Best Boats 2012 Winner: The BayRaider 20


It may look like a character boat with its saucy sheer, ketch rig and sliding gunter mainsail, but the BayRaider 20 is no museum piece. Built in your choice of fiberglass or cold-molded wood by UK-based SwallowBoats, the BayRaider features a sophisticated gravity-fed water ballast system, a NACA foil centerboard and a semi-planing hull form. The result is a daysailer with surprising performance that can also serve as a stable platform for camp cruising. (The boat’s named is derived from the tradition of the British “raid,” a competitive cruise in company from port to port in small open boats.)

In many ways, it’s the little things that set the BayRaider 20 apart. The tiller has a hinged dog-leg to raise it up so it doesn’t hit the crew in the knees. All control lines—jibsheets, mainsheet, mizzensheet—are within easy reach of the helm, and the hull has not only an attractive wooden rubrail and sheer strake, but also skids on its bottom for beaching. The wooden mainmast is stepped on a tabernacle, and the tall gunter sprit is carbon fiber. The kick-up rudder has a notch in its trailing edge that confused us at first, until a company rep explained it was a step to help crew climb back aboard after going for a swim. The list goes on and on.


An impressive 660 pounds of water ballast can be taken on or dumped while underway. This means the boat’s performance can be fine-tuned depending on sailing conditions. Is the wind picking up and your neophyte crew getting nervous? No problem, just make the boat heavier. Is the wind going light or do you want to surf the chop? Again, no problem. The boat is easily trailerable  and takes just minutes to rig and launch, which means you can explore distant bodies of water without having to budget a lot of time for setup before and after exploring.


LOA19ft 10in
LWL17ft 11in
Beam6ft 10in
Draft4ft 8in (board down)
Displacement947 lb? (standard fiberglass, without water ballast)
Sail Area183 ft2



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