Tall ship

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"Tall Ships" redirects here. For the band, see Tall Ships (band).
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.


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.

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[edit]

By 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.[1] The STI definitions can be found here and a ship database here.

Class A[edit]

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".[2]

Class A Tall Ships
Current NationalityOriginal
MastRigLength excluding
bowsprit [m]
Beam [m]
ALEX II Germany20113Barque6010.8X
Alpha Russia19482Barquentine8.9
Amerigo Vespucci Italy19313Full rigged ship82.415.8
Belem France18963Barque518.8
Capitain Miranda Uruguay19303Staysail Schooner50.37.9X
Christian Radich Norway19373Full rigged ship62.59.7
Cisne Branco Brazil19993Full rigged ship60.510.7
Constitution United States17973Full rigged ship62
Creole United Kingdom19273Schooner42.78.9
Creoula Portugal19374Schooner62.2
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
Jadran Montenegro19333Topsail Schooner8.9
James Craig Australia18743Barque54.89.5
Jessica Australia19833Topsail Schooner6.7
Juan Sebastián Elcano Spain19274Topsail Schooner94.1313.1
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
Lord Nelson United Kingdom19853Barque40.28.5
Mercator Belgium19323Barquentine6811.9X
Meridian Lithuania19483Barquentine8.9X
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 Germany19522Brig40.8
Sagres III Portugal19373Barque81.311.9
STS 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 States18633Barque62.510.7X
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
La Grace Czech Republic20102Brig32.86.06
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 USSR19283Full rigged shipBurned 1963
Prince William (see PNS Rah Naward) United Kingdom20012BrigSold (2010); now a sail training ship of the Pakistan Navy

Class B[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.[3]

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.[4]

Lost tall ships[edit]

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


See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]