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New to Yachting

  • Writer's pictureChloé Collet

As Spring approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, the many yachts scattered all over the world will start to prepare for the summer cruising season. Yachts of all types and sizes will complete their winter shipyard work or cruises and head for the Mediterranean hot spots, East and West. In crew recruitment we will start our busiest search and placement period, from March through to June.


The Role of Yacht Size in Crew Recruitment

Many of our international crew, both experienced or green will be seeking a new opportunity onboard. Very often the question of the size of the yacht will be discussed as this determines the duties and responsibilities that go hand in hand with the operation of a smaller or larger yacht. Prospective crew candidates will be seeking a position on a yacht over or under a certain size or length. It is generally accepted that a superyacht is considered to measure over 24 metres. Indeed there are many rules and regulations that will come into play for yachts once they are over the 24 metre mark.



The Imperial and Metric Systems: Yacht Measurement Units

Two units are commonly used to measure and classify a yacht, feet and metres. The Imperial System for feet and the Metric System for metres. The British Imperial System evolved Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and customary units that were employed in the Middle Ages. These thousands of local units were codified in 1824 and again in 1878 by the Weights and Measures Act on the basis of a selection of existing units. On the contrary, the metre is a rational system based on multiples of 10. But what is a metre? Where did it originate from?


The History and Origin of the Metre

From the Greek ‘metron’ meaning measure, the metre is part of the international decimal system of weights and measures, the metre for length and the kilogram for mass. The decimal system was adopted in France in 1795 and is now officially used in most countries across the globe.



The Pre-Decimal Era: A Plethora of Measurements

Prior to adopting the decimal system a whole plethora of units of measure existed. This was extremely chaotic; with measures changing from town to town, region to region and country to country. Part of the lists of grievances (cahiers de doléances) drawn up by the three Estates (First Estate - clergy, Second Estate - nobility and the Third Estate who were the rest of the population) in France in the first part of 1789, the year of the French Revolution, were concentrated on the fact that there were no two equal measures in the country.


The Urgent Call for Measurement Reform

These multiple units of measure were considered a source of great unfairness and inequality at the heart of the feudal society. An urgent reform of this frequently discussed idea was thus called for and finally in 1791 the French National Assembly was mandated to find a rational solution. A rational solution that could be nationally and internationally recognised and adopted, for all people, for all time ‘à tous les hommes, à tous le temps’. The new system would be based on a natural physical unit to ensure immutability.


The Birth of the Metric System

The French Academy of Sciences at the request of the French National Assembly was therefore entrusted with the task of determining this new and totally original system. The Science Academy decided that the length of 1/10 000 000 of a quadrant of a great circle of the earth, measured around the poles of the meridian passing through Paris would be the basis of the measure.


A team of interdisciplinary researchers was selected and they embarked on a six-year survey. They measured the meridian arc from Dunkirk France to Barcelona Spain between 1792 and 1798.


Thus the universality of the metric system lies in its definition. The quarter of the terrestrial meridian, that is to say the earth itself, is taken as the real unit, while its millionth part, the metre, is taken as the usual unit. So whether it’s a foot or a metre or both on your CV, it is good to remember that it has taken many years to establish a measurement system that is internationally recognised! This article was inspired by the book “Le Mètre du monde” written by Denis Guedj, Editions du Seuil, 2000.

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