Tall ship

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.


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 NationalityOriginal
MastRigLength excluding
bowsprit [m]
Beam [m]
Alexander von Humboldt II Germany20113Barque6010.8
Alpha  Russia19482Barquentine8.9
Amerigo Vespucci Italy19313Full-rigged ship82.415.8
Belem France18963Barque518.8
Bimasuci Indonesia20173Barque111.2013.65
Capitain Miranda Uruguay19303Staysail Schooner50.37.9
Christian Radich Norway19373Full-rigged ship62.59.7
Cisne Branco Brazil19993Full-rigged ship60.510.7
Constitution United States17973Full-rigged ship6213.26
Creole United Kingdom19273Schooner42.78.9
Creoula Portugal19374Schooner62.29.9
Cuauhtemoc Mexico19823Barque67.212.0
Danmark Denmark19323Full rigged ship59.810.1
Dar Młodzieży Poland19823Full-rigged ship94.814.0
Dewaruci Indonesia19533Barquentine49.79.4
Druzhba Ukraine19873Full rigged ship94.214
Eagle United States19363Barque80.711.9
Eendracht Netherlands19893Gaff Schooner55.312.2
Elissa United States18773Barque45.48.5
Esmeralda Chile19534Barquentine94.1313.1
Eugene Eugenides Greece19593Topgallant Schooner9.2
Europa Netherlands19113Barque44.57.3
Gazela United States19013Barquentine42.77.9
Georg Stage (II) Denmark19353Full-rigged ship428.5
Gloria Colombia19683Barque6710.7
Golden Quest Tuvalu19453Barque487.5
Gorch Fock (I) Germany19333Barque73.711.9
Gorch Fock (II) Germany19583Barque81.211.9
Greif Germany19502Brigantine7.4
Großherzogin Elizabeth Germany19083Gaff Schooner538.2
Guayas Ecuador19773Barque56.1010.4
Iskra (II) Poland19823Barquentine407.9
Italia Italy19932Brigantine53.79.16
Jadran Montenegro19333Topsail Schooner8.9
James Craig Australia18743Barque54.89.5
Jessica Australia19833Topsail Schooner6.7
Juan Sebastián Elcano Spain19274Topsail Schooner94.1313.1
Juan Bautista Cambiaso Dominican Republic20093Barquentine54.608.5
Kaiwo Maru II Japan19894Barque89.013.8
Kaliakra Bulgaria19843Barquentine43.27.9
Khersones Ukraine19893Full-rigged ship94.814.0
Kruzenshtern Russia19264Barque9514.0
Leeuwin II Australia19863Barquentine41.29.0
Libertad Argentina19603Full-rigged ship91.713.7
La Grace Czech Republic20102Brig32.86.06
Lord Nelson United Kingdom19853Barque40.28.5
Mercator Belgium19323Barquentine6811.9
Meridian Lithuania19483Barquentine8.9
Mir Russia19873Full rigged ship94.814.0
Mircea Romania19383Barque73.712.5
Morgenster Netherlands19192Brig38.06.0
U.S. Brig Niagara United States19882Brig37.59.8
Nippon Maru II Japan19844Barque89.013.8
Oosterschelde Netherlands19183Topsail Schooner40.127.5
Palinuro Italy19343Barquentine58.710.1
Pallada Russia19893Full-rigged ship94.214.0
Peacemaker United States19893Barquentine3810.4
Picton Castle Canada19283Barque45.27.3
Pogoria Poland19803Barquentine40.97.9
Rah Naward Pakistan20012Brig40.69.9
Roald Amundsen Germany19522Brig40.87.2
Royal Albatross Malaysia20014Barquentine47.07.6
Sagres Portugal19373Barque81.311.9
Santa Maria Manuela Portugal19374Schooner62.49.9
Sedov Russia19214Barque108.714.6
Shabab Oman Oman19713Barquentine43.98.5
Simón Bolívar Venezuela19793Barque70.010.4
Sørlandet Norway19273Full-rigged ship56.79.6
Spirit of New Zealand New Zealand19863Barquentine33.29.0
Stad Amsterdam Netherlands20003Full-rigged ship62.410.5
Statsraad Lehmkuhl Norway19143Barque84.612.6
Star of India United States18633Barque62.510.7
Stavros S Niarchos United Kingdom20002Brig40.69.9
Sudarshini India20113Barque54.08.5
Surprise (ex Rose) United States19703Full-rigged ship54.69.8
Tarangini India19973Barque54.08.5
Thor Heyerdahl Germany19303Topsail Schooner42.56.5
Unicorn United Kingdom19482Brig7.3
Varuna India19813Barque54.08.5
Young America United States19752Brigantine7.2
Young Endeavour Australia19862Brigantine357.8
NameLast NationalityOriginal
Alexander von Humboldt Germany19063BarqueSold 2011/ relocated to Caribbean, 2013 returned to Germany; currently docked
Bounty United States19603Full-rigged shipSunk 2012
Concordia Canada19923BarquentineSunk 2010
Dunay Soviet Union19283Full rigged shipBurned 1963
Prince William United Kingdom20012BrigSold (2010); now a sail training ship of the Pakistan Navy with the name Rah Naward
Sagres Portugal18963BarqueReplaced by the third Sagres in 1961. Sold (1983); now permanently moored in Hamburg, Germany with the name Rickmer Rickmers
Sarmiento Argentina18973Full-rigged shipMuseum ship, moored in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Uruguay Argentina18743BarqueMuseum ship, moored in Buenos Aires, Argentina

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, one good example is Spirit of Bermuda.

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 C Tall Ships
Current NationalityOriginal
MastRigLength excluding
bowsprit [m]
Beam [m]
Caroly Italy19482yawl23.664.8
Capricia Italy19632yawl22.565.03
Stella Polare Italy19652yawl21.474.89
Corsaro II Italy19612yawl20.94.7

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′ (36.6 m) length overall (LOA). Fore and aft rigged vessels of 160′ (48.8 m) (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 and 160 feet in length, and all square rigged vessels under 120′ (36.6 m) (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 lost tall ships include:

  • Bounty, a full-rig ship lost off the North Carolina coast as Hurricane Sandy approached in 2012.
  • Concordia, a triple mast barquentine built in 1992 and 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 two-masted brigantine is thought to have collided with a submerged object.
  • Fantome, a former yacht built in 1927, then operated as a cruise ship. Was lost in Hurricane Mitch in 1998.[6]
  • Lennie, built in 1871, ran aground on Digby Neck in 1889.[7][8]
  • Marques, built in 1917; 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 broke up in 2014 after being salvaged
  • Zebu, sank at its dock in Liverpool in 2015.[9] It was built in 1938, and had been sitting at the dock since 1988, after completing a circumnavigation of the world in the 1980s.[10]

See also


  1. 1817-1862, Thoreau, Henry David,. "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers". www.gutenberg.org. Retrieved 9 May 2018.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  2. STI Definitions Archived 2016-06-09 at the Wayback Machine
  3. STI Measurement form. Archived 2013-01-31 at the Wayback Machine
  4. "National Institute for Sea Training (NIST)". kohkun.go.jp. Archived from the original on 27 January 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  5. "National Institute for Sea Training (NIST)". kohkun.go.jp. Archived from the original on 20 October 2008. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  6. Corzo, Cynthia; Morgan, Curtis; Herald, John Barry (8 November 1998). "The loss of the Windjammer Schooner, Fantome". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 26 October 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2018 via FortOgden.
  7. "Lennie - 1889". Marine Heritage Database. 2007-10-05. Archived from the original on 2017-10-25.
  8. Lennie (+1889) Wrecksite
  9. Turner-LE, Ben (4 September 2015). "Live updates: efforts to recover sunken Tall Ship Zebu in Albert Dock". Liverpool Echo. Archived from the original on 15 September 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  10. Fraser, Isabelle (4 September 2015). "Historic tall ship sinks in Liverpool dock". Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 23 March 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2018.

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)
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