Sailing ship

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Three-masted schooner Mare Frisium under sail

A sailing ship (often abbreviated as SS before the ship's name , but not an integral part of the ship's name) is a ship that is moved entirely or primarily due to its sails by the force of the wind . From ancient times until the 19th century, sailing ships were the most important means of transport for transporting goods and people over long distances. They have been replaced by steamships and motor ships since the 19th century . Until the 19th century, most warships were sailing ships. Smaller sailing ships are called sailboats .

Structure and classification

Sailing ships have at least one mast and one sail and, as a counterpart in the water, have a deep keel , a keel fin, a sword or several side swords , in particular two in flat-bottomed ships . There are two types of sails:

  • Square sails that are attached to a yard and are mainly oriented across the direction of travel , and
  • Schratsegel , which are set in the direction of the ship's longitudinal axis. The latter include:
    • High sails or Bermuda sails: triangular sails that are driven behind or on the mast and the lower edge of which is spanned by a tree.
    • Gaff sails that are trapezoidal and driven on a gaff . Usually a tree is used to guide the sail.
    • Latin sails and Settee sails , triangular or trapezoidal sails, the rah-like spar of which is mainly aligned along the direction of travel, hangs diagonally on the mast and part of it is in front of the mast.
    • Lug sails , which are to be classified between gaff sails and latin sails and are often driven treeless.
    • Sprietsegel , square sails that are stretched with a spar, the Spriet, from the lower front corner of the mast to the upper rear corner. Sprite sails are mostly driven without a tree.
    • Crab claw sails
    • Spreading gaff sails
    • Staysail


A sailing boat (on the cross ) like an airplane wing (cf. sailing and aerodynamics ) receives propulsion from the resulting balance of forces, which results from the wind force on the sails and the force on the sword or keel fin. In this way a sailing ship can go against the wind at an acute angle. When a sailing ship moves in the direction of the wind (before the wind), the wind pushes the ship by pushing into the sail. In the event of a lull and for maneuvering, sailing ships nowadays usually have a motor (" lull pusher ").

Experiments were also carried out with Flettner rotors , machine-driven, vertically rotating cylinders with the help of which wind energy is used for propulsion of the ship due to the Magnus effect . Although these ships use the wind to move, Flettner rotors are not sails.

Historical development

Historical development of the sailing ship
Stern rudder of European sailing ships in the age of discovery

The development of sailing ships probably began in Egypt . Sailboats are the first major means of transportation in the water. Ships with a mast and a large square sail were used primarily for voyages on the Nile , but also for voyages across the Mediterranean and the Red Sea . The sail was already pivoted so that the ships could sail even in sideways wind.

The Phoenicians and Greeks developed from around 1000 BC Two basic types of seaworthy sailing ships:

  • The cargo ship with a spacious hull and a mast and a large square sail that was exclusively sailed, and
  • The galley , which had a mast with a medium-sized square sail for the march, but was rowed with oars during combat and in calm conditions .

Long journeys have already been made, especially with the cargo ships. The Carthaginian Hanno sailed around 600 BC. Along the west coast of Africa to the equator. The Greek Pytheas from Massilia , today's Marseille , sailed around the British Isles and probably also came to Heligoland . The Romans took up these types of ships and developed them further. The cargo ships received a bowsprit from which a square sail also hung.

In Central and Northern Europe, longships were developed that were initially rowed. The Saxons and Angles , who emigrated as Anglo-Saxons towards the end of the Roman Empire across the North Sea to England, had already sailed the long ships with a mast and a square sail.

The Vikings further developed this type of ship to perfection ( Viking long ship ). According to contemporary reports, the slender Viking ships were faster than a mounted messenger. So the Vikings were able to use the element of surprise in their raids in the early Middle Ages. They have already sailed across the open sea to Iceland , Greenland and North America .

After the end of the Viking Age, the Hanseatic Cog was developed from the wider open merchant ships in the north . It too had only one mast, but it formed the backbone of the long-distance trade of the Hansa . Towards the end of the Middle Ages two- and three-masted ships were also built, for example the Hulk . From them the caravel was developed in Spain and Portugal , with which Christopher Columbus , Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco da Gama undertook their voyages of discovery.

In Southeast Asia, the Balangay boat type has been used since the 4th century . Filipino merchants used it on their trade routes to China, Malacca , Borneo, Ternate and Myanmar until the 16th century.

In China , sailing shipbuilding reached a very high level as early as the Ming Dynasty under Admiral Zheng He . Back then, so-called treasure ships were built in Nanjing, between 59 and 140 meters in length and with up to nine masts. They were used for long-distance trips e.g. B. used in India , Arabia and Africa .

Since the 17th century, increasingly specialized forms have been used, among other things

In merchant shipping, the fast clippers (USA, Great Britain) developed from 1830 and the somewhat plump Down Easter in the New England states from 1855. In the late 19th century, steel windjammers , more than 1500 full ships and barques as well as approx. 440 four-masted ships - approx. 40 four-masted full ships and 400 four-masted barques, the wooden ships. The climax was seven five-masted steel ships, six five-masted barques and one five-masted full-ship, the Prussians . In the United States of America, the construction of giant wooden schooners began around 1900. There were about three hundred Fünfmaster Gaffelschoner, ten six-mast gaff schooner on the New England coast, including a steel six-masted schooner and Wyoming as one of the longest wooden ships, plus several alterations to six mast schooners wooden steamers and four-masted boats on the Pacific coast and a seven-mast gaff schooner, the Thomas W. Lawson from Massachusetts .

Modern drives allow the handling of huge one-piece sails, multiple hulls allow a stronger righting moment.

The lightweight construction enables ever larger planing boats and higher masts. In hydrofoils , the wings take on the function of the keel and the hulls.

Overview of the most common sailing ship types of the 19th century

Sailing ship types

Brigantine Falado of Rhodes
Zeesenboot , main mast with treeless gaff sail, jib and foresail, mizzen mast with lug sail
Ewer with swords
Five-mast full ship Prussia
  • Barque , square sail with three to five masts, scraper-rigged mizzen mast
  • Bilander , a two-masted wooden beam sailor with a Latin mainsail
  • Brigantine , two-masted yachtsman with a fore-jib and a schrat-rigged main mast
  • Brigg , two-masted square sail
  • Büse , two-masters with yards on the main mast (foldable) and gaffs on the mizzen, especially used in fishing
  • Dau
  • Dromone
  • Junk , a type of sailing ship with a conspicuously angular sail shape, mainly used in China
  • Ewer , gaff rigged flat bottom ship from Friesland
  • Felucca , a small sailing ship with set sails used in Egypt
  • Fleute , three-masted merchant ship from the Netherlands, very popular in the Middle Ages
  • Frigate , three-masted, fully rigged ( frigate rigging ) warship
  • Gabarre , shallow, small (sailing) ship mainly used on French rivers
  • Gaff schooner , purely sloping-rigged sailor with two to seven masts
  • Galeasse (military ship type) , three-masted with latin sails and oars
  • Galeasse (merchant ship type) , two-masted merchant sailing ship (Galeaßewer)
  • Galley , sailing ship with belt drive (use of the sails usually only for cruising, not in combat)
  • Galleon , three- or four-masted, frame-rigged warship
  • Galeote , small galley, and later larger vehicles for the war effort
  • Ghurab , Indian warship going flat
  • Gulet , mostly two-masted motor sailer on the Turkish coast
  • Gundelo , a type of sailing ship from North America
  • Holk
  • Dinghy
  • Carrack
  • caravel
  • Catamaran , two-hull boat
  • Ketch , two-masted, the rear mast of which is smaller than the main mast and is in front of the rudder.
  • Klipper a fast sailing merchant ship of the 19th century, rigged as a full ship or brig.
  • Cog
  • corvette
  • Kraweel
  • Cutter
  • Ladine
  • Ship of the line
  • Logger
  • pinnace
  • Pinass ship
  • Pinisi
  • Schebeck
  • sloop
  • Schifazzo , Italian type of sailing ship from the 19th century with Latin sails and a stay jib.
  • Schnau , like a brig rigged two-master whose gaff sail is not attached to the main mast, but to a parallel extra spar
  • Schooner , slouch-rigged sailor with two or more masts, e.g. T. with Rahtopp
  • Schonerbark (Barkentine), slouch-rigged sailor with three to six masts, frame-rigged foremast
  • Schonerbrigg , two-masted sailing ship with only the front mast fully rigged
  • Slup , today the most common type of sailing ship for the leisure sector: one-masted with two sling sails
  • Trimaran , three-hull boat
  • Full ship , fully rigged sailors with three to five masts
  • Viking ship
  • Yawl , a two-masted sailing ship, whose rear, shorter mast is behind the rudder.
  • Zaruke
  • Zeesenboot

Non-specific names for sailing ships are three-masters, tall ships , deep-water sailors , five-masted ships or windjammers .

See also

Portal: Sailing  - Overview of Wikipedia content on sailing


  • Björn Landström: sailing ships . Bertelsmann Lexikon-Verlag Reinhard Mohn, Gütersloh 1970.
  • Stefan Gulás, Pavol Pevný: sailing ships . Werner Dausien Verlag, Hanau 1987, ISBN 3-7684-0776-4 .
  • Rolf L. Temming: sailing ships . Neuer Kaiser-Verlag, Klagenfurt 1987, ISBN 3-7043-1039-5 .
  • Middendorf, FL: "Masting and rigging of ships", reprint of the 1903 edition, Bielefeld 1977.

Web links

Commons : Sailing ships  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: sailing ship  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. The history of the Philippines before Magellan (English)