Motorboat Expert

Independent Yachting Magazine

Not sure which is better, a sailing yacht or a motorboat? Here are some important nuances

Sailing yacht vs motor yacht

Updated on May 31st, 2024

At the moment when you decide to escape from the earthly bustle to the sea, realizing that the ocean and coastal views are the love of your life, the problem of choosing the yacht of your dreams usually comes. Buying a yacht is easy. But it is difficult to choose from the first time the yacht that will satisfy you in all nuances: from comfort on open water to the cost of maintenance.

There is not always a clear division of sailors into two camps: sail lovers and motor lovers. Despite the fact that you can often hear about their alleged “opposition”, a huge number of boaters are equally in love with all types of boats.

In order to accurately determine the preferred type of yacht, it is better to go to sea several times on different types of boats for a long time, at least a week. Otherwise, all arguments about the advantages and disadvantages of sails and motors will be empty, because the most important element will be missing – personal feelings. Of course, here we are talking primarily about boats up to 24 meters, which you will want to manage yourself, without a professional crew, because in the world of superyachts the approach to choosing will already be a little different.

It is possible that, despite your initial idea of ​​sailing yachts as the epitome of beauty and freedom, you may not like the constant fuss with rigging, dependence on the wind, constant heel, low speed, limited space, dampness and other things that accompany sailing.

On the other hand, you may be a fan of the speed and ease of handling that motor yachts have to offer, but you may not like the too obvious dependence of the distance traveled on the amount of fuel that even cruise powerboats consume in huge quantities, not to mention the larger ones. boats. The same aspect ties you to gas stations, so the calculation of the route is always based on them, which does not always fit in with the freedom of a sea traveler.

However, today solar and hydrogen catamarans can provide non-stop cruising. Or at the very least eliminate dependence on liquid fossil fuels entirely. Therefore, we hope that the fuel problem will soon remain only on the pages of history books.

Usually, sail lovers say that a motor yacht is, first of all, a transport and its main purpose is to take you to a place. In contrast, it is often argued that a sailing yacht is already a destination. Allegedly, a sailing yacht can be compared to meditation, where the goal is the process itself. Contrary to such reasoning, in fact, all people are different and many get much more pleasure from the relaxed and comfortable driving of a motor yacht, sitting in a cozy cabin with a mug of coffee, contemplating the water surface and the surrounding landscapes rushing by, than from being in a cramped and often , wet, the cockpit of a sailboat, trying not to fall overboard due to a heel.

Even the constant noise of diesel engines, put forward as a negative feature of motor yachts, is not perceived by everyone as something negative. But there are also hybrid and fully electric, almost silent power plants.

On the other hand, it is just as convenient to drink coffee on a catamaran, even if it is sailing. There is no roll, the space is amazing, the stability is excellent, the safety is maximum, the savings are enormous. But initially it can be more expensive than monohull.


The main argument in favor of a sailing yacht is usually that it does not require fuel to travel, so costs are reduced many times over. But it is not so.

A sailing vessel can indeed cover most of the distance without a motor if it is in a zone of stable winds. But all the equipment of the boat, to the surprise of novice shipowners, is subject to wear and tear and must be replaced periodically. If you do not change the sails and rigging in time, then the most harmless consequences are the deterioration of running characteristics, and the most deplorable ones are the mast breaking in a storm.

But it is not all that bad. The recommended replacement period for Dacron woven sails is every 3,500 to 4,000 hours of operation. The typical yacht owner, who sails a couple of times a month and makes an annual monthly cruise, will accumulate no more than 240 hours in a year. This means that he will need to replace the sails only after 16 years. In the conditions of life on board and continuous travel around the world, this period can be reduced to two and a half years.

But when it comes to expensive laminate materials, periodic participation in difficult regattas and frequent sailings in stormy conditions, the price tag for the maintenance of such a sailboats can not only catch up, but also exceed the cost of fuel for motor yachts, even together with their repair and maintenance.

The most damaging effect on sail fabric is ultraviolet radiation. Accordingly, in the northern latitudes around the UK, Dacron will last much longer than in the Caribbean. With regard to standing rigging, you can focus on a service life of 10-12 years in the “life on board” mode and 2-4 years in racing conditions. Very conditional, of course.

Be that as it may, you can buy used sails for a fraction of the cost of new ones, but you can’t buy used fuel. And fuel on motor yachts is the main stumbling block, because during transitions it flows away at such a speed, as if you had a fist-sized hole in the tank. And the whole cruise under the motor is just purposeful movement from gas station to gas station. Until electric propulsion becomes the norm on all motor yachts and internal combustion engines become an anachronism, the question of fuel will remain the most relevant in this debate.

Life on board

Here, too, everything is ambiguous. Someone may argue that it is much more comfortable to be in a sailing yacht with a ballast keel in any sea state. Other things being equal, this is true. But as a rule we do not anchor for long periods in unprotected places. Both sailing yachts and motor yachts, everyone will always look for bays or marinas that are closed against the wind and waves. And, of course, it all depends on the size of the boat. In addition, modern active stabilization systems for small motor yachts can work not only while moving, but also at anchorage.

But the craving for sails is inexplicable, and life in this style feels completely different. Tackle handling in itself is an advantage for many skippers, not a disadvantage. And when the sails are filled with the wind, you can experience an incredible feeling of flight. When you buy a sailing yacht, chances are you’re ready for a transatlantic passage and some of the dangerous storm-fighting that includes sleepless nights and everything that can go wrong.

Sailing speed is not that high, so when given a storm warning, a sailboat usually just sails through the storm rather than running away from it. A warning in this case helps to take the necessary measures and prepare yourself and the boat for a shake-up.

A motor yacht designed for more or less safe crossing of the oceans is a class A vessel. Such vessels are incomparably more expensive and larger than typical sailing cruisers. In some cases, their powerful engines can allow course adjustments to suit the weather. But it is a mistake to believe that their speed characteristics always allow you to avoid storms.

Class B offshore motor yachts, as well as Class C, are generally only seen in fine weather and are usually within sight of the coastline. Usually, at the first sign of worsening weather, they turn the key to start their engines and leave at maximum speed for a safe closed place.


The main coordinate should be your personal feeling, goals, worldview and the amount of free finance, some of which will go to the maintenance of the yacht. If your main goal is diving, then obviously the boat should serve as a fast transport to the dive sites. A motor yacht would definitely be an ideal choice. A motor yacht can also act as a floating hotel that will accommodate all your guests.

Sailing yachts are not about speed and spaciousness. They are bought for two reasons: for the sake of the sail itself and for the sake of trying to save money when traveling. You can cross the Atlantic on a rather modest sailboat, while a motor yacht for such a purpose should have excellent seaworthiness and a decent size, and these are completely different budgets.

There is an excellent compromise – a sailing catamaran. It has many advantages, but the main thing is that it eliminates the problem of constant roll during the transition, characteristic of classic yachts, and also has a huge living space.

It is useful to mention another, intermediate type of vessel – a motorsailer. This is an attempt to combine the best of both worlds. Some designs, it must be admitted, are quite successful and elegant, but in general, versatility is almost always a compromise.

And of course, alternative energy sources completely change our attitude towards motor yachts. Solar panels, hybrid power plants, hydrogen fuel cells – all this is already actively used at sea and it remains only to wait for their cost reduction and efficiency increase.