There’s a fantastic range of doublehanded dinghies on the water catering for all abilities and aspirations (for newbies to sailing we suggest reading our specific feature on beginner sailing dinghies), whether you want something stable for cruising with the family or a challenge that’s going to blast you around a race course.
Deciding on a doublehanded dinghy
Before you decide which doublehanded dinghy might be best for you, ask yourself three key questions to narrow the search and ensure you choose the one most suited to your needs:
- Is it for racing or cruising? If it’s for racing, take a look at what’s around locally. A boat that has decent-sized fleets will give you an instant source of support and friends. For cruising, check out practicalities like storage, outboard motor options, and the possibility of having an awning for overnight camping.
- How fast do you want to go? There is decision to be made here on whether you would like two or three sails, and whether you are happy to hike or would like the full-on thrills and spills of a trapeze boat for extra leverage and power.
- What is your budget? A shiny new boat is always appealing but second-hand options can give you plenty of “bang for your buck” and allow you to see whether you like a particular doublehander before taking the plunge and upgrading to a newer model.
We’ve listed below a handful of doublehanded dinghies to give you an idea of what’s out there, representative of the many kinds of sailing on offer. If you’re new to sailing, you may also want to check out our 25 best beginner sailing dinghies feature.
Fabulous-looking two-sail doublehander because of its distinctive blue sails. Designed by legendary boat builder Jack Holt, its robustness was demonstrated from the off when Jack sailed an Enterprise across the English Channel in a publicity stunt to launch it in 1956. It quickly took off as a dinghy for the masses and remains popular for cruising and racing. Since it does not have a spinnaker, it can be a good place to start for those new to sailing or racing. Other examples of two-person two-sail hiking dinghies include the Albacore, Firefly and Graduate.
A two-person hiking dinghy with the addition of a conventional symmetric spinnaker and pole for downwind sailing. The Scorpion has modernised over the years but without compromising the competitiveness of older boats - some championship-winning hulls have been over 10 years old. The lightweight, hard chine planing hull allows great performance and acceleration but is also a stable platform for beginners and parent-child combinations. Other three-sail traditional hiking dinghies include the GP14 and Lark, and classic family dinghies such as the Miracle and Mirror.
For an opportunity to mix it with more than a few world class sailors around the race course, consider the Merlin Rocket, which has local fleet racing, regional and national circuits catering for everyone from club sailor to Olympic champions. It too has a conventional spinnaker, and it was originally clinker-built, an appearance maintained even in new boats. It’s wide, allowing hiking sailors lots of leverage to power up the sails, and is renowned for having lots of ropes in the cockpit. As national championship coordinator Ian Mackenzie explains, this enables the modern Merlin with its raking rig, easy-to-hoist spinnaker and self-launching pole to be sailed by a wide variety of teams, crew weights and abilities, from as little as 18 stone upwards: "Yes there's lots of string, but you can do everything from the side, which is a positive for a lighter team.”
The Osprey likewise has three sails, including a traditional symmetric spinnaker, but with the added excitement of a trapeze for the crew. Celebrating its 60th national championship in 2017, a good second-hand boat will still be competitive with new sails and string, which is helping to attract the next generation into the fleet. It’s bigger than your average dinghy, making for a comfortable boat in light airs, and a powerful but stable boat in any breeze; a great option for exciting racing, learning to trapeze and cruising. Other three-sail single trapeze boats to consider would include the Fireball or for youth sailors, the 420.
RS200 & RS400
While doublehanders with a traditional symmetric spinnaker can be sailed straight downwind, asymmetric spinnaker classes such as the RS200 and the RS400 for heavier teams zigzag downwind to generate boat speed. Simple and fast and with large racing circuits, they are among the UK’s most popular hiking dinghies and ideal for anyone with a competitive streak who loves a good social! The RS stable of asymmetrics also includes the RS Feva for junior and youth teams.
The B14 is the fastest two person ‘body-swung’ sailing boat in the world, with sailors hiking from the wide wings to blast along at 20 knots with over 50 square metres of downwind sail area, including asymmetric spinnaker. The class has world, European and national championships and attracts all abilities up to top level sailors, with the aim of providing simple, one design, low-cost sailing for people who enjoy the adrenalin rush of light-weight, high performance skiffs.
For advanced sailors and adrenaline junkies – with main, jib and asymmetric spinnaker offering a large sail area counterbalanced by both helm and crew gaining added leverage from racks and trapezing. The men’s 49er and women’s 49erFX are well known thanks to their Olympic pedigree (see Olympic Sailing guide). On the domestic circuit, the RS800 is probably one of the most popular and accessible classes in this category, along with the smaller 29er much-loved by youth sailors.
This is likewise a three-sail double-trapeze skiff, but it is also a development class with relatively open class rules allowing experimentation and innovation, and sailors seeking an edge on the race track at or near the forefront of small boat technology. The International 14 has an unlimited area spinnaker and is fast and exciting, with lightweight carbon hulls and rigs and foiling rudders to lift the stern from the drag of the water. This type of boat can be potentially more expensive although as with all classes there are affordable second-hand options.
An alternative skiff development class for those who are technically-minded and love boat-bimbling or sail building but don’t have a large budget. The 12-foot Cherub - with asymmetric spinnaker and twin trapezes for blistering racing performance and “on the edge” handling characteristics - has simple rules which allow maximum flexibility for creating boats that incorporate a sailor's own ideas, with some even building their own Cherub from scratch. Class secretary Jamie Pearson says: “I can pull up the sails and go, or I can develop ideas for systems; I made my own tiller mechanism and boom." The class do ‘blasts’ where people can have a go. New faces are always welcome or can say hello via the class forum.
For disabled or older sailors or anyone else who wants a more reassuring ride than that offered by other doublehanders, the Hansa is an access dinghy with the slogan “sailing for everyone”. Hansas can be adapted to meet an individual’s needs, including side-by-side seats and adapted control lines and steering, providing a safe and steady easy-to-sail dinghy for recreation or racing, and making it popular with Sailability clubs.
Find out more
Whatever double-handed dinghy catches your eye, looking up its class association is a great way to find out more and to see if there’s an event nearby; sailors of any class will be only too pleased to see you, share their enthusiasm and answer your questions.
Read more about the best dinghies for kids, 25 best beginner sailing dinghies and how to get your family into sailing.