How Far Can A Yacht Sail In A Day?

If you’ve been wondering what you and your boat are really capable of, you may ask just how far a sailboat can travel in a day. Here’s what you need to know about how far a sailing yacht can travel in a day and what you can do to enable your boat to sail farther.

How Far Can a Yacht Sail in a Day?

A yacht can sail as many as 100 nautical miles or 115 miles in one day. This is assuming that the boat is making the best possible progress downwind. If a motor is used in addition to the sail, as many as 130 nautical miles can be achieved.

What Factors go Into How Far a Yacht Can Sail in a Day?

There are a number of factors that go into how far you can sail in a day. If you want to be able to make long-distance voyages without having to sleep onboard, how far you can travel in a day matters a lot.

Boat Size and Sails

As a rule, larger boats travel more quickly than smaller ones. If you are making a very long voyage under conditions in which you don’t want to or can’t anchor, you probably have chosen a larger boat anyhow. The length of the boat, as well as the overall size, is very relevant. Longer boats go faster than shorter ones of the same weight.

Sails are also a critical factor in the time that you make. Large sails that are designed for going downwind, like a spinnaker, can make all of the difference in how rapidly your boat can sail downwind. Boats that can fly a larger Spinnaker will be much faster than those that are limited to the jib and main when going downwind. 

If you can’t go downwind and are trying to make good time cutting a tack to windward, a big Mainsail, Jibsail, and a third sail will increase your time.

Your Course

If you are traveling a straight course with few obstacles and do not need to re-adjust very often, you will make better time than if you frequently need to change course or readjust the rigging. Most sailors are only worried about traveling long distances in a day when they are traveling a course that does not allow for anchoring out or staying at a marina. Typically when you are making these sorts of long-term voyages, you will be traveling a straight course.

However, if you do want to travel a distance and you know your course will not be straight and clear, be sure that you allow for more time on your voyage.


It should come as no surprise that traveling downwind is typically fastest, as well as easiest on the sailor and boat. The strength of the wind is also irrelevant. Too strong of winds and you won’t be able to keep up full sails. Too light of wind and you won’t make good time.

Strong winds can result in rougher waves, which can make sailing much more of a challenge as well as causing a less comfortable ride even if you are going with the wind and the waves.  Pitching up and down on the waves does not do anything to help your time.

Keep in mind that sometimes even if the wind is with you, the waves won’t be. If the tide is contrary to the wind, standing waves can occur, which can significantly reduce your speed. Having the tide against you can also do a lot to slow you down.

A tide working against you can undo even the most carefully laid plans. Unfortunately, tide is often overlooked by sailors, but it can make a big difference in the time that you make. A tide that is moving only a few miles an hour may not seem like it would be strong enough to dramatically impact your speed, but fighting a current like the Gulf Stream can significantly impact your speed and throw you off course.

What if You Can’t Make it in One Day?

One of the first things that any sailor will tell you is that the only thing that is predictable about sailing is the fact that it will be predictably unpredictable.

No matter how carefully you plan, there will be times when you had hoped to reach your destination in only a day’s sail, but find night creeping closer while you are still a ways from your destination.

It is important to prepare for this eventuality. Being stuck out on the water under sail as it becomes increasingly difficult to make good decisions is a very bad situation. Know what you will do before you actually find yourself in this situation. Here are a few things that you can do if you can’t make your destination when you had planned:

Backup Marina

Know what marinas there are along your route so that you can utilize one if you haven’t made your destination on time. It’s important that you budget appropriately for the possibility of needing to stay at a marina. An unexpected marina stay can make an impact on your budget.

Anchor Out

Many sailors find it stressful to anchor out, but few would argue that it is worse than continuing to sail when you are exhausted. Know what anchorages will be available along your route, even if you would much prefer to not have to use them.

It’s best to be aware of a couple of potential anchorages so that you will have options depending on the conditions. Be sure that you have radar and can set it to alert you if you should drag.

Let Your Boat Sail Itself

Sailors who are accustomed to sailing on the open ocean don’t have too many worries about making it to their destination by nightfall. Open ocean journeys generally take several days if not several weeks.

When sailors need to cover a lot of territory on the open ocean and also need to rest, there are a few tools to help:

  • Windvane. A windvane uses the power of the wind and the pressure of the water that your boat is moving through to steer it. The more pressure on your boat, the more effectively it will steer itself. You can either set your windvane according to a compass setting or connect it to a GPS.
  • Autopilot. An autopilot uses an internal motor to steer your boat in the direction that you want it to go. You can either set your autopilot using a compass direction or you can attach it to a GPS to set a specific course. Some autopilots also connect to a windvane or other sources of information, giving you some flexibility in how to set your course.
  • GPS. A GPS makes it much easier to navigate when you cannot clearly see where you are. While you can set devices like a wind vane and autopilot with just a compass setting, most sailors find having a GPS to be both more convenient and decidedly comforting.

Making the Most of Your Day Cruises

Sometimes people who want to know how far they can sail in a day aren’t concerned about reaching a specific destination before nightfall, but rather are concerned with making the most of a day sail. This may be particularly important if you use your sailboat to take people on charter sails.

How Far Can a Yacht Sail in a Day?

If you will be sailing out for the day and coming back to the same location, you will have a decision to make as soon as you set out. Should you go upwind or downwind? When you are first starting the sail and everybody’s excited about the journey, it can be very tempting to start off with the most fun sail by going downwind.

However, this is actually a mistake. If you start out going downwind, you won’t be able to accurately gauge how long it may take you to go back upwind. This will reduce the amount of time that you get to sail overall and limit the distance that you can travel in a day sail.

Instead, set your voyage upwind first so that you will know you have a predictable and leisurely downwind sail ahead of you when you return. You’ll find your guests more able to handle the rougher upwind sail when they’re excited at the beginning, and you’ll be more confident knowing that you have a predictable downwind sail ahead of you going home.

Enjoy Sailing, However Long it Takes.

Sailing isn’t the kind of activity that you ought to do in a rush. While it can be important to know whether you can accomplish a particular journey in a day, what is more important is knowing that you will have a safe and fun trip. Be sure to always plan for what might go wrong, and you’ll enjoy every day you spend sailing.