The term “yachting” is derived from the word “yacht”, a British term borrowed from the Dutch “jacht”, which originally meant very fast sailing boats used for commerce raiding or for the rapid transportation of people. The modern sense, since the 19th century, sees it as a boat designed exclusively for recreational use. Today, it refers to a large, luxury and decked pleasure craft powered by sail or motorised.

“Of all the amusements, give me yachting.”

Frederick Marryatt, English ship captain and novelist (1792-1848)

Yachting is the practice of navigation using this type of boats. It appeared in England at the end of the 18th century and developed mainly from the first half of the 19th century in Anglo-Saxon countries. It was very popular with aristocrats, shipowners and sailors: “Of all the amusements, give me yachting” wrote in 1845 the English ship captain and novelist Frederick Marryatt (1792-1848). In France, the word was adopted in the middle of the 19th century, as an addition to the word “pleasure” which qualified the ships more than the practice itself. The activity was practised by the social elite until the mid-20th century, before so-called “pleasure” boating became more democratic.

Postcard of a yacht race at the beginning of the 20th century on the French Riviera (coll part)

Since its origins, the practice of yachting has centred around specific clubs, the “yacht clubs”, still called “Sociétés des régates” in France, which regularly organise races in the coastal sea. Today, the term “yachting” in France still has a chic and old-fashioned connotation, in comparison with the term “pleasure”, which is more modern and popular in spirit.