The Design of Tall ships

The term tall ships is attribute essentially to those ships with sails which have generally a sea length of 36 meters. However, there are various classifications available for such ships, altering more minute details of ship design. But the overall design of tall ships remains more or less the same.



The difference between tall ships and other sailing ships comes not only in the length and subsequently the height of the ships but also in terms of overall tall ship design. The deviations from normal design mainly occur to accommodate greater length and height of the tall ship.

Essential components of design of sailing ships include the following:

The Keel- It is the lowermost and the most basic part of a design of sailing ships. This is the part which offers most support to the ship and forms the first step in construction of a ship.

This particular component of tall ships happens to serve dual purpose in most tall ships- acting as the physical and hydrodynamic support. The hull of the tall ship is built around the keel making it the most integral part of the ship. Rest of the ship can be imagined to be assembled around the keel.


The Hull- This is the part of the ship which serves as the base for the upper structures of the ship. Resting directly on the keel, hull makes for the support of all the decks. All the decking components of a tall ship viz weather deck; tween deck, cargo hold etc. are based on the hull.

This is the watertight part of the tall ship and also makes for the other parts of the ship like the bulk heads and other parts such as girders, stringers, webs, transverse and longitudinal frames etc. The design of the hull varies with the design of the ship. In tall ships, hull is designed to be able to support weight of extra masts and greater water length.


The Rudder- The maneuvering device in sailing ships is called a rudder. It is a feature found in all ship designs. It functions by altering the hydrodynamics of the hull, making the desired change in the ship direction.

It is a flat plane attached to the stern or tail and acts as a lever arm to provide the necessary leverage for turning a tall ship.


Rigging- It is that component of a sailing ship that uses the force of the wind to propel the ship in the desired direction. It is the mechanical apparatus, attached to the hull that allows the entire sailing ship to move in the desired direction.

Sails may be adjusted to alter the direction of movement but that too occurs with a shift in the entire rigging framework. Rigging is made of parts that include cordage, sails and spars- a complete assembly that helps in ship movement.


Figure head- The most distinct part of a tall ship design is its figure head which provides every ship its own unique appearance.

The reason a figure head started to be incorporated in a ship design was to give each ship a distinct identity.


Shrouds- The part of the tall ship that holds the masts together makes for the shrouds. Masts are connected at top of the shroud, providing support to the masts.

In tall ships, due to the additional weight of the masts, a projecting structure is provided which helps carry the mast weight further along the length to provide greater support. Futtock shrouds maybe the structures provided to carry the load of the mast.


Masts- The framework of structures that supports the sails of the tall ship is called the mast. It is the most important structure of the entire design of sailing ships, providing the essential point for support, change and maneuvering of sails to accommodate to the varying speeds.

In tall ships, there might be several masts made from materials such as wood, timber and other strong materials that allow for incorporation of multiple sails in the ship design.


Sail- The huge fabric, aerofoil or any other material’s structure intended to allow the ship to move freely. The sails are attached to the rigging assembly and moved with help of the leverage provided by the rudder.

A ship’s direction can be changed with help of shift in a sail’s direction. In tall ships, multiple sails are installed to allow them to be able to propel a bulky ship.


Bowsprit-This refers to a pole extending from the prow of a tall ship. It is incorporated in the tall ship design to accommodate extra length and height of the ship, making room for attachment of extra farestays. Also, the headsails can be tied onto the bowsprit when not in use.

Essentially an angle is provided for the bowsprit to allow safer usage of the pole. It may be made of strong materials like aluminum to be able to support additional weight.
Other important parts of a tall ship include

Staysail which is a rigged sail is mostly triangular in shape. They may further be of many types such as jib, headsails and foresails.

Forestay is the physical structure installed to provide extra support to the mast, essentially to prevent it from ‘toppling’ over backwards.

Bow is the front most part of the ship, ahead of every other ship part.

All these parts together make a complete functional and beautiful tall ship, capable of traveling thousands of miles at the sea.


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