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Sail vs. Motor

To sail or to motor? Clearly there are differences in the construction, operation and enjoyment of each type of yacht. Though multi-deck motor yachts predominate the world’s fleet of superyachts, there is a significant number of sailing yachts, too. Statistics suggest that this figure already exceeds 10% of the fleet, a percentage thought to be on the increase.

Each type of yacht has its supporters. Motor yacht owners wax lyrical about the high volumes of space aboard their vessels dedicated to recreational use, while sail boat aficionados love the sheer romance of it all, the excitement of the race, and the more eco-friendly nature of their craft. There are detractors, too. Owners of motor yachts call sails ‘laundry’, with sailing crew referred to as ‘rag monkeys’. The sailing crowd return the favour with vigour, referring to motor yachts as ‘stink pots’ and their crews as ‘grease monkeys’.

So - Sail or Motor?

Statistically, many superyachts do not spend enough of their lives navigating the oceans so it is largely immaterial whether their owner chooses motor or sail. However, for owners who do intend to enjoy their yacht and to travel to distant places, a sailing yacht will undoubtedly provide the greatest enjoyment; that true feeling of quietly gliding through the ocean with the power of the wind. From a green perspective, most certainly the sailing yacht can claim to be the better option, with by far the lower carbon footprint. Sailing yachts add further levels of interest and technique that must appeal strongly to all of us who really love yachts and the sea.

Which type of vessel is hardest to find crew for?

Sailing yachts are generally harder to recruit for, especially under 35m as this is a niche market. Analysis of crew agencies activity shows that 89% of our jobs related to motor yachts, 11% to sail. This is coherent with the worldwide fleet of yachts. It is almost common experience that, for instance, recruiting engineers for sailing yachts is always challenging as the pool of candidates with the drive, passion and interest to succeed and make a long-term impact on board a sailing yacht is small.

Also, smaller work and living space make it challenging to attract mature crew who, with time and as they go up the ranks, will be lured away  by motor yachts offering more space and therefore comfort of movements. There is a clear benefit in using established crew agencies to source crew for sailing yachts, as these agencies will have the adequate network to find the best crew.

What are the challenges? 

Newcomers, especially on the interior side, are often concerned about joining a sailing yacht if they have no prior recreational sailing experience. Of course, some are not able to overcome seasickness. On the deck side, many crew rise up the ranks in sail yachts to then switch to motor yachts at chief officer level, with a view to gaining senior officer experience before going for their first motor yacht Captain’s job. Experienced sailing crew looking for work are generally in demand by motor yacht captains as they are perceived as having more of a well rounded hands on experience and a team spirited attitude.

Are there differences in crew salaries?

Sailing yachts used to pay a lot less than motor yachts. These days the gap is narrowing and, in fact, large sailing yachts are often on a par with motor yachts.

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