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What Is a Sailing Yacht?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A sailing yacht is a type of water vessel that is propelled forward using sails rather than a motor or propeller system. The term "yacht" is used to refer to any boat that is used for recreational purposes, and while a yacht can feature a motor, a sailing yacht is a more traditional vessel. The size, design, function, and cost of a yacht can vary significantly, and the sail and mast configuration can also differ from vessel to vessel. Operating a boat with sails usually requires some training as well to ensure the operators can guide the vessel through water safely and effectively.

Traditional sailing yacht vessels usually feature one hull, or body, on which a deck is built. The masts extend vertically from the deck so the sails can be secured for catching air and propelling the vessel forward. A sailing yacht may feature more than one mast, though very often only one main mast is necessary. A boom may extend off the front of the hull so a jib sail can be extended forward for more effective steering.

Some sailing yachts are designed for racing.
Some sailing yachts are designed for racing.

The size of the vessel can vary from the exceptionally small boat meant for one passenger, to the extremely large boat that can carry numerous passengers and cargo. The sail configuration will often depend on the size of the sailing yacht, as can other features on the vessel. Some yachts are designed specifically for racing, and many yacht owners will modify the boat to accommodate a specific type of racing event. Boats intended more for recreation and leisure are likely to feature cabins with sleeping quarters. Some cabins may even be large enough for a kitchen, storage, dining area, and so on.

Operating a sailing yacht will take a fair amount of training, especially if the vessel is exceptionally large. Three-mast boats can be extremely difficult to pilot safely, and even smaller, one-mast boats can be unsteady, especially in rough waters. The captain of the ship must be trained in how to steer the boat, how and when to use the sails, and what safety maneuvers may be necessary to right the ship in an emergency. It is not uncommon for a yacht owner to hire a professional captain to man the ship, especially if the vessel is quite large.

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    • Some sailing yachts are designed for racing.
      By: Andrew Bayda
      Some sailing yachts are designed for racing.