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The Golden Age of Sailing

Clippers, Tall Ships and the Bermuda Sloop.

From the beginning of the 16th century to the mid-19th century tall sailing ships roamed the worlds oceans conducting trade and waging naval warfare in a global struggle for world power.  Square-rigged sailing ships carried Europeans and cargo to all corners of the world in one of the most expansive human migrations in history.

The advent of the steam engines in the mid-19th century pushed sailing ships to the side because steam ships speed and their ability to sail against the wind, cutting the delivery time of goods and people dramatically. In 1862 at the Battle of Hampton Roads the CSS Virginia, a steam-powered ironclad, destroyed the sailing ships USS Cumberland and USS Congress ending the use of sailing ships in naval warfare.  However sailing ships continued to play a part in the transportation of cargo and people on long voyages until the 1920s bringing to an end to the golden age of sailing.

Types of Sailing Ships

  • Bermuda Sloop: A single masted fore-and-aft rigged sailing ship developed in the Bermuda islands during the 17th century. It’s the basis of nearly all modern sailing yachts today.
  • Schooner: A sailing ship with two or more masts rigged with fore-and-aft sails, the foremast being no taller than the rear mast. First used by the Dutch in the 16th century.
  • Brigantine: A two-masted sailing ship with foremast fully square-rigged and the mainmast rigged with both a fore-and-aft mainsail (a gaff sail) and a square topsail, and possibly a topgallant sail. First used in the Mediterranean in the 13th century
  • Clipper: A very fast sailing ship with three masts and a square rig. First used in Baltimore during the middle third of the 19th century.
  • Barque: A sailing ship with three or more masts having the foremasts rigged square and only the aftermast rigged fore-and-aft. Designated by America and used all over the world by the end of the 18th century
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