Parts of a Sailing Yacht

Parts of a sailing yacht, Ocean Hiker Sailing Course

Parts of a sailing yacht

Parts of a Sailing Yacht

We have nowadays many different designs of sailing yachts with many different rigs or sail plans. Generally we can say that every sailing yacht will have a hull which is the body of the vessel, a mast and most likely any sort of keel. We refer sometimes as well to keel boats when we are talking sailing yachts.

The Hull of a sailing yacht

We differentiate between mono hull sailing yacht or multi hull sailing yacht. Most mono hulls are displacement hulls meaning that they displace water while moving through it. This has an effect on speed and stability compared to multi hulls which are more considered as glider with a very low displacement and being therefore capable of higher speed.

Mono hull of a sailing yacht

We can further differentiate between mono hulls with a fin keel or with a long keel or even twin keel.  Again these will affect the performance of the yacht.

A fin keel is usually found on performance orientated or racing yachts. The keel is responsible to reduce drift while sailing to windward.  Some yachts can retract their keel when sailing downwind to reduce unnecessary drag underneath the yacht and where is no drift to be  reduced.

Along keel has great stability and is found more on cruising yachts or on more traditional designs. It is performing poor to windward. Advantages are less draft for moving in shallow waters and the possibility for easy haul out or letting falling the hull dry for maintenance. This can be a important aspect for low budget cruising sailors or circumnavigators since we can not find travel-lifts throughout the world.

Multi hull of a sailing yacht

on a multi hull like a catamaran or trimaran we can find mostly retractable keels which are called dagger boards. These are like on mono hulls used when sailing windward to reduce drift to lee.

Hull material of a sailing yacht

Ferro Cement Hull with Longkeel / Ocean Hiker Sailing Course

Ferro Cement Hull with Longkeel / Ocean Hiker Sailing Course

A hull of a sailing yacht can be made out of many different materials. Most common nowadays is fiberglass. Still, depending on the mission of the yacht to undergo and depending on funds other materials like wood, aluminum, steel, plywood- epoxy, ferro-cement and even copper-nickel are used.

– Fiberglass / GFK: a mould has to be created where the glass and the epoxy resin forms the shape of the hull. Mostly used for production yachts where many of the same hulls are produced out of a single mould.  Fiberglass shows no problems with corrosion and keeps maintenance low over many years. Problems know with this material are osmosis which is humidity or water within the fiberglass which causes rotting. Attention: this material is easily holed by debris floating within the oceans and could sink your vessel if it is not build with several sealable bulkheads which would make the vessel unsinkable.

Wood : traditional and probably the oldest boat building material and still used nowadays throughout the world but becoming increasingly very expansive.  Wood is a very easy to handle and warm natural material. Many different types of wood are used for boats in various ways. Since it is organic material wood is prone to rotting if it is not attended properly. Attention: this material is easily holed by debris floating within the oceans and could sink your vessel if it is not build with several sealable bulkheads which would make the vessel unsinkable.


– Aluminium: most popular metal for yacht hulls is aluminum. It is light weight and does have very little corrosion but it is therefore more expansive than steel. An aluminum hull can be still holed because of lower material strength unless build in Strong-build technology where the hull thickness is more than 10mm and frames does not need to be used.

– Steel is a very strong metal for its cost and very popular too for many cruising sailors. It is regarded as safest material because it is not as easy holed than any other material but it needs professional attention to curb corrosion.

– Copper-Nickel: is the top of the range metal. It combines the almost non corrosion of aluminum and the strength of steel in one metal. It’s annual corrosion is measured at around 0.01mm per year. Not many yachts made out of copper nickel are to be found since the metal has it’s hefty price. Another advantage next to non corrosion is that this material has its self anti fouling property. Copper-nickel hulls are usually not painted on the underwater ship since the copper resists any marine grows on the hull.

The Rudder of a sailing yacht

Skeg Rudder Sailing Course

Skeg rudder and fin keel on catamaran

The rudder of a sailing yacht helps us steering the vessel through the water and keeping our course. Situated in the rear underneath the hull it controls the water flow and is altering the direction of the yacht if turned. We can differentiate between skeg-rudder, spade-rudder or twin-rudder. Spade and twin rudder are found on performance yachts. They have good steering attack but can be very easy disabled when hitting debris since they are only hung underneath the hull on their own rudder-shaft. A bend rudder shaft is not repairable in the ocean.

A skeg-rudder is more the cruisers choice.The skeg is not only the hinch for the rudder but a protector too. On the photo right it we can see a skeg-rudder of a catamaran.

The mast and boom of a sailing yacht

Freestanding masts on a Freedom 40 / Ocean Hiker Sailing Course

Freestanding masts on a Freedom 40

every sailing yacht needs of course a mast to get the sail up into the air. How long and how many masts the yacht has is depend on the rig which is applied. Masts are nowadays mostly made of aluminum because of its low weight. Masts made out of wood can still be found but getting rare. The mast is kept in position by shrouds and stays which running from the top down to the deck of the hull. Some sailing yacht designs like the Freedom design is equipped with freestanding masts, meaning a masts without shrouds and stays.

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