Is a Sunfish a Good Sailboat?

Is a Sunfish a Good Sailboat?

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

If you were to look up one of the most popular sailboats of all time, the Sunfish is right up there. But is a Sunfish a good sailboat?

There is a strong debate about whether or not the Sunfish is even worth your time sailing. So what made a Sunfish a popular sailboat?

The Sunfish has had a low price point and is easily portable for over fifty years. It is very easy to set up, has decent speed with the right wind, and allows you to beach it. It is great for beginners, but experienced sailors will love the simplicity of it.

As with all sailboats, there are definitely some negatives to owning a Sunfish. For example, the low freeboard means you are going to be extremely wet in just mild conditions. Since this is considered a dinghy, you will be responsible for every little movement that this sailboat is going to take.

According to experienced sailors, you have to find out what works best for you and your sailing goals. The Sunfish can either be a terrific experience for individuals that want a taste on the water or an annoyance if they are more experienced in sailing.


Table of contents

Pros and Cons to a Sunfish Sailboat

There is a reason that the Sunfish is still popular after fifty years. The boat is designed for day sailing and to be active, so casual cruising is likely not going to happen too often.

With that being said, you should really count on being by yourself. The Sunfish was designed for one person handling the reins, so more than one person would make things difficult to near impossible.


  • Easy to put together and sail
  • Essentially only one of a few car-top sailboats out there
  • Takes off fast with the right winds
  • You can park it right on the beach
  • Easy to find this boat and very affordable no matter the condition


  • Only one or two people max can fit
  • Three-foot draft means you are very close to the water, so prepare to be wet
  • Not fast like other dinghies
  • Can easily capsize, whether you are begin or not

Setting Up Your Sunfish

When putting together your Sunfish, it takes roughly 10 minutes until you are ready to hit the water. The mast does not require special rigging to put together since it is an unsupported one.

There are only a few car-top sailboats out there, meaning you can travel with this sailboat strapped to the top of your car. Since the boat is just under 14 feet and weighs about 120 pounds, it is easy to move wherever you see fit.

Once you have transported it, putting it together does not require special knowledge. If you watched someone else do it in person or online, you can have the method down with a few tries. The rigging does not require any fancy knots, so do not worry if you do not know how to tie a great knot.

Responsive Sailboat

The Sunfish is very responsive to wind changes, making it easy to get a feel for sailing. However, it is not as fast as other dinghies like a Laser.

This boat’s design is unique in that you must pay attention to how you are sitting and controlling the mast. This is not a boat to be having a casual conversation on, so being aware of what you are doing is necessary.

When conditions are somewhat calm, you do not want to tighten down the main sheet. Instead, you should have one hand on the sheet and one on the tiller while moving your weight side to side.

A gust of wind will greatly change your comfort if you are not prepared. If you are not careful, you can easily capsize the boat. Luckily, it can be easy to flip back over in shallow waters.

Finding a Sunfish

You can find a new Sunfish for just under $5,000, making it affordable to fit any budget. Furthermore, you can potentially find them significantly cheaper depending on the year and condition for just a few hundred dollars. Replacement parts can easily be found online if you find a Sunfish needing a few things.

The reason these boats are priced so low is that they fit one category of sailing, which is day sailing, and only allow for one individual to navigate. You are also going to get wet, no matter what you do.

Keep in mind that it is meant for sailors just getting their feet wet in sailing. If you have experience, then this is great, but it is meant to be a starter sailboat for most individuals.

Great Stability

The Sunfish has had some slight variations over the years to its look, but the design has ultimately been the same. Its rugged hull has stood up to the wear and tear amongst the harshest conditions, which is why you can find these same boats 20 or 30 years later and still see that they are in great condition.

These boats have stood the test of time and are even considered unsinkable. The hollow body, with its sleek fiberglass hull, makes it one of the more attractive dinghies out there.

You can rest assured that the stability will be there when you need it, as long as you have some sort of experience handling a dinghy in tougher waters. The daggerboard keel is a great advantage to righting the sailboat in the event that it does capsize, which is something that does happen to smaller boats or even racing ones.

Exciting Fun for a Day Out at Sea

Since the Sunfish is just under 14 feet long, this means there is limited space to have an additional companion while sailing. Even though it has a smaller cockpit some people might be able to fit two on board, but the boat’s design is geared towards one person.

This is perfect for individuals that want to have peace and quiet while sailing, but you will need to be engaged the entire time. There will be many aspects that you need to pay attention to, so this is really not meant for more than one person.

What is a Sunfish?

The Sunfish was designed to hit lakes or calmer bodies of water back in 1952. However, it quickly was used in sailing for those that were adventurous or able to handle the rougher conditions that the sea brings.

In 1995, this boat was regarded as one of the most popular fiberglass boats ever sold. At that time, they had sold roughly a quarter million worldwide and continue to sell tons to this day.

This boat is known for its stability, low draft, and easy to put together to have a great time sailing in a pinch. While there are some additional features that you can buy to upgrade the experience while sailing, this boat is great to learn the basics of sailing without spending a ton of money to do so.

No matter what your experience level is, the Sunfish can be learned within a day of simple trial and error. If you happen to be near an area that offers sailing lessons, this would be a good opportunity to learn the basics without worrying about larger sailboats to control.

An Excellent Choice to Learn the Basics

The Sunfish is an excellent option for sailors that want to stow away their boats or to take out on a nice day for the weekend. The appeal of taking it down and easily transporting it makes it a great option for many that want to experience the water.

In the right winds, this is an excellent boat to have some fun on the water. If you know the basics of sailing or want to experience it for the first time, the Sunfish is your best bet.

Is a Sunfish a Good Sailboat?
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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