This research is aimed at utilising failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA) which is a reliability analysis method applicable to yacht system design. The failure modes which can be acquired from a group of experts can be linguistic terms including vagueness. FMEA aims to rank the failure modes from high to less risky in order to take the corrective actions by using risk priority numbers (RPNs). RPN method cannot emphasise the nature of the problem, which is multi-attributable and has a group of experts' opinions. Furthermore, attributes are subjective and have different importance levels. In this paper, a framework is proposed to overcome the shortcomings of the traditional method through the Fuzzy Multi-Attribute Group Decision Making (FMAGDM), which helps to solve the selection of risky failure modes. Fuzzy sets (FSs) are utilised for expressing fuzziness of crisp/linguistic knowledge coupled with the well-known TOPSIS methodology for decision making. The current work demonstrates that there is not much application of FMEA and FMAGDM in the area of yacht system design. The comparison of ranking results for two methods shows that selection of the risky failure modes along with FMAGDM are more reliable from an engineering point of view. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.