By far the most common question we are asked here at Motor Boat & Yachting is “how can you call that a yacht if it doesn’t have sails?” We explain here why a boat does not need sails to be called a yacht …
What’s in a name? Lots if you are a yacht! Not only are yacht names a source of endless fun, but by defining your boat as a yacht in the first place, you create certain expectations.
Definitions of yachts: a brief history
While boating for fun dates back to ancient Egypt and perhaps even further than that, the word yacht comes from the Dutch ‘jachtschip’, which means hunting vessel. Jachts were originally a class of sailing ships used in the 16th century to hunt down enemies of the Dutch Republic.
However, by the 19th century the term “yachting” had developed to refer to pleasure boating in general, and with the advent of steamboats, sails were no longer the only method of propulsion available to Victorian boaters. .
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At the beginning of the 20th century (1904 to be precise) our humble magazine was launched under its original title The motor boat, but in the 1950s the suffix “& Yachting” was added to denote the general hobby enjoyed by motor boat owners. We even reviewed the occasional motorsailer for those who liked to enjoy the benefits of power and sail.
today Motor boat and yachting is dedicated only to motorized pleasure craft from 25 to 125 feet with occasional forays above and below this when interest demands it. Current editor Hugo Andreae insists he is’ terminology agnostic ‘saying,’ I don’t care if people call their boats yachts, cruisers, motorboats. or gin palates as long as they like to use them. But for the record, my 22ft Karnic is definitely a gigayacht!
What is a yacht, a yacht?
Some would say that a yacht must have sails, and as we have seen that was originally the case, but we here at Motor Boat & Yachting disagree, as it is common to refer to large motor boats like motor yachts, superyachts or even mega-yachts without any expectation that they have sails.
Others argue that a yacht should have a cabin for it to be fully considered a yacht, or that it should be at least 10m in length. If so, some longer narrow boats could technically be considered yachts, although you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who agrees with this definition.
The final test for something to be considered a yacht is harder to pin down, but it’s generally accepted that all yachts must have some aesthetic or architectural appeal to earn this haughty moniker.
Whether a boat deserves to be called a yacht is clearly subjective, but there is one thing we won’t budge on: it certainly doesn’t need to have sails!
If these are the yachts that interest you in particular, you won’t find many here, but we can wholeheartedly recommend our sister titles Yachting Monthly and Yachting World, which know a lot more about them than we do.
Larger definitions of yacht: Superyacht, megayacht or gigayacht?
Beyond the simple term yacht, there are a few other definitions of yacht worth clarifying. The most commonly used is the superyacht.
The debate still rages on what constitutes a superyacht. Any pleasure yacht with a load line length of 24m or more (not the overall length or the waterline length as is often misquoted) and a gross tonnage of 80 GT is classified as a large yacht under the MCA coding rules, resulting in a number of additional regulations to come into force, most importantly the requirement for the skipper to hold a commercially approved Yachtmaster Offshore certificate. It’s the closest thing to a technical definition of a superyacht.
However, while this once meant that most pleasure craft with a total length (LOA) of 80 feet or more fell under the category of large yachts, shipyards have become so adept at designing larger boats with a length. load line of just under 24 m than many boats with an LOA of 90 feet or more still counts as regular pleasure craft.
For this reason, some people prefer to use the simpler definition of a superyacht as any private vessel with an LOA of 100 feet or more. Even then, some would argue that a true superyacht should be a custom built yacht of at least 35m or 120ft.
The inflationary pressure on the size and terminology of yachts is such that the term superyacht itself has started to lose its relevance among the yachting elite. Owners of boats over 50m now use the term mega-yacht to categorize their larger vessels, while the less-spotted gigayacht is reserved for yachts over 100m.
Less than 100 gigayachts have been built to date, making them the rarest of the rare breeds. That said, with the world’s largest yacht now measuring over 183m, it is surely only a matter of time before the 200m mark is crossed and another term is needed. Do you have suggestions ? Send us an e-mail: [email protected]