Portcities Southampton
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Ships and Barques

The ship rig

The ship rig was probably the commonly used by vessels during the first part of this period, and the most prestigious ships retained this rig until the end of sail.  There were three masts: from bow to stern these were the fore mast, the main mast (usually the tallest) and the mizzen. 

Square sails were carried on all three masts.  On the fore and main masts, the largest and lowest of the sails were the courses.  Then came the topsails, and above them the topgallants.  In later years, the single topsails and topgallants were split into two, known – quite logically – as the lower and upper topsails and lower and upper topgallants.  In ships that needed to sail particularly fast, additional sails were added.  Fitted above the topgallants were royals and above them skysails.  Rigged from outward extensions of the yards which supported the other sails were studding sails. 

The mizzen mast in a ship was rigged rather differently from the main and fore mast.  It carried a fore-and-aft sail called the spanker, and above that square topsails and topgallants, as on the other masts. 

Ships also carried fore-and-aft sails rigged between the masts, known as staysails.  The fore staysail was rigged from the foremast to the bow.  Between the fore mast and the bowsprit (a pole forward from the bow) one or sometimes more jibs would be set above the fore staysail.