A Guide to the Different Types of Yacht

Types of yacht

Whether you’re considering purchasing a yacht or simply want to know more about this broad term, we’ve taken a look at the definitions and different types of yacht there are out there.

What is a yacht?

Like many boat classifications, yachts don’t have strict guidelines. However, there is general acceptance that for a vessel to be considered a yacht, it should be over 10 feet in length and have a cabin with sleeping facilities on board. Find out more about buying a yacht. 

Within this classification, some of the various types of yacht include:

Sailing yachts

The traditional definition of a yacht, a sailing yacht is normally defined as a large, sail-powered vessel used for pleasure or cruising. Sail-powered vessels may also be used for sporting purposes and are explored below. Sailing yachts, like other yachts should have a cabin that can be used for overnight stays and are generally considered more aesthetically attractive than other, smaller sail-powered vehicles such as dinghies.

Motor yacht

A motor yacht, unlike a sailing yacht is a mid-size to large vessel primarily powered by motors. Also known as motor cruisers, these yachts are primarily used for cruising purposes. Larger than other motor-powered boats such as speedboats or RIBs and with fully rigid hulls and onboard amenities, they’re a common sight in coastal waters around the UK and Europe.

Hybrid yacht

A hybrid of both the motor and sailing yacht, it can vary in size, the same as both types. Offering the convenience and reliability of a motor yacht with the traditional appeal of a sailing yacht, these hybrid vessels are more and more popular for sailing enthusiasts looking for a reliable, modern yacht.

Expedition or Explorer yachts

These large, primarily motor-driven yachts are built to enable passengers to travel long distances and to remote areas. Either purpose-built or adapted, they should have big gas tanks to enable long travel without filling up and be extremely sturdy and seaworthy. As many of these vessels will travel in unpredictable polar waters, they should also have the capacity to deal with ice and withstand any potential flooding. These luxury vessels may be used as part of group expeditions, by very wealthy private owners or as part of scientific or geographical expeditions.


Open yachts

A form of motor yacht, characterized by their open roofed backs, open yachts are smaller vessels built for speed. Not quite built for racing, they’re the ideal yacht for wavemakers looking to get their adrenaline fix as they cruise the waters.

Sporting yachts

Sporting yachts may be used to refer to quick, motor-powered yachts (such as open yachts) or to small, sail-powered vessels used for racing purposes. Sail-powered racing yachts are generally very light, built from materials such as fibreglass and must be extremely manoeuvrable. While they may have small cabins, their primary purpose is speed so will likely not include extensive amenities on board.

Classic yachts

There is no firm definition of a classic yacht, but these cherished vessels hold a dear place in many hearts. By some definitions, to be considered a classic, the boat should have been built before 1975 and consist of a wooden hull – although this is contested by many organizations. What does seem to be in consensus is that a classic yacht is all about its history and aesthetic – it should make you think and make you feel.


These distinctive yachts are famously the vessels of celebrities cruising turquoise waters around the world. Made up of two equally sized separate hulls, its design means it requires less wind power to propel itself. The connection between the two hulls varies by design and may be more solid, or primarily a strong netting – ideal for sunbathing and relaxing.

Do you currently own a yacht? Whether you’re looking for yacht insurance to cover contents on board, or motor cruiser insurance in case of machinery failure, GJW Direct cover a range of different vessels subject to exclusions and limitations.



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