Types of boats: planing or displacement? Here’s the difference

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Solaris Power 40 Open - Planing Boat
Solaris Power 40 Open is an example of a planing boat

I types of motor boats are many (
at least 18, do you know them all?
), but in general they can be distinguished into two main categories: planing and displacement boats. It is important to understand the difference especially for those new to boating so that they can make a first major distinction and understand a little more about it. What is the difference between a planing boat and a displacement boat?

Types of power boats: planing or displacement


Planing boat

The planing boat receives a hydrodynamic thrust that lifts it out of the water by “changing” its weight relative to the mass of water it displaces. Thus, a planing boat could be said to “glide or skim” the surface of the water.

Planing boats have the significant advantage of being able to reach higher speeds since they offer less drag. At the same time, however, they are, by and large, less comfortable on long sailings, being more exposed to rough seas and beckoning more when at anchor.

Step planing boats have been in great vogue lately. This is what the “steps” in the hull are and what they are for.

An important difference also lies in weight management. A major load increase on a planing hull can alter performance. Consequently, given the marine characteristics of the boat, this can also affect the safety of navigation.

Generally, planing boats are:

Axopar 45 XC
Axopar 45 XC

Displacement boat

A displacement boat opens its course in the water and displaces an amount of water equal to its displacement. Basically instead of “sliding” over the water, it moves it to the sides as it advances. They are generally units designed for long sailing. On a displacement hull, you can increase the loading weight without going to substantially affect sailing performance and stability.

Sasga Menorquin 54 FB
Sasga Menorquin 54 FB

Generally, displacement boats are:

  • the classic motor yachts
  • the trawlers
  • explorers and shuttles
  • are in general boats designed for long navigation and to withstand even very adverse weather and sea conditions. See all types of powerboats here.

Common points between planing and displacement boat

The differences are across the board on the entire project. In both cases, however, the design of a hull is quite delicate: it is increasingly a trade-off between performance, seaworthiness, and maneuverability. Obviously, both the type of use of the unit and the interior living volumes have their weight in defining the water lines.

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