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View Poll Results: Which of the two for singlehanded learning?
Laser 9 69.23%
Sunfish 4 30.77%
Voters: 13. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 04-04-2022, 03:14   #46
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

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This is completely not true regarding a standard Laser being overwhelmed. The added weight enables sailing is significant winds with proper experience.
I was referring to my weight slowing (not swamping but definitely lowering) a Laser. I basically didn't bother sailing my Laser without at least a very good blow. Absolutely agree, my "ballast" allowed me to have a lot of fun in strong winds
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Old 04-04-2022, 08:57   #47
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Whilst I think there is a lot of value in learning to sail a dinghy, it is in no way a necessary step before progressing onto a 40ft yacht.
They are two very different activities which each require their own unque learning curve.

My advice would be, if you want to sail a dinghy, then buy a dinghy and get someone to show you the ropes. They are relatively cheap and have much less severe consequences to your mistakes (assuming you don't go too far out to sea).
If you want to sail a 40ft yacht, then go do a sailing course on a 40ft yacht, learn from a professional, and make an informed decision before splashing out tens if not hundreds of thousands. I learnt to sail through the RYA scheme, and looking back, my time spent with professional instructors has been of incredible value to me over the years.
I still occasionally ask my original RYA instructors for advice now (which they are always happy to provide).
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Old 04-04-2022, 09:56   #48
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

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Well, folks, I think I've made up my mind. I'll go with the Sunfish.
At least purchase a good book on how to sail. Just hopping on the boat and trying to make it go is ill advised.

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It's cheap, so it's easy to get rid of if necessary.
Let's hope so.

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After mastering it, I'll know what to do, I assume.
Mmmm, maybe, but probably not. Going from an over sized 'sailboard' with a lateen rig and a mainsheet to a sloop rig with head sails is a big jump. I'll hazard a guess that even the people that claimed to learn on a Sunfish didn't make the jump to larger boats without taking lessons and/or crewing for, and getting help from, friends and others in the sailing community.

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Despite my plan, I might end up having to have a small keel sailboat phase in-between before finally shopping for something over 30 ft.
Again, I will recommend that you take lessons. Sailing is not intuitive (for most people). There is a difference between knowing how to make the boat go (more or less) where you want it to, and knowing how to sail well. As I said, going from a lateen rig with only a mainsheet to 30' boat with a reefable main, multiple head sails and jibs - sheeted through movable tracks, whisker poles, spinnaker poles, adjustable backstays, an engine, etc, etc, etc is a big jump.

I also wouldn't discount larger centerboard boats as the second step. I think it was you that mentioned the 'Flying Scot'. That IMO would be an excellent beginners or second step boat... with instruction.

Good luck!
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Old 04-04-2022, 10:27   #49
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

If anyone up Minnesota-Wisconsin-Iowa way has a Sunfish for sale or rent, I have a grudge match with a retiring co-worker that needs to be settled in Northern MN this summer. I may just let him win anyways out of respect
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Old 04-04-2022, 11:52   #50
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I learned to sail on a laser and know more about sailing than a lot of folks that have been sailing on big boats for longer than I have.

Thing about learning on a small boat is that a lot a sailing reflexes are developed very quickly.

On a big boat things move a lot slower and there are a lot of distractions like anchoring, motor, head, electrical system, navigation, .... which are all cruising skills, not sailing skills.

Unless you have a physical disability learning on a dinghy is generally better. In general my dinghy students progressed a lot further and faster than my students that started on keelboats.

Regarding Laser vs Sunfish, either would be fine.
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Old 04-04-2022, 12:00   #51
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Short answer is: whichever gets you sailing sooner, and more often.

I'm partial to the Laser.

The longer answer depends more on what you want to be doing and when. If I was a young adult and knowing what I know now, I think I might save up for a decent 14 to 16 ft dinghy like a Wayfarer or a CL-16. They're a bit drier but still fun to sail, they're popular for racing, easier to sail with other people, and if you can trailer them around, they're big enough for camp-cruising for a weekend.
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Old 04-04-2022, 12:03   #52
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

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At least purchase a good book on how to sail.

Let's hope so.

Mmmm, maybe, but probably not. Going from an over sized 'sailboard' with a lateen rig and a mainsheet to a sloop rig with head sails is a big jump.

Again, I will recommend that you take lessons.

I also wouldn't discount larger centerboard boats as the second step.
A few replies here. garyfdl touched most of the concerns in my head in his reply, so I thought it would be a good reference to summarize.

I've read plenty of books on sailing. I think it's time for action for me. I've sailed the couch long enough!?

The Sunfishes I've seen online are dirt cheap. I know how to fix minor issues. I might even make a little profit when I sell, or I may just take it to the grave.

What I meant was after having some real-life experience, I would know what to do as my next step. I didn't mean I would know all the how-to-do tasks and what not in a large sailboat. I have to admit, the more I think about the process, the more I am convinced to own a small keel sailboat after mastering the Sunfish.

Starting this summer, for the next few years, I'll be at a perfect spot for a Laser or a Sunfish, but then I'll move. If I move somewhere expensive like NY Harbor, I'll join a sailing club - then I'll be taking classes and sailing their boats. If I can manage to stay where I'll sail the Sunfish, then a small keel sailboat will possibly be my next step. Tiller / spade rudder, fin keel, fractional sloop rig, outboard, no galley, portable head - the simplest keel sailboat tied to the cheapest dock.

Flying Scot is an excellent sailboat, but she is expensive for the purpose. Let's say, life makes me a dinghy sailer forever, then why not, all worth it.

Sunfish will be my first step. The very last minute, I might pick a Laser too since I've been hearing such nice words about it on this thread.

Thanks again, folks.
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Old 04-04-2022, 12:36   #53
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

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Kite, that is how I started too. Mine was a Dolphin Sr, a very similar lateen rigged board boat with a foot well. I sailed on rivers, lakes, Chesapeake Bay and car topped it to Florida and the Keys. I also read everything I could about sailing and boating. With that boat I learned basics of tacking and jibing, center of effort and center of resistance, and a lot about hiking out. When I moved up to a boat with two sails and a cabin and spent more than a day on the water I learned other things about sail trim and sail shape, anchoring and navigation. Later on with a cruising boat I learned more about boat systems, inboard engines, radar and communications, maintenance and crew safety.

But the little lateen rigged Dolphin Sr was where it all started for me. That Sunfish can be a great place to start for you. And it is still a popular boat that you can easily sell when or if you want to move up.

The first paragraph is one of the best written summaries of the experiences of many, many of us. Thx for that. Brings back many memories.


I started on Beetle catboats in summer camp. First boat with a jib was super complicated, but no instruction manual or instructor for that matter made it super fun. Catalina 22, 25 then 34 fill out my version of reality.


It's great fun, you have a great approach. Good luck, all the best.
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Old 05-04-2022, 13:39   #54
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Until I become a cruiser on a +30ft sailboat, it seems as if it will take 'a little' while. In the meantime, I'll probably own everything from Sunfish to Laser to Hobie 16 to whatever. I think, with the help of a few courses in-between, I can skip the small keel sailboat phase - I hope.

By the way, such a community here. I was not expecting this much help.
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Old 05-04-2022, 16:01   #55
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I went from beach cats ((4)-2 Hobie 16's and 2 Nacras) to my Bristol 27 with a 6 year break in between for cycling. I only had a dinghy sailor for a year or two.

But I also had 8 years on small power boats between 16-24 years old

The only thing about a small dinghy or Sunfish is that you cannot take any real beginner voyages like sailing 30 miles to a restaurant or offshore 15 miles or so.

You can always sleep on the tramp on a Hobie 16 and there's plenty of space for supplies.

I kept the beer (and empties) in the hull just in case marine patrol came by
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Old 05-04-2022, 16:29   #56
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

"I sail a Laser" sounds cooler than "I sail a Sunfish".

More seriously, if the racing bug bites, there's a lot of serious racing on Lasers.
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Old 05-04-2022, 17:21   #57
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Friend of mine won the sunfish worlds once. He’s a hard core racer.
My moment of triumph on a sunfish was capsizing and staying mostly dry as I got the boat to roll as I climbed over and ended upright again.
A Sunfish is a great learning boat as you can sail without a lot of technical skill or athleticism. Lasers are also great boats but require more athleticism in the same conditions. A laser radial rig could be a great rig for lighter folks to learn on, but not as stable as a sunfish.
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Old 08-04-2022, 19:38   #58
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I'd consider a Bauer 12 with the main and jib. We had one and taught 4 nephews to sail with it. It's big enough for a full grown man not to embarass himself too badly, complex enough to get a feel for sail control, and stable enough for dry sailing. I'd figure most sailing dinghies would be preferable to a laser, sunfish, super porpoise, or really any other racing sailboat for learning. A bit more dry anyhow.

You can also walk around a marina and see if anyone might be willing to take you out as rookie crew for a bit. Sailing is a great experience shared, so a lot of people will be willing to take you out for a few hours.
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Old 11-04-2022, 06:46   #59
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

A Sunfish, Laser, 420, hobie 14, 16, are good ways to learn the basics. Myself I loved the 420 and hobie 16. The hobie was great as a sun and swim platform when you want to stop and relax for a bit. back when I was young taking a young lady out for a sail usually made or broke relationships.
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Old 11-04-2022, 06:50   #60
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Great idea. As an aside, I took my nephew out on our Beneteau 440 a few times. At first all he could do was steer then I encouraged him to get his dinghy quals to White Sail Level Three. With those he became a useful crew member capable of watch keeping and when necessary adjusting sails.

Dinghy sailing is perhaps the best way of gaining a real understanding of things like points of sail and maneuvering from jibing to tacking and everything in between. If you capsize so what? It is part of the game. One gets wet! That is how I started out; mostly wet. Best thing is to take a course first though. As to the dinghy, much better to avoid catboats like the Sunfish or Lazer as the training one gets is limited because of the single sail. Much better to learn on a 420 or other design with a foresail. Really need to know how to handle that foresail as it is probably the most important sail on a keel boat

Dinghy sailing is a great beginning to one of the most fulfilling sports and past times available on the planet. Enjoy.
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