What Are the Different Types of Sailing Vessels?

The five main types of modern sailboats are ketches, cutters, sloops, yawls and schooners, as of 2015. Cat ketches, catamarans, dinghys, yachts and gaffers are also modern sail boat rigs. Full-rigged sailing vessels, barques, barkentines, brigs and brigantines are sailboat rig versions that were used on commercial, fishing and naval vessels in the past.

Sloops are single-masted sailboats, and sloops with only a foresail and a headsail are called Bermudan sloops. Cutter-rigged sloops are single-masted, but they have an additional sail that is set on its own stay, called the staysail. Ketches are two-masted sailboats. The main mast goes forward, and the shorter mizen mast is aft. Cutter-rigged ketches feature a staysail in addition to sails on the main and mizen masts.

Cat ketches are distinguished by a lack of standing rigging to support their two un-stayed masts. Yawls are similar to sloops and cutters, but the mizen mast is aft of the rudder post. A schooner is a vessel with two or more masts with fore and aft rigged sails, and the main mast is the same size or taller than the fore mast. A gaff-rigged sailboat features a four-cornered sail configuration that is controlled at its peak by a pole, called the gaff, which is hauled up by a separate halyard.

A full-rigged ship is a square-rigged vessel that has three or more masts, and a barque is fore- and aft-rigged on the after mast and square-rigged otherwise. Barkentines have three or more masts, but they have square-rigged sails only on the fore mast. Brigs are square-rigged, two-masted ships with a gaff sail on the main mast. Brigantines feature two masts, and the foremost mast is square-rigged. Briggs and Brigantines were traditionally used as merchant ships and naval vessels.