Popular Sailing Dinghies

Popular Sailing Dinghies

The most popular sailing dinghies have been around for many years – mostly designed in the 1960s and 1970s. Many are internation classes and some compete in the Olympics! However, if you have no interest in entering the World Championships with your dinghy they can still be used for day sailing around your local waters. Sailing dinghies such as Enterprise, Wayfarer, Laser and the small Mirror and Optimist are very popular.

Enterprise sailing dinghy (click to view on ebay)

enterprise sailing dinghy

Enterprise dinghies are used for racing as well as cruising, mostly with two crew on board. You will notice their all blue mainsail and jib. Adults and children enjoy sailing these likable sailing dinghies because of their size, weight and po  UK and other countries. They are an International Class of dinghy. Originally designed in 1956 by Jack Holt, who was a prolific designer of sailing dinghies in the UK.  With a length of about 4 metres (13′ 3″), she is a handy size to tow behind any car. When viewing an Enterprise dinghy you will notice on the early designed boats that buoyancy bags are used in various places. Under the benches and thwarts; at the stern and also at the forward bulkhead. These bags have been replaced with newer versions of the dinghy by using built in buoyancy tanks to provide floatation. The maintainance is also less with the newer boats.

Wayfarer sailing dinghy(click here to view on ebay)

wayfarer sailing dinghy

The wayfarer is a very versatile dinghy, not only used for racing but also day sailing and increasingly for longer cruises of several days! At 4.83 metres (15′ 10″) and fairly beamy she can have three adults aboard to sail at ease for hours on end. A family of two adults and two small children can go cruising because of the Wayfarer’s stability, size and seaworthy shape. They are very popular with sailing schools. I learned to sail with these lovely dinghies on Hogganfield loch, near Glasgow, in the 1960s. Designed by Ian Proctor in 1957 these sailing dinghies can be identified by the large ‘W’ on their mainsail. They usually sail with main, jib and spinnaker. Wooden versions will be pre 1965 because this is when the first GRP dinghies were introduced. Various versions have been designed right up to 2007. Those of you wanting to use the Wayfarer mainly as a cruising dinghy should buy early versions because they provide more stability and have better storage areas.

Laser sailing dinghy(click here to view on ebay)

Designed in 1970 by Bruce Kirby, the Laser can have either a single sailor or two on board. Laser’s are designed to be easy to rig up and then super easy to sail, which has resulted in them to be the most popular sailing dinghies in history! They are sailed locally, internationally as well at the olympics. Every hull, sail and equipment on board Lasers are virtually identical so to win a race you are competing purely on sailing skills not some difference on the boat. If you wanting to buy a sailing dinghy to sail against other skilled sailors then this is the boat to purchase.

laser sailing dinghy


Mirror dinghy (click here to view on ebay)

Another Jack Holt design, the Mirror dinghy was originally aimed at DIY sailors to get afloat easily and cheaply. The dinghy was sponsored by the Daily Mirror newspaper. DIY construction was by a new method at the time of stitch and glue – copper wire for the stitching and fibreglass 2″ wide tape for the glue. It was due to non professionals doing the construction that the design was fairly simple.
Later boats were built professionally. Many sailing clubs have a fleet of Mirrors in their dinghy park. Young as well as old enjoy sailing these lovely dinghies, not only in the UK but in many other countries too. At 3.3 metres long (10′ 10″) she is still fairly seaworthy and stable. Used by sailors who want to race as well as those who enjoy cruising, because of the amount of storage places aboard.
When buying you need to look thoroughly at the hull to make sure there are no signs of delamination in the plywood.
Do not buy the cheapest but aim for a well looked after dinghy that has been owned for several years by the same family, this will show she has been well cared for and all should be well.

mirror dinghy

Picture from the Daily Mirror brochure.

Optimist sailing dinghy (click here to view on ebay)

At 2.36 metres in length (7′ 9″), the Optimist is small for a sailing dinghy. Originally designed for children up to the age of 15, probably there are 200,000 of these boats around the world. Designed by Clark Mills an American in 1947, after Major Clifford McKay wanted to offer low-cost sailing for youngsters. Sailed singlehanded they are very popular with sailing clubs. DIY plans are still available today to complete these wonderful sailing dinghies. Just like the Mirror dinghy the Optimist is a pram dinghy for ease of construction.