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What is a Classic Yacht?

Boating experts, boat owners and boating enthusiasts all differ on what defines a ‘Classic Yacht’. Some say a 'Classic Yacht' has to be a wooden hull with handmade craftmanship. Others have definitions that allow steel boats into the 'Classic Yacht' category while some argue it is purely about the emotion and history related to a yacht. But should the definition include a concrete rule about what year the boat was built? Or should this category of boat be defined by the style of their sail - for example a gaff-rigged or cutter?

Here is a collection of opinions and definitions from around the sailing community. After reading this, you'll have to make up your own mind as to what the definition should be!

British Classic Yacht Club (BCYC)

"The definition of a Classic Yacht is subjective, but includes some of the most beautiful yachts ever built; Some have notable racing records, whilst others represent design milestones in the development of sailing yachts. Many have been rescued and lovingly restored." Read their full definition

Charles Stanley Cowes Classic Week

"There is no real definition of a classic yacht and the convention has been for a long time at classic regattas to use a cut-off date of around 1970 for boats built in wood or steel."

Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta

“Most of us in the yachting scene know a genuine Classic when we see one. She was built years ago when all yachts were things of beauty and grace with fine lines and acres of canvas. The survivors of that golden era are unmistakably classic." Read their full definition

Classic Boat Magazine

Written by the original Editor of Classic Boat Magazine in the first issue in January 1987, Pete Greenfield takes a winding look at the definition(s) or Classic Boats and attempts to categorise certain fleets and classes of boats. Read his full article

Classic Boat Forum

“A Classic boat has pedigree, style and is part of the heritage of boat design whilst being an outstanding example of its type.” Join the forum discussion

Griff Rhys Jones, owner of SY Argyll, 1948 57" Yewl

In an interview with Privatsea Magazine, comedian Griff Rhys Jones discussed why he was attracted to his classic yacht Argyll and the trials of owning her: "Beauty in classic yachts is a major factor. It is not an investment. There is no return on wooden boats... You buy these boats in order to love them"

Andrew Pearson, owner of SY Bojar, 1937 52" cutter

“It is really a design concept. The BCYC believe it based on the design concept of original boats so there isn’t an absolutely fixed concept but it rules out modern boats made of glass fibre and similar materials. It excludes modern GRP boats but it does include modern replicas called Spirits of Tradition."


So then, what defines a 'Classic Yacht'?

Whether your answer to this question is based on age, materials, individuality or pure passion, one thing that can't be argued is the stunning aesthetic appeal that a classic yacht possesses. Glancing through the images of a few selected yachts on this page, the overwhelming reaction, I’m sure, will be the same – “wow, she’s beautiful”.



Click to enlarge and scroll