Best Sailboats for a Beginner Family

By Jill Gardiner , last updated December 31, 2011

Learning how to sail is a great way for a family to spend time together and learn to work as a team, but if you’re a beginner, the best sailboats aren’t necessarily the biggest or the most expensive. You’ll want to look for a boat that’s a bit smaller and has a simple rig, one mast, and one sail, so that it’s easier for beginners to manage. Don’t worry about the boat not being challenging enough though; what you learn on a less complicated sailboat is fully applicable to the larger and more complex models. Here are a few boats that are great choices for beginners, many of which will remain challenging even as your skill level increases.

Laser Pico

The Laser Pico is a great boat choice for absolute beginners in that its removable jib and reefing main sail make it incredibly easy to handle. With a length of eleven and a half feet, this boat is on the smaller side with just enough room for a couple of adults or a few more kids. Additionally, it’s incredibly durable, virtually maintenance free, and ready to sail in minutes, plus the hull is self-draining, and it’s also got a high boom. As you gain confidence, this boat is also suitable for a bit of racing.

RS Feva

The RS Feva is another great choice for novice sailors, because the rigging can be adjusted for one-man sailing or for a more extensive crew. The big cockpit and high boom of this twelve-foot sailboat mean comfortable quarters for the whole family, plus this boat is made to stand up to serious use while requiring barely any maintenance at all. Don’t be fooled by all this talk of a beginner-friendly boat; as you and your family improve in skills in confidence, you can get some serious speed out of the RS Feva, which is likely why it’s won so many honors around the world.

Colgate 26

If you had something a little larger in mind, you may want to consider the Colgate 26. Designed by Offshore Sailing School founder Steve Colgate to be a boat for all your recreational needs, this boat measures just less than 26 feet in length, roomy enough for a crowd but still legal to tow. The boat features a self-bailing hull, positive foam floatation for stability, and even an insulated cooler, plus it’s fitted for night sailing as well. This incredibly low maintenance boat is a great choice for all skill levels, whether you’re learning, looking for a little leisure time on the water, or feel the need for some speed.


Another boat that accommodates a larger group but is still so easy to handle that it can be manned by a crew of one, the J/24 has been a popular choice for sailors of all skill levels since its introduction in the 1970s. This one-design, 24-foot sailboat is stable enough that beginners can feel comfortable and confident. Also, when properly prepared, this boat can compete with the best in its class for top speeds.

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