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Tall ship

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Title: Tall ship  
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Tall ship

Group of sailing ships at Hanse Sail 2010

A tall ship is a large, traditionally-rigged sailing vessel. Popular modern tall ship rigs include topsail schooners, brigantines, brigs and barques. "Tall Ship" can also be defined more specifically by an organization, such as for a race or festival.


  • History 1
  • Sail Training International 2
    • Class A 2.1
    • Class B 2.2
    • Class C 2.3
    • Class D 2.4
  • Earlier description of classes 3
  • Lost tall ships 4
  • Gallery 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


The tall ship Kruzenshtern

Traditional rigging may include square rigs and gaff rigs, usually with separate topmasts and topsails. It is generally more complex than modern rigging, which utilizes newer materials such as aluminum and steel to construct taller, lightweight masts with fewer, more versatile sails. Most smaller, modern vessels use the Bermuda rig. Though it did not become popular elsewhere until the twentieth century, this rig was developed in Bermuda in the seventeenth century, and had historically been used on its small ships, the Bermuda sloops.

Author and master mariner Joseph Conrad (who spent 1874 to 1894 at sea in tall ships and was quite particular about naval terminology) used the term "tall ship" in his works; for example, in The Mirror of the Sea in 1903. If Conrad used the term, it is fairly certain "tall ship" was common parlance among his fellow mariners in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Henry David Thoreau also references the term "tall ship" in his first work, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, quoting "Down out at its mouth, the dark inky main blending with the blue above. Plum Island, its sand ridges scolloping along the horizon like the sea-serpent, and the distant outline broken by many a tall ship, leaning, still, against the sky." He does not cite this quotation, but the work was written in 1849.[1]

While Sail Training International (STI) has extended the definition of tall ship for the purpose of its races to embrace any sailing vessel with more than 30 ft (9.14 m) waterline length and on which at least half the people on board are aged 15 to 25, this definition can include many modern sailing yachts, so for the purposes of this article, tall ship will mainly refer to those vessels rated as class "A".

Sail Training International

In the 21st century, "tall ship" is often used generically for large, classic, sailing vessels, but is also a technically defined term by Sail Training International for its purposes and of course, STI helped popularize the term. The exact definitions have changed somewhat over time, and are subject to various technicalities, but by 2011 there were 4 classes (A, B, C, and D). Basically there are only two size classes, A is over 40 m LOA, and B/C/D are 9.14 m to under 40 m LOA. The definitions have to do with rigging: class A is for square sail rigged ships, class B is for "traditionally rigged" ships, class C is for "modern rigged" vessels with no "spinnaker-like sails", and class D is the same as class C but carrying a spinnaker-like sail.[2] The STI definitions can be found here and a ship database here.

Class A

All square-rigged vessels (barque, barquentine, brig, brigantine or ship rigged) and all other vessel more than 40 metres Length Overall (LOA), regardless of rig. STI classifies its A Class as "all square-rigged vessels and all other vessels over 40 metres (131 ft) length overall (LOA)", in this case STI LOA excludes bowsprit and aft spar. STI defines LOA as "Length overall measured from the fore side of stem post to aft side of stern post, counter or transom".[3]

Class A Tall Ships
Current Nationality Original
Mast Rig Length excluding
bowsprit [m]
Beam [m]
ALEX II  Germany 2011 3 Barque 60 10.8 X
Alpha  Russia 1948 2 Barquentine 8.9
Amerigo Vespucci  Italy 1931 3 Full rigged ship 82.4 15.8
Belem  France 1896 3 Barque 51 8.8
Capitain Miranda  Uruguay 1930 3 Staysail Schooner 50.3 7.9 X
Christian Radich  Norway 1937 3 Full rigged ship 62.5 9.7
Cisne Branco  Brazil 1999 3 Full rigged ship 60.5 10.7
Constitution  United States 1797 3 Full rigged ship 62
Creole  United Kingdom 1927 3 Schooner 42.7 8.9
Creoula  Portugal 1937 4 Schooner 62.2 9.9
Cuauhtemoc  Mexico 1982 3 Barque 67.2 12.0
Danmark  Denmark 1932 3 Full rigged ship 59.8 10.1
Dar Młodzieży  Poland 1982 3 Full rigged ship 94.8 14.0
Dewaruci  Indonesia 1953 3 Barquentine 49.7 9.4
Druzhba  Ukraine 1987 3 Full rigged ship 94.2 14
Eagle  United States 1936 3 Barque 80.7 11.9
Eendracht  Netherlands 1989 3 Gaff Schooner 55.3 12.2
Elissa  United States 1877 3 Barque 45.4 8.5
Esmeralda  Chile 1953 4 Barquentine 94.13 13.1
Eugene Eugenides  Greece 1959 3 Topgallant Schooner 9.2
Europa  Netherlands 1911 3 Barque 44.5 7.3
Gazela  United States 1901 3 Barquentine 42.7 7.9
Georg Stage (II)  Denmark 1935 3 Full rigged ship 42 8.5
Gloria  Colombia 1968 3 Barque 67 10.7
Golden Quest  Tuvalu 1945 3 Barque 48 7.5
Gorch Fock (I)  Germany 1933 3 Barque 73.7 11.9
Gorch Fock (II)  Germany 1958 3 Barque 81.2 11.9
Greif  Germany 1950 2 Brigantine 7.4
Großherzogin Elizabeth  Germany 1908 3 Gaff Schooner 53 8.2
Guayas  Ecuador 1977 3 Barque 56.10 10.4
Iskra (II)  Poland 1982 3 Barquentine 40 7.9
Jadran  Montenegro 1933 3 Topsail Schooner 8.9
James Craig  Australia 1874 3 Barque 54.8 9.5
Jessica  Australia 1983 3 Topsail Schooner 6.7
Juan Sebastián Elcano  Spain 1927 4 Topsail Schooner 94.13 13.1
Kaiwo Maru II  Japan 1989 4 Barque 89.0 13.8
Kaliakra  Bulgaria 1984 3 Barquentine 43.2 7.9
Khersones  Ukraine 1989 3 Full rigged ship 94.8 14.0
Kruzenshtern  Russia 1926 4 Barque 95 14.0
Leeuwin II  Australia 1986 3 Barquentine 41.2 9.0
Libertad  Argentina 1960 3 Full rigged ship 91.7 13.7
Lord Nelson  United Kingdom 1985 3 Barque 40.2 8.5
Mercator  Belgium 1932 3 Barquentine 68 11.9 X
Meridian  Lithuania 1948 3 Barquentine 8.9 X
Mir  Russia 1987 3 Full rigged ship 94.8 14.0
Mircea  Romania 1938 3 Barque 73.7 12.5
Morgenster  Netherlands 1919 2 Brig 38.0 6.0
U.S. Brig Niagara  United States 1988 2 Brig 37.5 9.8
Nippon Maru II  Japan 1984 4 Barque 89.0 13.8
Oosterschelde  Netherlands 1918 3 Topsail Schooner 40.12 7.5
Palinuro  Italy 1934 3 Barquentine 58.7 10.1
Pallada  Russia 1989 3 Full rigged ship 94.2 14.0
Peacemaker  United States 1989 3 Barquentine 38 10.4
Picton Castle  Canada 1928 3 Barque 45.2 7.3
Pogoria  Poland 1980 3 Barquentine 40.9 7.9
Rah Naward  Pakistan 2001 2 Brig 40.6 9.9
Roald Amundsen  Germany 1952 2 Brig 40.8
Sagres  Portugal 1937 3 Barque 81.3 11.9
Santa Maria Manuela  Portugal 1937 4 Schooner 62.4 9.9
Sedov  Russia 1921 4 Barque 108.7 14.6
Shabab Oman  Oman 1971 3 Barquentine 43.9 8.5
Simón Bolívar  Venezuela 1979 3 Barque 70.0 10.4
Sørlandet  Norway 1927 3 Full rigged ship 56.7 9.6
Spirit of New Zealand  New Zealand 1986 3 Barquentine 33.2 9.0
Stad Amsterdam  Netherlands 2000 3 Full rigged ship 62.4 10.5
Statsraad Lehmkuhl  Norway 1914 3 Barque 84.6 12.6
Star of India  United States 1863 3 Barque 62.5 10.7 X
Stavros S Niarchos  United Kingdom 2000 2 Brig 40.6 9.9
Sudarshini  India 2011 3 Barque 54.0 8.5
Surprise (ex Rose)  United States 1970 3 Full rigged ship 54.6 9.8
Tarangini  India 1997 3 Barque 54.0 8.5
Thor Heyerdahl  Germany 1930 3 Topsail Schooner 42.5 6.5
Unicorn  United Kingdom 1948 2 Brig 7.3
Varuna  India 1981 3 Barque 54.0 8.5
Young America  United States 1975 2 Brigantine 7.2
Young Endeavour  Australia 1986 2 Brigantine 35 7.8
La Grace  Czech Republic 2010 2 Brig 32.8 6.06
Name Last Nationality Original
Mast Rig End
Alexander von Humboldt  Germany 1906 3 Barque Sold 2011/ relocated to Caribbean, 2013 returned to Germany; currently docked
Bounty  United States 1960 3 Full rigged ship Sunk 2012
Concordia  Canada 1992 3 Barquentine Sunk 2010
Dunay  USSR 1928 3 Full rigged ship Burned 1963
Prince William  United Kingdom 2001 2 Brig Sold (2010); now a sail training ship of the Pakistan Navy with the name Rah Naward
Sagres  Portugal 1896 3 Barque Replaced by the third Sagres in 1961. Sold (1983); now permanently moored in Hamburg, Germany with the name Rickmer Rickmers

Class B

Traditionally rigged vessels (i.e. gaff rigged sloops, ketches, yawls and schooners) with an LOA of less than 40 metres and with a waterline length (LWL) of at least 9.14 metres.

Class C

Modern rigged vessels (i.e. Bermudan rigged sloops, ketches, yawls and schooners) with an LOA of less than 40 metres and with a waterline length (LWL) of at least 9.14 metres not carrying spinnaker-like sails.

Class D

Modern rigged vessels (i.e. Bermudan rigged sloops, ketches, yawls and schooners) with an LOA of less than 40 metres and with a waterline length (LWL) of at least 9.14 metres carrying spinnaker-like sails. There are also a variety of other rules and regulations for the crew, such as ages, and also for a rating rule. There are other sail festivals and races with their own standards, the STI is just one set of standards for their purposes.

Earlier description of classes

An older definition of class "A" by the STI was "all square-rigged vessels over 120' (36.6m) length overall (LOA). Fore and aft rigged vessels of 160' (48.8m) (LOA) and over". By LOA they meant length excluding bowsprit and aft spar.[4]

Class "B" was "all fore and aft rigged vessels between 100 to 160 feet in length, and all square rigged vessels under 120' (36.6m) (LOA)".

See also a list of class "A" ships with lengths including bowsprit.[5]

Lost tall ships

Tall ships are sometimes lost, such as by a storm at sea. Some examples of this include:

  • Bounty full-rig ship lost off the North Carolina coast as Hurricane Sandy approached in 2012.
  • Concordia was a triple mast Barquentine built in 1992, operated by Canada as a school ship. Lost at sea in 2010 in a squall.
  • Asgard II, an Irish national sail training ship, commissioned in 1982, was lost in 2008 off the French coast. The 2-masted brigantine is thought to have collided with a submerged object.
  • Fantome a former yacht built in 1927, then operating as a cruise ship was lost in Hurricane Mitch in 1998.[6]
  • Marques, built in 1917, it was lost in a 1984 Tall Ships Race.
  • Endeavour II, built in 1968, wrecked in a 1971 Gale off New Zealand
  • Astrid ran aground in 2013 off Ireland, and then broken up in 2014 after being salvaged
  • Zebu sunk at its dock in Liverpool in 2015[7] It was built in 1938, and had been sitting at the dock since 1988, after it completed a circumnavigation and world in the 1980s.[8]


See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ STI Definitions
  3. ^ STI Measurement form.
  4. ^ National Institute for Sea Training (NIST)
  5. ^ National Institute for Sea Training (NIST)
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ [4]

Further reading

  • American Sail Training Association; Sail Tall Ships! (American Sail Training Association; 16th edition, 2005 ISBN 0-9636483-9-X)
  • Thad Koza; Tall Ships: A Fleet for the 21st Century (Tide-Mark Press; 3rd edition, 2002; ISBN 1-55949-739-4)

External links

  • American Sail Training Association
  • Another World Adventures

List of events where Tall Ships can be visited for free: *Tall Ships events

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