The terms, sailboat and schooner, are often used but rarely do people realize that there is a difference. One of the main ones being that sail boat is a general term. A sailboat is described as any boat that is powered by sails and wind. The thing is, there are several different types of sailboats and one of them is a schooner. Here is how you can tell the difference between schooner and sail boats, in general.
Sail Boat Types
Most sailboats are boats that have a monohull. This means that they rely on a ballast for stability and that most of their weight is located in that area. This is a little different from a schooner which is often Bermuda rigged.
A lot of sail boats are sloop rigs which mean that they have a single mast which holds the head sail and the main sail. The cutter is another type of sloop, but it will have a mast that is further aft as well as a staysail. If you have a two masted boat and the mizzen mast is located in front of the rudder post, you are looking at a ketch, which is similar to a Yawl, but has the mizzen aft of the rudder post. As you can see, when talking about a sailboat, there are a lot of different variations of the same type of boat. However, there is a sail boat that is barely a boat at all. The cutter rig is not an actual boat. Instead, it is a rig adapted to fit a single or a multiple-masted boat.
A schooner is a type of sail boat and the only one of its kind to have two or more masts with the one in front being the shortest of all. All other types of sailboats have larger masts up front and smaller ones toward the rear.
Racing Sail Boats or Recreational Sail Boats?
Most of the time, you will not see a schooner as a racing sailboat. They are multi-masted and most often, not designed to be fast boats. Even with the multiple sails that are sometimes attached to them. However, this does not mean that there are no schooners racing because most of the sail boats ability to race is dependent upon the sails that it holds high.
If you have a sailboat that you race, you will have a sail that when filled with air, billows out further. This also means that they have reinforcement around the Cunningham Grommet. It is necessary to have that extra support because of the extra air that is being held and propelling the boat at a faster speed. Smaller, recreational type sailboats do not need as much extra support or reinforcement.
With that being said, if you are looking for a racing sail boat, you will need to buy a higher priced racing sail. If you are not racing, you simply have to look for the size of sail that is right for your sailboat.