We put six portable sailing dinghies under £5,000 to the test to see which one is the best all-rounder and really deserves a place on your boat
This was the only folding boat in our test and looks for all the world like a small Mirror dinghy – her red sails doing little to discourage the comparison.
She is beautifully crafted from marine ply, gleaming in the sun under her varnish.
As such she is far away the most aesthetically pleasing of all the dinghies we tested.
We raised concerns over the need to revarnish but were told she would sit outside happily enough in her folded state without the need for regular revarnishing for several years.
For what was the biggest and most like a sailing dinghy of all those we tested, the Seahopper was remarkably quick and uncomplicated to set up.
Smaller 2m and 2.4m versions are available, but as Seahoppers don’t fold longitudinally, she was the biggest when stowed.
Realistically, you can easily see her flat packed and strapped to the bow but stowage below for most would be unlikely for all but the 2m-long Seahopper Scamp.
This was her only major flaw.
Seahopper Kondor specifications
Total weight: 64kg
Biggest bag dimensions: 360cm x 68cm x 17cm
Assembly time: 18 min
Seahopper Kondor set-up
When laid out the Seahopper has more separate components than the other craft on test, but we were surprised how intuitive and easy she was to put together.
Officially our set up time was 18 minutes, making her the second fastest of the group to put together.
Though we are inclined to offer her joint first place in this category as she was ready to row in just five minutes.
The remainder of the time was given over to rigging up the sails, sheets, shrouds and so on.
The Seahopper was one of the three options we tested that comes with a stayed mast and headsail and this necessarily has an effect in terms of time and complexity in rigging.
Her overall weight is not much more than the others on test, most of this is in the hull, making lifting her a two-man job.
During set up it is clear that everything has been well thought through and there are lots of nice little touches, like the buckles that click the thwarts into place.
Seahopper Kondor test
Sitting in a Seahopper feels like siting in a proper little boat.
She doesn’t have the wide buoyancy of an inflatable boat but felt stable.
Under sail, the Seahopper was traditionally a rigger with a gunter mainsail and small jib.
The wind was fading slightly when we sailed her, so she felt a little under-powered.
As a direct comparison with the other sailing dinghies on test she performed well, but the boat’s small-dinghy feel lead us to hope for a slightly more finessed finish and slightly better handling under sail.
The fit out was fairly rudimentary in terms of sheets, cleats and fairleads.
For example, the horn cleats on the mast would have been better as camcleats to prevent the jib sheets getting caught when tacking.
The cleats for the jib cleats, essential when single handed, were not so easy to use.
Having said that she handles predictably and sails efficiently to windward.
We’d just have liked a slightly more polished sailing performance.
The Seahopper motors very nicely indeed.
She was the fastest of all the sailing dinghies under power.
Again, she gave more of a sense of a sit-in tender than any others on test.
Ideally we suspect that the Seahopper would want a single passenger to sit on the thwart for which an extension arm would be required to get weight far enough forward.
She could carry a family of four and their bags for ship-to-shore purposes at a pinch
As with all rigid dinghies, keeping your weight central is important, particularly when stepping down from a yacht.
Once seated centrally on the thwart and with oars deployed, however, she rows extremely well, aided by her proper wooden oars.
Where all the other sailing dinghies tested were inflatable and so were much trickier to row into a headwind, the Seahopper surged ahead easily.
We tried towing her with a mast and rigging still attached, and though it added a little resistance, she was still remarkably easy to row.
The size of the Seahopper when folded counts against her when compared to the other sailing dinghies which stow neatly into one or two bags.
All Seahoppers are customisable to a degree on order.
This means our few gripes when sailing could easily be rectified before or after purchase.
The Seahopper is clearly a boat you might use to get further afield – perhaps exploring upstream after anchoring in a river – as well as a mere tender.
The other boats on test were more of a compromise.
To our eye she is the prettiest of all those on offer and would be something to be proud of rather than merely a convenience tool.