Types of Tall ships
The term tall ship is a generic term used to describe large sailing ships, most often representing historical vessels or replicas. The term may have had limited use throughout history; an experienced sailor likely would have referred to a ship by the design of its rig. The term "tall ship" probably took on a more wide spread use following the publication of John Masefield's poem Sea Fever in 1902.
Tall ships come in many shapes and sizes. The size of the craft and its type are often determined by its mission and where it will sail. The first distinction between tall ships is the difference between a square-rigged vessel and a fore and aft rigged vessel.
Square riggers have vertical masts that are crossed by yards, large wooden or steel beams that run perpendicular to the length of the ship's hull. Sails spread below each of these yards. Large square rigged vessel may have yards on one or more of its masts, and spread many acres of sails. They may also have some sails that run fore and aft, along the length of the ship. Fore and aft rigged tall ships have sails that ONLY run along the length of the ship, from the bow (front) towards the stern (back). Some of these sails may be attached to a gaff or a boom, a wooden or steel beam similar to a yard, but running on a fore and aft axis with the ship's hull.
Square rigged ships have an advantage when using the trade winds, which blow in circular patterns across the earth's surface and can power a sailing ship across vast expanses of ocean. Fore and aft rigged ships can generally sail at an angle closer to the wind and were often used for coastal trade. These are not hard and fast rules, and many hybrids, like the American designed Baltimore clipper (a square topsail schooner), were built to take advantage of both types of sails.
Full Rigged Ships are vessels with three or more masts which cross yards and square sails on every mast. There are many examples of full rigged ships with three and four masts, but only two full rigged ships with five masts have ever been built – the PRUSSEN, launched in 1902 for the German F. Laeisz shipping company and the modern cruise ship ROYAL CLIPPER.
Barques (Barks) are sailing craft having three or more masts, with yards and square sails on all masts, except the aft (rear) mast. Historically, these were the most common of the large sailing ships. They were capable of very good speed, but needed fewer crew than full rigged ships and were considered better sailing vessels. The United States Coast Guard's training vessel EAGLE and the GORCH FOCH from Germany are both barques.
Barquentines have three or more masts. The forward mast is the only one with yards and square sails. GAZELLA OF PHILADELPIA (US) and ESMERALDA (CHILE) are both examples of barquentines.
sail off South Bass Island, Ohio
on Lake Erie. Picture by Lance
Woodworth and licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
Brigs are sailing craft with only two masts. Each of these masts is rigged with yards and square sails. NIAGARA, from Erie, PA is an example of a War of 1812 era Brig.
from New Zealand. Picture
copyright SOREN LARSEN,
2011 and courtesy of Captain
Brigantines have two masts. The forward mast has yards and square sails, while the rear mast has only fore and aft sails. SOREN LARSEN, home ported in Auckland, New Zealand is a good example of a brigantine.
PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II,
and example of a Baltimore
clipper. Picture Copyrighted
2009, courtesy of Hank Moseley
Schooners are sailing vessels with two or more masts. Some schooners have both fore and aft as well as square sails. A good example of this is the PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II, a replica of American ships used during the War of 1812 for carrying cargo and a privateer. These types of schooners are known as square topsail schooners. Schooners having fore and aft sails that attach to a metal or wooden spar (beam) that is hoisted up the masts are known as gaff rigged schooners. Norfolk's own schooner VIRGINIA is a good example of this type. Staysail schooners have fore and aft sails only, but they lack most of the large spars found on other schooners. They are similar to modern yachts, with sails running up down tracks in the masts and wire rigging supporting the masts.
2006, courtesy of
Sloops have only one mast. Like schooners, they may have a square sail, making them a square topsail sloop. They may or may not have a spar to which their mainsail attaches. Most small modern sailboats are bermuda sloops, having only one mast and sails that are fore and aft rigged, without a yard or gaff that hoists into the rigging with the sail attached.
Classes of Tall Ships
Today, Sail Training International has divided tall ships into four classes. This helps put similar ships together for races and festivals and distinguishes between traditional sailing vessels and modern designs. Traditionally rigged sailing vessels recreate historical ships, with more complicated sail plans, requiring larger crews and much more muscle. They lack many of the labor saving wenches and mechanical systems found on modern recreational yachts, cruise ships and racing boats.
Class A vessels include all square rigged vessels and all other vessels over 131 feet in overall hull length.
Class B vessels are traditionally rigged and less than 131 feet in overall length and a waterline length of at least 30 feet.
Class C includes all modern rigged vessels with an overall hull length of less than 131 feet and a waterline length of at least 30 feet. They cannot carry spinnaker style sails.
Class D vessels are modern rigged, with an overall length of less than 131 feet and a waterline length of at least 30 feet, but carrying spinnaker style sails.