs a pyro license, a certificate of expertise in accordance with explosives law. This is compulsory when parachute missiles are on board, and this is the case with all charter boats on the coast.
Which sailing boats do not require a license? What does a sailing license cost?
Driving without a license is permitted on German waters with boats up to 15 meters in length and engines with up to 15 hp. Accordingly, most inflatable boats with sails, as well as optimists or canoes with driver sails, do not require a license.
However, it makes sense to get a sailing license, especially if you want to rent a sailing boat more often. The prices for an inland sailing license – including course, exam and teaching materials – are between 500 and 700 euros. The cost of a lake sailing license is between 400 and 600 euros. For the Sportküstenschiffer-Schein, 400 to 500 euros are due.
What does a sailboat cost? What does the maintenance cost?
Smaller boats are cheaper to buy than large ones, especially if you buy them used. They are also cheaper to maintain. Even the boat accessories are cheaper for a smaller boat than for a large one. No wonder: larger parts of course also correspond to higher costs.
There is a simple rule of thumb for calculating the maintenance (care, berth, insurance and repairs). This states that the cost of a boat is around ten percent of the purchase price (new price). With a purchase price of 10,000 euros, the maintenance costs would therefore amount to 1,000 euros per year.
Which sailboat for beginners / families?
Before you just set off and buy a sailboat, you should answer a few questions. Which area do you want to visit? Lake or inland? How much comfort do you need on your boat? Would you like to spend the night on board? How big is your crew? Should children sail with you? Do you only want to make day trips with your sailing boat or do longer trips? Do you prefer it more sporty or relaxed? Would you like to buy your sailboat new or used?
Should the boat also be suitable for road transport? How is your physical fitness determined and how much sailing experience do you have? How important is speed to you? So you see, there is no clear recommendation which boat is best for beginners or families. Because it depends more on your own ideas and needs. The questionnaire listed above can hopefully help you to get a little closer to your own sailing boat.
The same also applies to the sailing area. Which sailing boat you need for the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Mediterranean Sea, circumnavigation, high seas or various rivers cannot be said in general. It’s best to talk to experts on this topic. There are numerous forums in which experienced sailors can give you good tips for buying a boat and pass on their own experience.
The questions as to which engine, outboard or anchor, as well as which battery and lights are best suited for a sailing boat, cannot be answered here in general. Because there are a multitude of types of boat, a newcomer should get advice on this as well. There is no general recommendation because it always depends on the individual area of application.
What insurance do you need for a sailing boat? What does insurance cost?
Owners of sailing boats can take out boat liability insurance to protect themselves against damage that they cause to third parties with their vehicle. The insurance includes both property damage and personal injury. In addition, sailing boats can also be insured with hull insurance. This covers damage to your own ship and accessories.
If you borrow a boat while on vacation, so-called skipper liability may also make sense. This protects the skipper from claims by third parties if either the boat or the crew members are damaged by his misconduct. In Germany, boat liability insurance is currently not yet a statutory compulsory insurance, while in some EU countries it is mandatory for watercraft.
When calculating the insurance tariffs, numerous factors are taken into account, such as the type of watercraft or the sailing area. There are numerous providers of boat insurance and it is worthwhile to compare the different tariffs.
What shoes do you wear on a sailing boat?
Choosing the right shoes plays a crucial role in sailing. It is important that the sole of the shoes you wear on board a sailboat is non-slip. Sailing shoes must also offer the wearer a good grip. In addition, the footwear should be breathable and waterproof. It is also important that the board shoes have a light-colored and abrasion-resistant sole, otherwise the skipper can look forward to dark traces of wear on deck.
Can a sailboat capsize? When does a sailboat capsize?
When a boat tips over and as a result floats on its side, it is called capsizing. A sailing boat can capsize, for example, if its stability is less than an external force acting against it. Alternatively, a change in the center of gravity, for example due to the ingress of water, can capsize a sailboat.
Large ships or boats are not intended to overturn. Because this can be extremely dangerous both for the ship and for the crew. Smaller sailing boats, on the other hand, capsize relatively often. That is why leaving and straightening the sailboat after capsizing is part of the basic knowledge of every water sports enthusiast.