Two-masted sailing boats will always have a special place in the hearts of many sailors. Many sailors consider two-masted sailing boats to be the most attractive and graceful of all sailing vessels. They have an obvious elegance, but what do you know about these two masted sailboats? Let’s find out!

Among the most important aspects are the fact that two-masted sailing boats offer greater sail balance, engineless sailing and more heavy weather options.

Even if the two masted sailboats are not so common, the sailing world has a few of them and what is more, they represent a proof of the evolution and improvement of sailing boats over time. There are an almost endless number of ways sailors have arranged their sails on boats over the years.

two masted sailboat
Two-masted sailing boat types. Source:

Two-masted sailing boats are classified according to the size and position of their masts.

There are different two-masted sailing boat types and two of the most popular are schooners and yawls.

The origins of schooner-rigged vessels are unknown, however there is evidence of them in paintings by Dutch maritime painters dating back to the early 17th century.

Schooners were developed by Northern European countries, while yawls are believed to be descended from the fishing boats of England.

Sailboats with two masts include yawls, ketches, schooners and brigs (known as brigantines). Yawls and ketches are both types of sloops, which means they have one mast, but the difference between them is that the yawl has a second mast stepped at the bow.

Ketches and Yawls have a lower mast, unlike schooners that have a taller aft mast, which is also known as mizzen. Ketch sailing boats have something specific: the aft mast is  located in front of the rudder post.

The yawl’s mizzenmast serves as a counterbalance for the jib sails, so that it doesn’t have to be hung from the forestay (the rope running from the top of the mast down to the deck). They’re usually smaller than ketches and have less rigging because they don’t carry as many sails as a sloop with two masts.

Yawls are faster sailboats than schooners because they’re lighter, more balanced and easier to sail upwind. They can also go faster because their shorter sails catch more wind. But schooners have larger payloads, which means more people or cargo — an important consideration for long trips without resupply.

two-masted yawl


The origins of schooner-rigged vessels are unknown, however there is evidence of them in paintings by Dutch maritime painters dating back to the early 17th century.

Schooners are two-masted sailing boats, but instead of having a jib sail like yawls, ketches and most sloops, schooners have a fore-and-aft spanker sail like a gaff sailboat. These two-masted sailboats have at least two masts, the foremast being slightly shorter than the main mast.

Schooners are larger than yawls, ketches and other sloops and weren’t used very much in modern times because they were more difficult to handle. They’re still used in racing competitions today.

Schooners have a longer bow portion than yawls. The mainsail is aft of the mast, and either one or two foresails are in front of it. In a schooner, these are triangular sails; in a yawl, they’re trapezoidal. Yawls have bowsprits — poles that extend beyond the bow for the jib and stay sail to be attached. Schooners have small bowsprits that can support jibs but not large sails.

two-masted schooner sailboat


The term ketch derives from the word catch, which hints to how it got its name in the 17th century. Ketches were initially intended to meet the specific requirements of offshore net fishing.

Ketch is a type of sailboat that features two masts and two sails, commonly used as a racing and cruising boat. The mainmast of this two-masted sailboat is typically taller than the mizzen mast (aft-mast). Its name derives from catch.

Taller masts allow you to use larger sails, so ketch boats are able to achieve better speeds than similar boats with only one mast. Some ketch designs feature a gaff rig, which is similar to a yawl, while others feature a yawl rig, which looks like a traditional sloop.

Ketch boats may look easy to sail but the slightest mistake can lead to disaster. You must be careful when operating this type of boat because it does not have as much stability as other boats, especially when you’re manoeuvring in tight quarters or windy conditions.

A ketch may also be a small recreational boat with only one head-sail in use. Many modern designs have moved away from sail altogether and are powered by engine, while others use both sails as well as engines depending on circumstance.

two masted ketch sailboat


The brigantine was once a tiny ship that carried both oars and sails. It was a favorite of Mediterranean pirates.

A brigantine is a square-rigged sailing boat with two masts, with a fully square-rigged foremast and two sails on the mainmast.

The mainmast is stepped forward of the deck, making it possible to sail into the wind using a triangular headsail known as a jib. The brig’s foremast is shorter than the mainmast.

The name of this type of boat with 2 masts is derived from the Italian word “brigantino”, which means brigand.

Also, this two-masted sailing boat type was most commonly used for coastal trade and pirate hunting. The brigantine had an advantage over other ships of the time because it could sail against the wind using both sails, making it easier to travel against strong winds.

Faster and easier to manoeuvre than a sloop or schooner, it was used for piracy and espionage.

two-masted brigantine sailboat

FAQ: Two-Masted Sailboats

  • What do you call a two-masted sailboat?

    Two-masted sailboats are of several types: yawls, schooners, ketches or brigantines.

  • Why do some sailboats have two masts?

    The vast majority of sailboats feature a mainsail and a jib. These two-masted sailboats provide several advantages in terms of speed and maneuverability. These two masts may be configured in a variety of ways.

    The foresail directs air beyond the back of the mainsail, generating greater power from the wind. In order to help menouvering, the foresail can be backed. So, adding sails makes things simpler for bigger boats, making them easier to handle in heavy winds.

  • What is the difference between a ketch and a yawl sailboat?

    Because they are lighter, more balanced, and easier to sail upwind, yawls are faster sailboats than schooners. They can also go at a faster speed since their shorter sails collect more wind. Schooners, on the other hand, have higher cargoes, which means more people or freight – a crucial consideration for extended journeys without replenishing.

  • What is a one masted sailboat?

    It's a sailing boat having a single mast roughly one-third the length's aft of the bow. A sailboat with a single mast usually has one headsail in front of the mast and one mainsail behind the mast.

  • What is a two-masted square rigger?

    It's a brig with two square-rigged masts. A gaff-rigged fore-and-aft sail also called a "mizzen" is used in addition to jibs and staysails (stays'ls) before the foremast and staysails between the masts.