Sailing ships were formerly classified by their size or employment, but it is now the custom to distinguish different types of vessels by defining their characteristic rigs
THE subject of a sailing ship’s rig is the basis of all study of sail. In its principles, rig is simple enough, but the student will find an extraordinary number of ramifications. The whole system is comparatively modern, for in the old days different types of vessels were named from their size and duty only, without reference to the details of their rig. It was only later that vessels were classified according to their characteristics, a change that was partly due to the general tendency to classify everything, partly to the greater interchange of ideas, and partly to the growing commercialism. Since many of the old names were adopted to define the new types, confusion resulted.
The general principles of the rig of sailing ships are simple. The most important factor in determining the rig of a sailing vessel is the arrangement of sails on the various masts, some squaresails, some fore-
the sails are known as fore-
The name “ship” formerly signified only the biggest class of vessel without reference to the arrangement of her sails. The modern definition of a “ship” is a vessel with three or more masts, all of them square-
A squaresail always demands more men to handle it than a fore-
Even the sailing counterpart of the modern tramp, although she had to cut down her expenses wherever possible, spared the men needed for handling “ship” rig. The majority of ships had three masts, but a few had four. One ship only, the famous German Preussen, whose wreck was to be seen near the South Foreland for many years, had five masts.
THE KETCH BARGE was formerly an exceedingly popular rig on the coast, with or without square topsails on the foremast. The Goldfinch was built in 1894 of wood, and her rig is of a type now disappearing. She has a gross tonnage of 144, a length of 98 ft 6 in and a beam of 22 ft 7 in. In 1930 she sailed from Plymouth to the West Indies in forty-
INNOVATIONS IN THE RIG of the four-
A BARQUENTINE is square-
Although the full ship rig permitted the greatest possible spread of canvas, it was not ideally efficient, for in most directions of the wind there was certain to be some blanketing. It was only in an exceptionally favourable wind that a ship set all her canvas and got the full benefit of the spread. So, in the nineteenth century, when sailing ships were having to fight the steamers hard for every bit of their business and economy was all-
This change meant an appreciable saving in the cost of the crews and it was soon found that it made little, if any, difference to the speed. As soon as this was realized hundreds of ships were converted into barques and most of the new tonnage built was of barque rig. Now there is not a single ship-
The “barque” may be described in general terms as a ship with the after mast fore-
In the same way as the ships, the majority of barques were given three masts for many years, but later there were a large number of four-
Akin to the barque in the arrangement of the sail is the “polacre”, an essentially Mediterranean type, although during the nineteenth century it was occasionally found in British vessels, particularly in those hailing from the west coast. Its lightness, however, was against its general use round Great Britain.
The principal characteristics of the polacre were the masts, which had no tops or crosstrees and which were as smooth as possible, sometimes being in one piece. The squaresails could thus be lowered right down on to the lower yard, instead of being strictly divided by the tops and stays. Although the sail plan usually approximated to that of a barque, a mizen topsail was often carried.
Ships and barques were generally large. There were some, usually built for a special purpose, which were quite small and regarded as unconventional. One of these is Mr. A. J. Villiers’ little full-
Of the two-
ORIGINALLY A FULL-
Some people think that the brig must have been developed in the sixteenth century. Some believe that it was much later. It is certain that there were large numbers of vessels so rigged in the eighteenth century and that they were put to a variety of uses. This type of rig was beautiful to look at. With a big crew it was a handy rig and, given a good hull, it could produce a fine turn of speed. The Navy found the brig useful for convoying, dispatch-
In its later days the brig rig was generally associated with bluff-
For a long time the brig proper carried no square mainsail, for the lower part of the mainmast was regarded too useful in taking the hoops of the fore-
HAVING SQUARESAILS ON THE FOREMAST and fore-
The snow rig was at one time frequently to be seen round the coast of Great Britain. The last snow, the Commerce of Newhaven, was built in 1862 and existed until 1909. It is surprising, therefore, how much argument there is about the characteristics of the snow rig.
Squaresails, as already stated, need more men to handle them than fore-
This was done by changing some of the square canvas for fore-
Similarly the adaptation of the barque was the “barquentine”, occasionally known as the “three-
THE SNOW RIG IS DISTINGUISHED FROM THE BRIG by the little mast which is fitted abaft the main lowermast. The fore and mainmasts are square-
In the last days of sail, when sailing ships could retain the vestiges of their prosperity only by the greatest effort, the barquentine rig was adopted by a number of large ocean-
Schooners are numerous and of many classes. A schooner may be defined as a vessel with more than one full fore-
The French goélette, a variation of the schooner type, takes its name from the Breton word for a seagull. There is something strongly reminiscent of a seabird’s flight in the movements of a pretty schooner.
The great majority of the commercial sailing vessels surviving to-
On the Grand Banks, on the coast of Australia, in Arctic waters, and on the British coast, schooners, a pitiful band of survivors, are still to be found working industriously.
Some of these schooners are pure fore-
“topsail schooners”. These squaresails are normally limited to the foremast but by no means necessarily. Formerly a number of them carried square canvas on their mainmast as well; it made no difference to their rig provided the masts were not fitted with tops.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century the Americans, who had made a great reputation with their clipper ships, found them outclassed by the more economical steamer. They tried to keep sail prosperous by building multi-
While they were afloat these schooners certainly obtained a remarkable running economy. They were well supplied with deck machinery and everything was carefully designed for efficiency and easy handling. To take one instance, the Wyoming, built in 1909, a schooner of 3,730 tons gross, could carry a cargo of 5,000 tons of coal with only twelve hands. This economy, and the easy manner in which they could be rigged, caused a number of schooners to be built in America and Europe during the war of 1914-
On the same principle as schooner rigs are such rigs as the felucca, xebec and dhow rigs. They incorporate the lateen sail that from time immemorial has proved ideal for such craft in Southern Europe, Asia and Africa. These craft all use fore-
For special coastal and island services, and also for fishing in the pre-
The modern ketch only resembles her prototype in that she has a tall mast and a short one. Square rig is seldom carried at all. When it is, it is generally limited to a big square foresail set flying when the wind is dead aft. The few survivors on commercial work round Great Britain are what used to be called ketch barges, flat-
In the Mediterranean the counterparts of the ketch are the “tartane” and the Turkish “caique”. The former sometimes, and the latter invariably, retains the square rig on the mainmast in the same way as the early ketches with a lateen mizen. Sometimes the tartane has a big main lateen as well.
One large and one small mast are also characteristic of the yawl, but this rig is almost entirely limited to yachts. The mizen is much smaller in comparison to the main than in a ketch. Generally a rough and ready means of distinguishing them at sea is that a ketch has her mizen stepped before the rudder head, the yawl abaft it. This is not quite accurate, for a yawl may have a square transom stern. In this event her mizen must be ahead of the rudder or it would be out of the boat altogether. It is, perhaps, more correct to distinguish them by noting whether the mizen sheets are carried to the hull of the boat or to a bumpkin over the stern.
With a large mainsail and usually a small mizen we have the spritsail barge so characteristic of the River Thames and the Home Counties. The spritsail barge is made quite individual by the fact that her mainsail has no gaff, but is supported by a heavy wooden sprit that is always kept in position and supports the head of the sail. “Thames Sailing Barges” are described in another chapter.
There were formerly a large number of cutters carrying cargo round the coast, but now the cutter rig is confined to yachts and a few fishing vessels. It is well within living memory that the last of the cutter-
The cutter is the single-
A great number of changes have been introduced during the development of the sailing vessel, and in addition local needs have demanded innumerable local variations.
TOPSAIL SCHOONERS have square topsails on the foremast and occasionally on the mainmast as well. The Englishman is a three-
[From part 49, published 12 January 1937]