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Types of Sailboats and Rigs

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Square-Rigged Tall Ship
Square-Rigged Tall Ship

Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Finally, here’s a large three-masted square-rigger flying five tiers of square sails and several head sails as well as a mizzen sail. Although this is a modern ship, one of many still used around the world for sail training and passenger cruise ships, the rig is essentially unchanged from centuries ago. Columbus, Magellan, and the other early sea explorers sailed in square-riggers.

Remarkably efficient sailing downwind or well off the wind, square sails do not generate power from their leading edge as in the Bermuda rig, which has become predominant in modern times, and square-riggers therefore generally do not sail upwind. It was due to this limitation that the great trade wind sailing routes around the world were developed centuries ago.

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