Super Giga Mega

21 May 2009 By Rubi McGrory

Some non-yachtie friends recently encountered a woman in a local bar who prefaced every statement with “My fiancé is the captain of a superyacht.” They asked me to translate the size differential, since to them, any yacht that needs people to work on it seems pretty super.

The best explanation I could come up with was a Starbucks comparison. Starbucks has Tall, Grande and Venti sizes – which all sound pretty big, especially when I just want a cup of coffee.

Is your particular vessel a luxury yacht, superyacht, megayacht or gigayacht? Baristas at Starbucks have little posters explaining the difference between Grande (big) and Venti (bigger), but no amount of trawling the Internet produced absolutes regarding yacht size. “Luxury yacht” seems to be uniformly agreed upon as being any yacht requiring crew. Easy. Simple. Let’s move on.

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia – not always reliable, but a great starting point – has two opposing demarcation systems. Under the heading “yacht,” it states that anything larger than 100 feet (30.5 meters) is a megayacht, and anything larger than 200 feet (61 meters) is a superyacht. Conversely, under the heading “luxury yacht,” it states that mega and giga are equal prefixes attributed to the largest yachts on the planet, 300-plus feet (100-plus meters), while superyachts hover around 100 feet., a non-user-interface online resource, also makes the same claim about mega- and gigayachts being equal. Googling didn’t prove much more helpful. quantified mega- and superyachts as being equals at 80 feet (24 meters) or larger.

The recent Abu Dhabi Yacht Show teased a “Super and Mega-Yacht Spectacle,” but failed to mention which was which. Even brokers aren’t willing to commit. They list themselves as specialists in mega- and superyacht sales, but only differentiate between sail and power on their sites. Super = mega, mega = giga, mega is larger than super, super is larger than mega, help!

I can’t even find consistency in the spelling: sometimes they are hyphenated, other times separated by a space and still others (as in this article), they are written as one word.

So, more confused than ever, sipping my soy-mocha-venti-decaf cafe latte, I go straight to where the money is: the awards ceremonies.


On its website, the International Superyacht Society (ISS) defines a superyacht as any luxury yacht larger than 24 meters (78 feet) and while it doesn’t provide definitions for super- and gigayachts, it does divides yachts into the following design categories: 24 to 40 meters (78 to 131 feet), 40 to 65 meters (131 to 213 feet) and 65 meters and up (214 feet plus).

Feeling confident, like I might be getting my head around this, I surfed over to the website for the World Superyacht Awards, sponsored by Boat International Media — parent company of Dockwalk. There I find the equivalent of ordering coffee in ground beans per cup: its awards categories are based on gross tonnage. Luckily, there are length sub-listings for those of us with non-nautical-engineer numerical ability.

The World Superyacht Awards start at 30 meters (98 feet). The categories are as follows: 30 to 49 meters (98 to 161 feet), 50 to 59 meters (164 to 194 feet), 60 to 84 meters (197 to 275 feet) and an additional category of 85 meters and above (278 feet).

Even the experts can’t agree. Somebody has to make a decision. So, based on my exhaustive research and subsequent lack of definitive answers, I offer you my unequivocal standards of yacht prefix, soon to be standard in spell check worldwide:

Superyacht: 24 to 45 meters (78 to150 feet)

Megayacht: 46 to 65 meters (150 to 213 feet)

Gigayacht: 66 to 90 meters (213 to 295 feet)

Bigassyacht*: 91-plus meters (300 feet or more)

*The next metric term would be tera (as in kilobyte, gigabyte, terabyte, etc). However, I fear this would only cause greater confusion, since terra is the Latin root word meaning earth, and I’m pretty sure there’s no dockage anywhere for an earth-sized yacht.

Which category does your yacht fall into? Or would you rather just have a shot of espresso?