Types of Sailing Yachts by Age

9 December 2015


The word “yacht” comes from the obsolete Dutch jaght (hunt), now “jacht” and short for “jachtschip”, literally a fast “hunting ship”. It was originally defined as a light fast sailing vessel used by the Dutch navy to pursue pirates and other transgressors around the shallow waters of the Low Countries. After its selection by Charles II of England as the vessel to carry him to England from the Netherlands for his restoration in 1660, the term came to be used to mean a vessel used to convey important persons. Nowadays, a yacht is a recreational boat or ship, used for pleasure cruising or racing.

Differentiating them from sailboats, generally smaller and normally used for day-sailing, sailing yachts are generally 25 meters (82 ft) in length or larger, although the largest sailing yacht available for charter, measures 90 meters (295 ft).



A classic sailing yacht is for those wanting a genuine sailing experience or who want to capture the real romance and thrill of traditional yachting. These may not have quite the level of luxury, comfort and amenities of more recent sailboats, but they are the first choice of genuine sailors.

Historically so popular, classic sailing Yachts are still built nowadays, by several shipyards (mostly European), with new technologies, especially the largest and finest J CLASS yachts designed to compete. The J Class has its roots in the oldest sporting race in the world, the America’s Cup. In 2000, the owners of these vessels met in England and formed the J Class Association to protect the interests of the Class, present and future. Class Rules were established for the construction of replica rebuilds from original plans.

On the French and Italian Riviera, you will find plenty of events and Regattas reuniting all these historical and classic sailboats like the CALANQUES CLASSIQUE, some stages of the GIRAGLIA ROLEX CUP, VOILES D’ANTIBES, ARGENTARIO SAILING WEEK, LES VOILES DU VIEUX PORT, MONACO CLASSIC WEEK, TROPHÉE PASQUI, HYÈRES VOILES TRADITION, as well as the more famous REGATES ROYALES and VOILES DE SAINT-TROPEZ.

See the article on our blog Yachting and the French Riviera for more details on these classic sailing yachts regattas.


A modern sailing yacht is perfect for those who want the size, comfort, amenities and facilities of a motor yacht with the undisputed appeal and flexibility of sailing.

In recent years, these yachts have evolved from fairly simple vessels with basic accommodation into sophisticated and luxurious boats. This is largely due to the new technologies and the introduction of fibreglass hulls, and increased automation and ‘production line’ techniques for yacht building, especially in Europe. Modern sailing yachts have increased performance and efficient sail-plans that allow them to sail close to the wind. This capability is the result of a sail-plan and hull design.

Modern sailing yachts are most commonly used for cruising in private use. These vessels can be quite complex in design, as they need a balance between easy handling qualities, interior space, good light-wind performance and on-board comfort, with plenty of state-of-the art entertainment equipment. The huge range of such craft, from dozens of builders worldwide, makes it hard to give a single illustrative description. Such a vessel will usually have a sleek design, with ample beam and several cabins below deck, a single large salon with galley, seating and navigation equipment; as well as various heads and ensuite bathrooms. The interior is often finished in wood paneling, with plenty of storage space. Cruisers are quite capable of taking on long-range passages of many thousands of miles. Such boats have increased performance and a significant speed upwards. This basic design is typical of the standard types produced by the major yacht-builders.

A modern sailing yacht may also be a ‘cruiser-racer’, which as the name implies is a blend between the cruiser and racing variants. This is often a builder’s existing design with changes to the rigging, sails, keel and controls to provide better performance. Some of the interior appointments may be reduced or removed to save weight.

Please surf through our entire website listings of sailing yachts by age.