Five things to consider before buying your first sailing yacht

Written by Francesca Webster

For our latest ‘how to’ topic, we contacted some of the top brokers in the industry, to find out the five most important things to consider when buying your first sailing yacht. 

  • To go cruising or to go racing
  • Make sure your sailing yacht can travel all destinations you want
  • If you want to charter your yacht or to make her private, think of it beforehand
  • Determine the water toys you need to bring on board
  • The nostalgia of an old vessel vs. the excitement of writing your own history with a new sailboat

All About U 2 yacht deckPhoto: PozitifStudioWhat type of sailing are you looking to do - cruising vs. racing? 

Racing and cruising vessels have a unique set of characteristics and specifications and they often come with a vastly different price bracket. High-performance vessels are often more technically advanced and more challenging to sail, demanding more crew and investment. This should be a consideration.Path sailing yacht on sea trialsTim Carbury of Fraser commented, “I think everyone wants a boat that sails properly. Today, most sailing yachts are designed with some sort of performance or sailing ability in mind. The large Perini Navi yachts are a good example. Most clients want to buy something that is primarily for cruising, but has the ability to go regatta sailing.”State of Grace yacht sailingPhoto: EdmistonWhere is the Intended sailing location?

Where you want to sail is a major factor when buying any yacht, but especially a sailing yacht. Keel depth is an important consideration when thinking about your desired cruising ground.Sailing Yacht Athos world tour 2015 - 2018. MicronesiaPhoto: S/Y AthosNick Hill, Partner at Hill Robinson, commented, “Many first time big yacht owners buy sailing yachts to do a circumnavigation – which means long term planning for reliable engineering and easy maintenance to traverse large expanses of ocean.”

Henry Smith, Partner & Director of Cecil Wright & Partners, remarked, “If you are going to spend a lot of time sailing in shallow waters around the Bahamas you will need to consider the draft and it’s quite possible a number of yachts with a fixed keel will be ruled out. Should you opt for a fixed keel, a draft of 4.75m is about optimal, enabling a yacht to enter most popular ports around the world. Should you want a lifting keel then you will need to factor this into the not insignificant cost of a new build and this will likely be reflected in the asking price of a brokerage yacht.”Melek yacht beach club platformDo you intend to charter your yacht or is this going to be a private, family vessel?

Yachts entering the charter market demand different focal points than vessels used solely for private sailing. Vessels which are too individualistic will struggle in the charter market, and a yacht which has been tailored for north Atlantic exploration, won’t thrive in the Mediterranean. 

Tim Langead, Sales Broker at Camper & Nicholsons, commented, “The sailing yacht market is almost the opposite of the motor yacht market, in that the majority are private. Whether you are planning to charter a yacht is an important consideration from the beginning of the motor yacht purchasing process, however it’s a question that comes much later when buying a sailing yacht.”Iemanja yacht anchoredPhoto: Camper & Nicholsons InternationalNick Hill added that crew accommodation is also an important factor. “The majority of sailing yachts have a single accommodation deck, so crew interaction is often inevitable, and the level of service tends to be more informal, simply due to the space and facilities available.”

What is the yacht equipped with, such as diving equipment, toys - this can determine size:

Henry Smith of Cecil Wright & Partners commented, “We don’t generally see sailing boats with large inventories of toys – there just isn’t space. The toys we tend to see are smaller sailing dinghies, electric surfboards and similar. However, the era of the chase boat is creeping into sailing yachts now and they are becoming more common. In one instance I have worked on recently, we equipped a chase boat as a mobile dive centre where the owner can rest and enjoy the trappings of his sailing yacht between dives without the need to return to the sailing yacht itself.”Eleonora E yacht during the Monaco Classic Week 2013Photo: Merijn de Waard / SuperYacht TimesWhat are the advantages and disadvantages of used vs. new sailing yachts?

With differing lead times, costs and options for customisation, the difference between any type of new and used yacht is consistent, but sailing yachts have their own particular advantages and disadvantages. 

Tim Carbury remarked, “Some of the buyers I work with appreciate the provenance of a sailing yacht. There is quite often a lot of nostalgia with sailboats – some owners love the idea of knowing that the boat is 30 years old and has been round the world a few times and been upgraded by different owners along the way. Of course, sailing yachts have different areas of wear and tear to motor yachts, and for some owners, a new boat with fresh rigging and sails is what they want.”Ngoni yacht cruisingPhoto: Jeff BrownFinally Tim Langmead of Camper & Nicholsons added, “The big advantage of buying a used sailing yacht is, of course, the price. On the flip side, you inherit the previous owner’s issues. Technology is moving so quickly, especially in terms of rigging, masts and sails, that you risk being behind the tech curve if you buy a ten-year-old yacht.”Alexia yacht cruisingPhoto: Camper & Nicholsons International

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