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
The MiniCat Guppy is a newer model to her bigger sister, the MiniCat 420.
The Guppy was the only catamaran we had on test.
In terms of usability, she was up against the Tiwal 2 in that she is aimed more at fun sailing that tender work.
The Guppy has been designed to be more portable and quicker to assemble than the previous 420.
She certainly ticks the more-portable box and was the only boat in our test that came in a single bag and was fully 17kg lighter overall than the next lightest.
Certain features feel a little lightweight when she is fully rigged, however.
Each hull has an attachable skeg, which slot into the hulls via a pocket.
These plastic skegs felt rather brittle though only time would tell if they are up to being dragged up beaches and slipways.
MiniCat Guppy specifications
Total weight: 31kg
Biggest bag dimensions: 161cm x 33cm x 33cm
Assembly time: 38 min
MiniCat Guppy set-up
The MiniCat took a lot longer than any other boat we tested to set-up, at over half an hour.
However, she was the only boat without a representative on site and the lack of an occasional bit of advice certainly added to this.
Officially, it took us 38 minutes from bag to beach, but our testers agreed this would be quicker a second time.
The boat has a metal central spine upon which the mast and the rudder stock sit.
This is locked into the forward and aft beams – ready attached to the two inflatable hulls out of the bag – via a large pin and retaining rings at either end.
Both ends of the central spine need to be offered up to the beams simultaneously.
It was certainly a two-man job, though there’s almost certainly a knack to it.
The rig was easy to set up with a simple three-piece aluminium mast and a pocket in the luff of the sail into which the mast slides.
Shrouds and forestay all come connected to one piece of metal that attaches to the mast about two thirds of the way up, and spring clips make attaching them to the metal trampoline frame easy.
A small central rudder provides steerage, and other propulsion would be via paddles.
MiniCat Guppy test
We had fairly high hopes for the MiniCat under sail and in the gusts of a dying breeze, she showed she would be fun in a blow.
She certainly suffers from the age-old difficulty of catamarans in that she was very difficult to tack in light winds.
As with most catamaran dinghies, she is helmed from a trampoline between the two hulls.
This makes her very much a sit on, not in, experience.
We found it quite difficult to find the right position to sit on her.
We felt we were either too far aft, dragging the transoms, or too far forward, digging the bows, perhaps a function of her diminutive size.
That being said, she was simple to sail in a straight line and had bags of stability.
As with the Tiwal 2 she would be ideal for sailing around in for a bit of fun while the boat is at anchor.
You might fit two youngsters on her but it would be a squeeze for adults.
The MiniCat Guppy is certainly the most portable of all the sailing dinghies we tested.
We forgive the time is took to set up as this would almost certainly get quicker with use.
However, she was not as fun to sail as the Tiwal 2 and she lacks the versatility of the other sailing dinghies.
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There also seems to be a few odd decisions made in the design process, like the small size of the rudder, and the fully battened mainsail.
The larger MiniCat 420 has the option of an outboard mount, so become a more useful option as a tender.
However, the bags are almost double the size.
For children messing around in a boat of their own at anchor, this is a toy that could easily fit onto a larger yacht.
On smaller boats where space is at a premium, we would want more of an all-round dinghy.