Sailing regattas attract many different types of sailing ships. Some of them are referred to as tall ships, sailing ships, whereas others as yachts or sailboats. We commonly use these terms without thinking much what they actually mean. Let’s try and make things a bit clear.
We say sailing ship while referring to large vessels powered by sails and the force of wind. When we see tall masts, a mash of riggingi, a bowspritii, often a figureheadiii, it is SHE (British people used to refer to sailing ships as SHE). Today, such ships are used for various purposes. Thus, we have navy sailing ships (e.g. Quautemoc, ORP Iskra), which provide training to military cadets. Some other ships belong to maritime universities (e.g. Dar Młodzieży) and students have their sail training on board before they become seafarers on commercial vessels. Sailing ships are also used to provide training for young people and adults, all those who are hungry of the first-hand experience of work at sea (e.g. Pogoria, Fryderyk Chopin). Finally, there can also be passenger sailing ships (e.g. Royal Clipper).
We use the term yacht to refer to smaller ships, usually sailing ships that are 20 to 30 meters long. They often have more modern shape and rigging. These are used for leisure, regatta and training. If we come across a smaller vessel, such as Optimistiv or Omegav, we can call it with a colloquial term of a sailboat. Experienced sailors, who respect tradition, prefer to use the term YACHT. Thus, we can distinguish between sailing ships and yachts. The former used to carry goods and people and were operated for commercial purposes, whereas yachts have been used for leisure, sport and recreation. In fact, the registration decides whether a vessel is a sailing ship or a yacht. It also determines qualifications required from the captain and the crew.