Choosing a Blue Water Yacht – Hull Shape


Over the coming weeks, Grabau International will take you through a variety of subjects which encompass choosing the right yacht for blue water adventures. The following guide is not written to dictate what to choose, or to supply a comprehensive encyclopedia of every option and variable, but simply a basic explanation of the main options and some guidance on what to look out for. Finding a yacht will always be a battle of your head over your heart, so the purpose of this guide is to give your head some questions to ask in the hope that an amicable compromise can be made with your heart. Part 2 of this guide looks a the question of hull shapes.


Hull Shapes

Hull shape is arguably the single most important aspect of yacht design. The shape will dictate how the yacht performs under all conditions and usages, how much volume there is internally, and how it can be arranged and also point towards how the yacht will look. Many modern yacht manufacturers will employ naval architects specifically to produce the hull lines whilst a further team may look after the aesthetic design and interior.

Yachting encompasses such a broad spectrum of environments that it is impossible to create just one set of hull lines that will work best for everyone. Those looking to race around the cans will require a totally different hull shape to those looking to head off around the world. Even for those die-hard globe-trotters amongst us, the decision as to which way to head (East or West) may also have a bearing on hull shape as windward sailing tends to favour a differing hull shape to downwind sailing.

For most, the ideal hull shape will be one which allows for a number of disciplines, be it ‘cruiser-racing’ or ‘coastal cruising with the ability to go further afield when required’. Fortunately the yachting market offers a plethora of designs available to ensure that there is something out there for everyone, from the most focused of racing yachts or bluewater cruisers to the ‘jack of all trades’ cruising yachts.

classic hull design

Modern Hull Shape

The Naval Architect’s dream. If you design a yacht broad and with generous freeboard, Noah could fit all his animals on a 32ft yacht. Offering excellent form stability and stiffness, there is very little to touch them off the wind, and the added volume at the stern does wonders for stability as the wind moves aft of the beam. The flatter bottomed hull shapes can potentially cause slamming in choppy sea conditions, but this is thankfully quite rare as only the most minor of tweaks to the hull lines can soften or remove this characteristic completely without compromising outright performance.

Examples: Italia Yachts, X-Yachts, Solaris, Shipman, Grand Soleil, Hanse, Beneteau, Jeanneau, Dufour et al

Modern performance yachts

Modern Performance Cruiser-Racers

Traditional Hull Shape

The term traditional encapsulates everything from the Noah’s Ark up to today. In broad terms, you will be looking at a hull shape withless volume at the stern, a deeper hull section forward and aft of the keel, and generally lower levels of internal volume over her more modern counterparts. Overall performance may be slower, but invariably more traditional yachts will be a delight to windward, peerless in heavier airs and (depending on your eye) prettier. Many manufacturers still adopt traditional lines with their new yachts.

Examples: Sparkman & Stephens Swans, Rustler, Rival Bowman, Pacific Seacraft, Camper & Nicholson, Vancouver etc.

morris m36

Morris Yachts M36

Moderate Hull Shape

In very simple terms, a combination of the above two. Keep a foot firmly in both camps to provide a  steady balance of internal volume, performance, sea keeping, and comfort at anchor. They won’t win races, nor will they be the first choice for Noah, but they do offer an excellent ‘real world’ option for those who has aspirations to head off on blue water adventures in comfort and safety,

Examples: Oyster,  Contest, Oyster, Discovery, Saturn Yachts, Hylas, Hallberg Rassy, Malo, Nordia, Trintella etc

Saturn 48
Saturn Yachts 48


Very popular in the Caribbean and for good reason.  Acres of internal and external space, combined with a stable platform, blistering performance (off the wind) and the privacy of placing guests in the opposite hull to the owner’s suite. Doomsayers will scream loud and fast about what happens when it all goes wrong, but in our experience multihull sailors are some of the safest and most responsible yachtsmen on the high seas. Do however, bear in mind the added logistics of finding a broad enough marina berth.

Examples: Discovery, Gunboat, Lagoon, Priviledge, Fontaine Pajot etc.

cruising catamaran

An example of a modern cruising catamaran
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