Full-rigged ship

Last updated
Full-rigged sailing ship Christian Radich Christian Radich aft foto Ulrich Grun.jpg
Full-rigged sailing ship Christian Radich
Full-rigged sailing ship Royal Clipper Royal-clipper.jpg
Full-rigged sailing ship Royal Clipper
Amerigo Vespucci, full-rigged ship of the Italian Marina Militare Amerigo vespucci 1976 nyc aufgetakelt.jpg
Amerigo Vespucci , full-rigged ship of the Italian Marina Militare

A full-rigged ship or fully rigged ship is a sailing vessel with a sail plan of three or more masts, all of them square-rigged. [1] Such a vessel is said to have a ship rig or be ship-rigged, with each mast stepped in three segments: lower, top, and topgallant. [2] [3] [4]


Other large, multi-masted sailing vessels may be regarded as "ships" while lacking one of the elements of a full-rigged ship, such as having one or more masts support only a fore-and-aft sail or a mast of only two segments. [4] [ better source needed ]


HMS Lutine, a French-built ship-rigged frigate of the late 18th century Lutine1.jpg
HMS Lutine, a French-built ship-rigged frigate of the late 18th century

The masts of a full-rigged ship, from bow to stern, are: [2]

If the masts are of wood, each mast is in three or more pieces. They are (in order, from bottom up): [3]

On steel-masted vessels, the masts are not constructed in the same way, but the corresponding sections of the mast are still named after the traditional wooden sections.


Ship Garthsnaid at sea, c. 1920 Garthsnaid - SLV H91.250-933.jpg
Ship Garthsnaid at sea, c. 1920
Names of sails NIE 1905 Ship - rigging.jpg
Names of sails

The lowest and normally largest sail on a mast is the course sail of that mast, and is referred to simply by the mast name: Foresail, mainsail, mizzen sail, jigger sail or more commonly forecourse etc.

Even a full-rigged ship did not usually have a lateral (square) course on the mizzen mast below the mizzen topmast. Instead, the lowest sail on the mizzen was usually a fore/aft sail—originally a lateen sail, but later a gaff sail called a spanker or driver. The key distinction between a ship and a barque (in modern usage) is that a ship carries a square-rigged mizzen topsail (and therefore that its mizzen mast has a topsail yard and a cross-jack yard) whereas the mizzen mast of a barque has only fore-and-aft rigged sails. The cross-jack yard was the lowest yard on a ship's mizzen mast. Unlike the corresponding yards on the fore and main mast it did not usually have fittings to hang a sail from: its purpose was to control the lower edge of the topsail. In the rare case, the cross-jack yard did carry a square sail, that sail would be called the cross-jack rather than the mizzen course.

The full set of sails, in order from bottom to top, are:

The division of a sail into upper and lower sails was a matter of practicality, since undivided sails were larger and, consequently, more difficult to handle. Larger sails necessitated hiring, and paying, a larger crew. Additionally, the great size of some late-19th and 20th century vessels meant that their correspondingly large sails would have been impossible to handle had they not been divided.

Jibs are carried forward of the foremast, are tacked down on the bowsprit or jib-boom and have varying naming conventions.

Staysails may be carried between any other mast and the one in front of it or from the foremast to the bowsprit. They are named after the mast from which they are hoisted, so for example a staysail hoisted to the top of the mizzen topgallant on a stay running to the top of the main topmast would be called the mizzen topgallant staysail.

In light winds studding sails (pronounced "stunsls") may be carried on either side of any or all of the square rigged sails except royals and skysails. They are named after the adjacent sail and the side of the vessel on which they are set, for example main topgallant starboard stu'nsail. One or more spritsails may also be set on booms set athwart and below the bowsprit.

One or two spankers are carried aft of the aftmost mast, if two they are called the upper spanker and lower spanker. A fore-and-aft topsail may be carried above the upper or only spanker, and is called the gaff sail.

To stop a full-rigged ship, except when running directly down wind, the sails of the foremast are oriented in the direction perpendicular to those of the mainmast. Thus, the masts cancel out of their push on the ship. [5] This allows the crew to stop and quickly restart the ship without retracting and lowering the sails, and to dynamically compensate for the push of the wind on the masts themselves and the yards. Running downwind the sails still need to be lowered to bring the ship to a halt.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Schooner</span> Sailing vessel

A schooner is a type of sailing vessel defined by its rig: fore-and-aft rigged on all of two or more masts and, in the case of a two-masted schooner, the foremast generally being shorter than the mainmast. A common variant, the topsail schooner also has a square topsail on the foremast, to which may be added a topgallant. Differing definitions leave uncertain whether the addition of a fore course would make such a vessel a brigantine. Many schooners are gaff-rigged, but other examples include Bermuda rig and the staysail schooner.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rig (sailing)</span> Description of the specific ways that a sailing craft is rigged

A sailing vessel's rig is its arrangement of masts, sails and rigging. Examples include a schooner rig, cutter rig, junk rig, etc. A rig may be broadly categorized as "fore-and-aft", "square", or a combination of both. Within the fore-and-aft category there is a variety of triangular and quadrilateral sail shapes. Spars or battens may be used to help shape a given kind of sail. Each rig may be described with a sail plan—formally, a drawing of a vessel, viewed from the side.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brig</span> Sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts

A brig is a type of sailing vessel defined by its rig: two masts which are both square-rigged. Brigs originated in the second half of the 18th century and were a common type of smaller merchant vessel or warship from then until the latter part of the 19th century. In commercial use, they were gradually replaced by fore-and-aft rigged vessels such as schooners, as owners sought to reduce crew costs by having rigs that could be handled by fewer men. In Royal Navy use, brigs were retained for training use when the battle fleets consisted almost entirely of iron-hulled steamships.

A jib is a triangular sail that sets ahead of the foremast of a sailing vessel. Its tack is fixed to the bowsprit, to the bows, or to the deck between the bowsprit and the foremost mast. Jibs and spinnakers are the two main types of headsails on a modern boat.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Topsail</span> Sail set above another sail

A topsail ("tops'l") is a sail set above another sail; on square-rigged vessels further sails may be set above topsails.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Staysail</span>

A staysail ("stays'l") is a fore-and-aft rigged sail whose luff can be affixed to a stay running forward from a mast to the deck, the bowsprit, or to another mast.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cutter (boat)</span> Type of boat

A cutter is a name for various types of watercraft. It can apply to the rig of a sailing vessel, to a governmental enforcement agency vessel, to a type of ship's boat which can be used under sail or oars, or, historically, to a type of fast-sailing vessel introduced in the 18th century, some of which were used as small warships.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mast (sailing)</span> Pole used in rigging of a sailing vessel

The mast of a sailing vessel is a tall spar, or arrangement of spars, erected more or less vertically on the centre-line of a ship or boat. Its purposes include carrying sails, spars, and derricks, giving necessary height to a navigation light, look-out position, signal yard, control position, radio aerial or signal lamp. Large ships have several masts, with the size and configuration depending on the style of ship. Nearly all sailing masts are guyed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stays (nautical)</span>

Stays are ropes, wires, or rods on sailing vessels that run fore-and-aft along the centerline from the masts to the hull, deck, bowsprit, or to other masts which serve to stabilize the masts.

<i>Earl of Pembroke</i> (tall ship)

Earl of Pembroke was a wooden, three-masted barque, which was frequently used for maritime festivals, charters, charity fund raising, corporate entertaining and film work.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Top (sailing ship)</span> Platform at the upper end of a mast on a traditional square rigged ship

The top on a traditional square rigged ship is the platform at the upper end of each (lower) mast. This is not the masthead "crow's nest" of the popular imagination – above the mainmast is the main-topmast, main-topgallant-mast and main-royal-mast, so that the top is actually about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way up the mast as a whole.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Topmast</span> Section of mast on sailing ship

The masts of traditional sailing ships were not single spars, but were constructed of separate sections or masts, each with its own rigging. The topmast is one of these.

KRI <i>Dewaruci</i> Sailing vessel from the Indonesian Navy

KRI Dewaruci is a Class A tall ship and the only barquentine owned and operated by the Indonesian Navy. She is used as a sail training vessel for naval cadets and is the largest tall ship in the Indonesian fleet. Dewaruci also serves as a goodwill ambassador for Indonesia to the rest of the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jackass-barque</span>

A jackass-barque, sometimes spelled jackass bark, is a sailing ship with three masts, of which the foremast is square-rigged and the main is partially square-rigged and partially fore-and-aft rigged (course). The mizzen mast is fore-and-aft rigged.

<i>Preussen</i> (ship) German steel-hulled five-masted ship-rigged windjammer sunk in Crab Bay after a collision

Preussen (PROY-sin) was a German steel-hulled, five-masted, ship-rigged sailing ship built in 1902 for the F. Laeisz shipping company and named after the German state and kingdom of Prussia. She was the world's only ship of this class with five masts, carrying six square sails on each mast.

<i>James Baines</i> (clipper) Clipper ship launched in 1854

James Baines was a passenger clipper ship completely constructed of timber in the 1850s and launched on 25 July 1854 from the East Boston shipyard of the famous ship builder Donald McKay in the United States for the Black Ball Line of James Baines & Co., Liverpool. The clipper was one of the few known larger sailing ships rigged with a moonsail.

<i>Potosi</i> (barque)

Potosi was a five-masted steel barque built in 1895 by Joh. C. Tecklenborg ship yard in Geestemünde, Germany, for the sailing ship company F. Laeisz as a trading vessel. Its primary purpose was as a "nitrate clipper" collecting guano in South America for use in chemical companies in Germany. As its shipping route was between Germany and Chile, it was designed to be capable of withstanding the rough weather encountered around Cape Horn.

Alexandria was a cargo-carrying three-masted schooner built in 1929. Originally named Yngve, she was built at Björkenäs, Sweden, and fitted with a 58 H.P. auxiliary oil engine.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to sailing:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sail plan</span> Technical drawing of a sailing craft

A sail plan is a drawing of a sailing craft, viewed from the side, depicting its sails, the spars that carry them and some of the rigging that supports the rig. By extension, "sail plan" describes the arrangement of sails on a craft. A sailing craft may be waterborne, an iceboat, or a sail-powered land vehicle.


  1. Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas (1895). The Story of the Sea. Vol. 1. Cassell and Company. p. 760.
  2. 1 2 Ansted, A. (1898). A Dictionary of Sea Terms: For the Use of Yachtsmen, Amateur Boatmen, and Beginners. Gill. p. 96.
  3. 1 2 Admiralty (1883). Manual of seamanship for boys' training ships of the Royal navy. p. 20.
  4. 1 2 The New American Encyclopedic Dictionary: An Exhaustive Dictionary of the English Language, Practical and Comprehensive; Giving the Fullest Definition (encyclopedic in Detail), the Origin, Pronunciation and Use of Words ... J. A. Hill. 1907. p. 3664.
  5. Willaumez, p. 434


Further reading