Full rigged ship

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A full rigged ship or fully rigged ship is a sailing vessel with three or more masts, all of them square rigged. A full rigged ship is said to have a ship rig.

Sometimes such a vessel will merely be called a ship, particularly in 18th to early 19th century and earlier usage, to distinguish it from other vessels such as schooners, barques, barquentines, brigs, et cetera. Alternately, a full rigged ship may be referred to by its function instead, as in collier or frigate, rather than being called a ship. In many languages the word frigate or frigate rig refers to a full-rigged ship.


The HMS Lutine, a French ship-rigged frigate of the late 18th century

The masts of a full rigged ship, from bow to stern, are:

  • Foremast, which is the second tallest mast
  • Mainmast, the tallest
  • Mizzenmast, the third tallest
  • Jiggermast, which may not be present but will be fourth tallest if so

There is no standard name for a fifth mast on a ship-rigged vessel (though this may be called the spanker mast on a barque, schooner or barquentine). Only one five-masted full rigged ship (the Flying P-Liner Preussen) had ever been built until recent years, when a few modern five-masted cruise sailing ships have been launched. Even a fourth mast is relatively rare for full rigged ships. Ships with five and more masts are not normally fully rigged and their masts may be numbered rather than named in extreme cases.

If the masts are of wood, each mast is in three or more pieces. The lowest piece is called the mast or the lower. Above it, the pieces in order are:

  • Topmast
  • Topgallant mast
  • Royal mast, if fitted

On steel-masted vessels, the corresponding sections of the mast are named after the traditional wooden sections.


The lowest and normally largest sail on a mast is the course sail of that mast, and is referred to simply by the mast name: Foresail, mainsail, mizzen sail, jigger sail or more commonly forecourse etc.

Above the course sail, in order, are:

The division of a sail into upper and lower sails was a matter of practicality, since undivided sails were larger and, consequently, more difficult to handle. Larger sails necessitated hiring, and paying, a larger crew. Additionally, the great size of some late-19th and 20th century vessels meant that their correspondingly large sails would have been impossible to handle had they not been divided.

Jibs are carried forward of the foremast, are tacked down on the bowsprit or jib-boom and have varying naming conventions.

Staysails may be carried between any other mast and the one in front of it or from the foremast to the bowsprit. They are named after the mast from which the are hoisted, so for example a staysail hoisted to the top of the mizzen topgallant on a stay running to the top of the main topmast would be called the mizzen topgallant staysail.

In light winds studding sails (pronounced "stunsls") may be carried on either side of any or all of the square rigged sails except royals and skysails. They are named after the adjacent sail and the side of the vessel on which they are set, for example main topgallant starboard stu'nsail. One or more spritsails may also be set on booms set athwart and below the bowsprit.

One or two spankers are carried aft of the aftmost mast, if two they are called the upper spanker and lower spanker. A fore-and-aft topsail may be carried above the upper or only spanker, and is called the gaff sail.

See also


External links

da:Fuldrigger de:Vollschiff es:Fragata fi:Fregatti fr:Trois-mâts carré is:Fullbúið skip ja:シップ (帆船) nn:Fullriggar no:Fullrigger pl:Fregata (żaglowiec) sv:Fullriggare