Sunfish are small single masted sailboats often used when people are learning to sail. They're extremely simple and rugged like you'd not believe.

The Sunfish was designed by Alexander Bryan and Cortland Heyniger in 1951 and are currently built by Vanguard Sailboats. They have a light fiberglass hull and a single triangular lateen rigged sail. There are only two lines (ropes, for the non-sailor), the mainsheet, used to control the sail, and the main halyard, which is used in rigging. The rudder is designed as to be raised by pumping the tiller, letting you beach the boat yourself without having to worry about breaking anything.

The cockpit, a ten inch deep opening in the hull, has a handy storage area in the back of the cockpit perfect for storing a Ziploc baggy full of dry clothes. Which you'll need, because there's no way to avoid getting wet when sailing a Sunfish. They're very much the go-cart of sailboats: small, fast, fun, and completely unsuited for real transportation.

Sunfish are very popular with sailing classes because they're cheap (as of this write-up the list price was $2,930 plus shipping and handling), simple to sail, and indestructible. I've personally ran one into a reef and ripped a hole in the bow. The Sunfish's hull is filled with foam, making it virtually unsinkable, so I just sailed it home, fiberglassed it, and was sailing again in two days.

The sign of a true Sunfish aficionado is the ability to right a capsize without getting wet. Their large sail area makes the boats capsize easily, but they are easily righted by hanging off of the centerboard. A truly talented skipper could climb over the capsizing Sunfish, stand on the centerboard, wait for it to right itself, and swing back over, never falling in the water. All of this assumes that the centerboard did not fall out when you capsized, making you swim wildly after it.

The Sunfish is an excellent boat for sailing on a lake or in a calm bay. They're easy to find used, simple to maintain, and roof-rackable.

LOA: 13'9"
Beam: 4'1"
Sail Area: 75 sq. feet
Hull Weight: 130 lbs

Vanguard Sailboats Information

Sun"fish` (?), n. Zool. (a)

A very large oceanic plectognath fish (Mola mola, Mola rotunda, or Orthagoriscus mola) having a broad body and a truncated tail.


Any one of numerous species of perch-like North American fresh-water fishes of the family Centrachidae. They have a broad, compressed body, and strong dorsal spines. Among the common species of the Eastern United States are Lepomis gibbosus (called also bream, pondfish, pumpkin seed, and sunny), the blue sunfish, or dollardee (L. pallidus), and the long-eared sunfish (L. auritus). Several of the species are called also pondfish.


The moonfish, or bluntnosed shiner.


The opah.


The basking, or liver, shark.


Any large jellyfish.


© Webster 1913.

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