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It should come as no surprise that the greater part of a book written on the rigging of ships is devoted to vessels propelled solely by sail. The Introduction that follows is not intended to be a historical treatise on the development of vessels from antiquity to the present time. Rather, its purpose is to identify some of the factors that have caused rapid technological change in shipbuilding and the effect they have had on the various shipbuilding trades. Since the introduction of iron and steel, shipyards building in wood have been in decline; with those building sailing vessels exclusively being the first to go.


The iron steamer Great Britain of 1845 introduced the screw propeller as a propulsive device for ocean‑going vessels. This ship, of length 88 m (288.7ft), breadth 15.5 m (50.9ft) and draught 5.49 m (18.0ft), marked the beginning of a whole new era in steam navigation at a time when wooden shipbuilding had reached its zenith.


During the first half of the last century the Americans gradually drifted away from the old traditions by constructing their ships larger and with finer lines than ordinary merchant vessels. Built using an abundant and cheap resource of timber, these so-called 'clippers' soon became celebrated and favoured everywhere due to their great capacity and speed. It was only a matter of time before other nations began constructing similar large wooden vessels for their own merchant fleets.


A scarcity of suitable timber in Britain prompted British shipbuilders to pursue the construction of steamers and sailing vessels from iron at an early stage. By 1837, the first iron ocean‑going vessel, the Rainbow, was already in service. A major problem with iron in the early days was that the immersed hull quickly became heavily fouled with marine growth; particularly when journeying in warmer waters. Such was the loss in speed due to fouling that, initially; some reservations were expressed as to the suitability of iron vessels for extended voyages. Certainly, their performance compared poorly with copper‑sheathed wooden vessels, where the fouling of the sheathing was negligible, even after long periods at sea.


By the 1860's the above objections to iron had led the British to develop so‑called 'composite' vessels in which the transverse and primary longitudinal members as well as the diagonal tie‑plates were made of iron and the shell and deck were timber planked. Expensive to construct, these vessels were planked with high quality timbers such as teak and sheathed in copper. From 1864 on, composite vessels were awarded the highest classification from Lloyds—that of 20 years—due to the reduced risk of fouling which dogged iron vessels.


A number of composite vessels were constructed specifically for the tea trade between China and Britain. These 'tea clippers' were built for speed to achieve quick passages both out and home again. Over the years a keen rivalry developed between the vessels in this trade. This culminated in the never‑to‑be‑forgotten race between the clippers Ariel, Taitsing, Taeping, Serica and Fiery‑Cross.  The first three‑named vessels were composite‑built while the other two were wooden. All were of modest dimensions by today's standards—under 60 m (196.9 ft) in length and 900 tons gross.


The famous clippers of the 1850's and 60's engaged in the Australian trade sailed outbound in ballast carrying passengers. Being favourably laden, these vessels were able, on occasion, to achieve passages superior to those of modern sailing vessels. Thermopylae, for example, took 61 days from The Channel to Melbourne. Today a passage of 70 to 90 days is regarded as being very good—remembering, of course, that this is for a vessel heavily laden.


On the continent wooden vessels continued to be built in numbers—timber being not as scarce there as it was in Britain. The exceptions were the Dutch, however, who constructed most of their vessels for the colonial trade using the composite system.


Deep‑sea sailing vessels of the past carried large crews to handle the extensive sail plans characteristic of the times, studdingsails included. With such a large area of sail, these vessels were able to make good passages in light airs. Subsequent innovations such as double topsails and various ingenious patented methods for self‑reefing topsails were introduced with the aim of reducing the number of crew required. Some sailing vessels were even fitted with auxiliary screw propulsion.


While improvements were being made to the design and construction of sailing vessels, progress was also being made in the science of navigation. Closer attention was given to the statistical observation of sea conditions, wind strength and direction, temperature and barometric pressure prevailing at various parts of the oceans throughout the four seasons. Using this information, the optimum routes, both outbound and home, could be determined for any time of year. If a planned course deviated greatly from the normal routes, the duration of the voyage could still be reduced by combining astute observation with a knowledge of the local meteorological conditions to meet with fair winds.


As suitable anti‑fouling compositions for coating ship's bulls were developed, iron sailing vessels became more and more popular.


At the same time that improvements were being made to the design and operation of sailing vessels, steamers were also evolving. The big advantage of self‑propelled vessels was, of course, their ability to steer a direct course from part to port, independent of the direction and vagaries of the wind. This enabled costs to be lowered. Sailing vessels continued to remain competitive in the longer trades, however, because the crude machinery of early steamers consumed vast quantities of coal.


The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 shortened the voyage between Europe and India, East Africa and Australia. Via the canal, ordinary tramp steamers could now make such voyages in 30 to 40 days. Sailing vessels were excluded from any benefit, however, and so a major portion of the trades that had once belonged to them was lost.


The result of the various developments described above was that the composite system in new construction gradually fell into decline. Nowadays, apart from some naval cruisers and pleasure vessels, this form of construction is only occasionally still used, mainly in the United States and Sweden.


As early as the middle of the last century, the German seaports of Hamburg and Bremen operated well-established sailing ship fleets. Among the more important trades was the carriage of emigrants from Europe to various American destinations. In 1847 the "Hamburg‑Amerikanische Paketfahrt‑Aktien‑Gesellschaft" was founded, inaugurating its passenger services in wooden vessels. By 1856, the company had introduced its first steamer, the Borussia, into regular service. She was soon to be followed by the Hammonia and others. The company 'Norddeutsche Lloyd' began operations in 1858 with the introduction of four steamers Bremen, New York, Weser and Hudson. Initially, both steamship companies faced many difficulties. As well as each company losing a ship by fire; vessels of both frequently sustained considerable damage through the rigours of service.


These mishaps, when added to other expenses, permitted sailing vessels to remain competitive against steamers in the emigrant trade. Even as late as the mid 1870's, newspapers in the abovementioned German parts still advertised "the most renowned, fast‑sailing, copper fastened and sheathed, vessel

Baltimore, ….."


It was inevitable, however, that this trade, once so lucrative for sailing vessels, would be lost—not because of some radical innovation or event, but merely through the steady improvement of steamers and their machinery. It is not difficult to understand why emigrants favoured steamers over sailing vessels. The arrival of the steamer at its destination was fixed to within a reasonable" degree of certainty. As the importance placed on quick passages increased, so‑called *express" steamers became more and more popular. These vessels were able to charge a premium for the shorter passage, even though less of the fare went toward the price of provisions. The premium even extended to steerage passengers.


The carriage of emigrants by sail has long since ceased. It was fortunate that none of the shipping companies collapsed; probably due to the introduction of modern cargo carrying sailing vessels. Of about 1000 tons gross and 7 to 8 metres (23‑26 ft) draught, these vessels helped regain much of the ground previously lost.


A different story can be told for the carriage of cargo, however. For decades steamers have competed with sailing vessels without being able to oust the latter from the seas. Large sailing vessels carrying bulk cargoes such as rice, coal, saltpeter, guano and cased petroleum, deep‑sea via Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope have retained much of their former share of the market. Intermediate‑sized vessels, however, have not fared so well despite not having to transfer cargoes to and from smaller vessels, lighters, etc. Small vessels still find employment in the local coastal and tidal flats trades, notwithstanding the increase in lighterage operations. The one time profitable carriage of petroleum in barrels has long since passed to the modern tanker.


Steel as a shipbuilding material for merchant vessels began to make an appearance in the early 1890's. Although initial acceptance of steel was slow, the development of cheaper and better methods of manufacture, together with the reduction in scantlings permitted by its greater strength, resulted in the eventual widespread use of the new material. The following table compiled by Lloyd's Register lists the shipping of the world during the final decade of the last century. The trend toward the increased use of steel is clearly illustrated.


The table includes all vessels of 100 tons and over (gross tonnage for steamers and net tonnage for sailing vessels). The figures apply to the twelve months between July and June the following year.


Referring to rows 2 and 7 of the table, it is clear that the advantages of reduced hull weight and correspondingly greater deadweight capacity which accompanied the use of steel were more quickly exploited in steamers than in sailing vessels.


As already mentioned, the composite system soon became obsolete for the construction of merchant vessels. In Europe, iron and wood are also falling into disuse as shipbuilding materials due to the greater weight and, in the case of wood, smaller volumetric capacity and relatively shorter working life of vessels so built. In America, the land of forests, wooden shipbuilding is still practised. The enormous size of wooden vessels constructed there can be gauged from the particulars of the four‑masted barque Roanoke. Launched in 1892, Roanoke has a length overall of 100.88 m (331.0 ft), length of keel 94.8 m (311.0 ft), beam 15.0 m (49.2 ft), draught 8.23 m (27.0 ft) and deadweight of 5000 tonnes. The Americans have also built a number of large five‑ and six‑masted schooners, and even a seven-master. Among these, completed at the beginning of this century, are the following:


   two six‑masted schooners, George W. Wells and Eleanor A. Percy of length 100 m (328.1 ft), beam 14‑15 m (45.9‑49.2 ft) and depth 7‑7.5 m ( 23.0‑24.6 ft).


   the steel seven‑masted schooner Thomas W. Lawson of length 123 m (403.5 ft), beam 15.24 m (50.0 ft), depth 10.46 m (34.3 ft) and tonnage 5218 gross.


The decline in the numbers of wooden ships can be seen in rows 4 and 9 of the table. This can be directly attributed to the decline in American shipbuilding.


Rows 5 and 10 clearly illustrate the steady increase in the average tonnage of ships, particularly that of steamers. The downward trend in the total tonnage of sailing vessels during the final decade of the last century is shown in row 10 of the table.


A list of German registered merchant vessels of a gross tonnage over 50 m3 (141.5 GRT), compiled in the first half of 1902 from the quarterly statistics of the German Empire dated 1st January 1901, contained 3883 vessels totalling 2,826,400 tons gross and 1,941,645 tons net. Of theses 2493 were sailing or non-propelled vessels totalling 640,510 tons gross and 593,770 tons net. Steamers amounted to 1390 vessels of 2,185,890 tons gross and 1,347,875 tons net. Analysis of the sailing and non-propelled vessels listed in the above‑mentioned statistics reveals 45 vessels with four or more masts, 296 three‑masters, 1377 two‑masters, 552 single‑masters and 223 non‑propelled barges without any masts except those for working cargo. Included among the vessels with four or more masts was the Hamburg registered five‑masted barque Potosi of 4026 tons gross—at that time the largest sailing vessel in the world. (Presently, the five‑masted fully rigged ship Preussen of 5081 tons gross holds this title).













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Many merchant vessels of the past were rather inefficient and poorly suited to the particular trades in which they were engaged. Instead of having to be competitive,           the shipowners relied heavily upon various trade monopolies and other like restrictions.   Today the situation has changed greatly. For a vessel to continue to trade today, it must maintain a clear economic advantage over its competitors. The greater this advantage, the lower the freight rates that can be offered and the greater the chance of the vessel securing a cargo. As well as being sufficiently strong and long‑lasting, such vessels must combine a large carrying capacity with adequate speed and manoeuvrability, while at the same time requiring only       minimum crew. If lighterage charges are to be avoided, allowance must also be made for any restrictions in draught at            the intended ports of call.


As a general observation, the majority of sailing vessels have a hull form that is both pleasing and serviceable. This is in stark contrast to a number of modern, flat‑floored steamers seen today which have a totally utilitarian form and rig—as though the designer had an extremely pronounced taste for the unaesthetic. Although the rig of steamers must satisfy a number of important practical requirements; it is usually possible to also design the rig with a reasonably handsome appearance.


Unlike steamers, it is not normal to subdivide the internal volume of sailing vessels by bulkheads into separate watertight compartments. Instead, there is usually just a single large hold that, in larger vessels, is divided horizontally by a tween deck. In the absence of a tween deck, deep web frames and stringers are installed; these having superseded the old system of hold beams.


All sailing vessels are provided with at least one collision bulkhead forward. In many cases, another similar bulkhead is installed aft. Further subdivision of the hold of sailing vessels by bulkheads, in the manner usual on steamers, tends to hinder the loading and unloading of cargo. Furthermore, the safety of the vessel is not significantly increased because, as a compartment floods, the vessel sinks almost to deck level, reducing the stability beyond the paint where capsize occurs. Large four‑ and five‑masters are often fitted with either hold beams or structural bulkheads immediately abaft each mast in order to strengthen the transverse structure and support the large cargo hatches.


The deck erections on large four‑ and five‑masters usually consist of a foc's'le, a short poop and. an the largest vessels, a bridge deck or "Liverpool" house spanning from gunwale to gunwale for accommodating the crew. Where a Liverpool House is fitted,      the steering gear and a chart house are located on the deck above in a manner similar to steamers.


Smaller four‑masters and large three‑masters are usually arranged with a foc's'le and long poop in the traditional manner. The poop contains the cabin and staterooms, while a large deckhouse abaft the foremast serves to house the crew. The galley and accommodation for petty officers are either in the deckhouse already referred to, or in a separate smaller deckhouse. Small vessels have a raised quarterdeck over the cabin, with the remainder of the crew accommodated in a foc's'le or house on deck.


The majority of French sailing vessels built in recent years have very long deck erections, leaving only a short well deck amidships. Not meant for the carriage of cargo, these extra large deck erections are fitted in order to maximize the gross tonnage, while not effecting the net tonnage‑ the objective being for the ship owner to take full advantage of the French Government's system of shipbuilding and voyage bounties.


A number of modern sailing vessels have been equipped with stockless anchors. Although lacking the holding power in all conditions of the ordinary stocked anchor, stockless anchors have been in use for some time on steamers. The efficiency of the ground tackle is of paramount importance on sailing vessels because, unlike steamers, they are unable to use engines in order to relieve the ground tackle in critical situations.


The trend in rigging has been toward simplification. Studdingsails, patent self‑reefing sails, etc. have long been discarded owing to the additional maintenance they require. Long jibbooms have given way to shorter spike bowsprits where the jibboom and bowsprit are combined in a single spar. The size of headsails has been reduced to the minimum possible in order to reduce the risk to the crew when making these sails fast. Double topsails are now universal, while double topgallants are common on larger vessels. On some larger vessels, even the royals have been omitted entirely. Special hand or steam winches are provided on large vessels for hoisting upper topsail and upper topgallant yards. Additional smaller winches are fitted at the rails for hauling the sheets of courses.


Large masts, yards, bowsprits and other spars are constructed of iron or steel. Smaller spars are hewn from solid timber. Normally, the standing rigging is made of steel wire rope set up with rigging screws.


The preceding has been a brief overview of the development of the sailing vessel during the latter half of the last century. Attention will now be turned to examining some of the factors that have led to the loss of several sailing vessels.


As already noted, the recent trend is for the size of vessels to increase. With steamers, the upper limit of size has not yet been established. Larger and larger steamers continue to be built. On the other hand, several authorities believe that the upper limit of size for sailing vessels has been reached and that, in fact, a few vessels may have already exceeded it. To date, the largest sailing vessels have a tonnage of only 4000 to 5000 tons gross; all of these being operated by the firm of F. Laeisz of Hamburg.


The major disadvantages of such very large sailing vessels have been an increase in the problems encountered when manoeuvring and a greater demand for qualities of leadership and skill on the part of the master. As a result, many ship owners have been reluctant to build vessels any larger than the largest three-masters. While there can be no doubt that a three‑master, in particular a barque, will be much more handy than a four‑ or five‑master; it should be recognized that nowadays large ships are rarely required to manoeuvre in narrow channels, due to the almost universal availability of steam tugs.


In order to provide a degree of independence from tugs and the capability of proceeding through extended calms, a few experimental sailing vessels have been fitted with an auxiliary steam engine and propeller. Most have been unsuccessful. The firm of Rickmers Reismuhlen, Rhederei und Schiffbau installed a 750 indicated horsepower engine in their five‑master Maria Rickmers. When fully laden in calm conditions, the machinery gave this vessel a speed of 5 to 6 knots. Due to the two entirely independent means of propulsion—sails and propeller—auxiliary sailing vessels are inherently safer and more manoeuvrable than ordinary steam or sailing vessels. Unfortunately, Maria Rickmers went missing before sufficient experience was gained with this type of equipment. Recent attempts at fitting auxiliary machinery to small sailing vessels—schooners and fishing vessels—have apparently met with encouraging results.


The frequent casualties involving large three‑ and four‑masted sailing vessels have resulted in considerable criticism, both during the first half of the last decade and also recently. It is therefore well worthwhile to examine closely the circumstances that led to these casualties—at least as far as is possible from the scant accounts available. Often, these mishaps were to influence later sailing vessel design.


In the past, mishaps involving sailing vessels were fairly equally distributed among nations. Of late, however, French ships seem to have suffered the most frequent casualties.


The earlier Incidents to large sailing vessels will be considered first. Dismasting, either total or partial, occurred on the four‑masters Wanderer, Australia and Somali. The four-master Govanbank was abandoned off Cape Horn after having sustained damage to her rigging. Another four‑master, Thracia, capsized with 600 tonnes of ballast while under tow by a steamer, even though she had no sail set at the time. The four‑masters Nation, Ben Douran, Govanburn, Dunkerque, Caracas, Perseverance and the five‑master Maria Rickmers all went missing. Of the last‑named group, all were fully laden with the exception of Perseverance. She was in ballast—comprising 613 tonnes of water ballast with an additional 250 tonnes of stone ballast stowed above the double bottom. Both Govanburn and Dunkerque carried cargoes of coal. Conceivably, their loss was due to either explosion or spontaneous combustion. Improper stowage of ballast was the cause of the Thracia's capsize. The first four-mentioned were probably lost due to excess stability (i.e. being too stiff due to poor stowage), a weakness in the rig or poor seamanship.


Of the seven vessels that went missing, four carried water ballast in double bottom tanks. The adoption of water as ballast has significant advantages over solid ballast; the costs of loading and discharging ballast being avoided. Water ballast contained within double bottom tanks has been commonplace on steamers for some time. Similar arrangements for ballasting sailing vessels have not proven entirely satisfactory for a number of reasons. First, the volume of water ballast contained within double bottom tanks is usually insufficient to achieve a minimum practical sailing draught. Second, vessels with a double bottom are likely to have a comparatively higher centre of gravity of the deadweight when in the fully laden condition. This is because the bottom of the hold on a vessel fitted with a double bottom lies comparatively higher in the hull than on a vessel with a single bottom having the ceiling laid directly over the floors. Thus, when in the laden condition, vessels fitted with a double bottom tend to be more tender. A third problem arises in the ballasted condition where the low centre of gravity of the ballast in the double bottom can cause the vessel to be crank (ie. too stiff).


The first problem can be partially overcome by stowing sand or stone ballast on top of the inner bottom, additional to the water ballast. Even given the extra ballast stowed higher, it is likely that the total centre of gravity of the ballast will still lie too low in the ship.


In the fully laden homogeneous cargo condition, vessels fitted with a double bottom carry less cargo due to the reduced volume of the hold and the additional weight of the double bottom itself. Moreover, less sail can be set, because of the higher centre of gravity of the cargo. If sail area is not to be sacrificed then the double bottom tanks must be at least partially, if not completely filled, thus reducing the cargo deadweight even further.


A continuous double bottom running fore and aft over the whole length of a vessel can be advantageous—in the event of stranding for instance. However, with the various drawbacks discussed above being so marked, it is generally conceded that double bottom tanks are not a particularly satisfactory solution to the ballasting requirements of sailing vessels. On the other hand, double bottoms are almost indispensable in steamers where the boilers, machinery and coal all contribute to give a high centre of gravity. The double bottom ballast more than compensates for the high centre of gravity of steamers in the unladen condition. While the consequences of excess stability on steamers are minimal, the same characteristics on sailing vessels can be highly detrimental due to the increased risk of dismasting.


With the increasing size of steamers, it was soon found that water ballast contained within the double bottom tanks alone was insufficient to achieve the required minimum ballasted draught. Nowadays, large steamers are also provided with additional tanks, in the form of wing tanks extending from the double bottom to the deck above, tween deck tanks or deep tanks. The last‑named are not new. As early as 1873, steamers were being constructed with deep tanks. Among them, the large steamers MINERVA and CERES built by A‑G Weser of Bremen. Experience has since verified the usefulness of deep tanks on steamers.


A number of sailing vessels have also been fitted with deep tanks extending from the top of the inner bottom to the tween deck. As well as achieving the required minimum draught. this arrangement results in a more favourable centre of gravity. When not used for ballast, the deep tanks can be utilized to carry cargo, as shown in the profile and cross‑section given in Fig. 1.


Sailing vessels fitted with deep tanks usually have the double bottom divided longitudinally by a vertical centre keelson plate and athwartships by two or three transverse watertight floors. Thus, the double bottom is arranged with two tanks forward, either two or four tanks amidships and two tanks aft. The deep tanks are located atop the inner bottom and extend up to the tween deck. They are subdivided by longitudinal and transverse bulkheads into four separate large tanks. Deep tanks on very deep vessels may be further subdivided by a horizontal partition at the level of the hold beams; thus forming eight tanks as shown in Fig. 1. These tanks are numbered 1, 2, 3 or 4, port or starboard. When laden with a low-density cargo, the vessel's stability may be easily adjusted by simply taking on a small quantity of ballast water. Notwithstanding the advantages, a drawback to this arrangement lies in the many tanks from which cargo must be worked.


A combination of double bottom and deep tanks can provide adequate stability in the ballasted, partially laden and low-density cargo conditions. However, the objections already stated concerning the fully laden condition remain ‑ viz., that the vessel is more tender due to the higher centre of gravity of the cargo. In order to avoid this problem, a number of sailing vessels have recently been constructed with deep tanks only. Omitting the double bottom entirely also enables the tankage to be much simplified, as illustrated in the profile and cross-section shown in Fig. 2.


Transverse bulkheads are provided at each end of the tank space. The bulkheads extend from the bottom plating up to the crown of the tank at the level of either the tween deck or hold beams, whichever applicable. A centreline longitudinal bulkhead and one or two transverse bulkheads subdivide the tank space. The result is either four or six watertight compartments, depending upon the size of the vessel. If the centre of gravity of the ballast is still found to lie too low, the middle pair of tanks may be extended up to the next deck above.


A difficulty is often encountered making the hatches to each deep tank large enough for shore cranes to have access from both sides of the vessel. Even when large hatches can be fitted, problems loading and discharging cargo from tanks may still arise due to the large areas between masts made inaccessible by shrouds and backstays. These objections tend to be less of a problem the bigger the vessel. Hence, such arrangements are normally only seen on vessels of large tonnage. As the size of the vessel diminishes, the extra expenses incurred due to working cargo in the many tanks tend to exceed the gains that arise through the use of less costly water ballast.


The master of a vessel arranged for water ballast does not have the same discretionary control over the stability of his vessel, as would otherwise be the case if solid or cargo ballast were loaded. On a water ballasted vessel it is the shipbuilder who must assume responsibility for ensuring appropriate trim and stability in the ballasted condition. The ballast tanks must contain sufficient water to achieve the required minimum ballasted draught. Furthermore, the ballast water must be properly distributed to ensure its centre of gravity is located at the appropriate height. If double bottom tanks are to be fitted, a check should be made to ensure adequate stability in the fully laden homogeneous cargo condition with double bottom tanks empty.


It goes almost without saying that vessels carrying water ballast must be provided with an auxiliary boiler and steam pumps.


When comparing the various options for ballasting available, it should be noted that solid ballast avoids any risk of cargo being spoilt by tanks leaking. Moreover, in certain trades, the vessel may well be able to procure a small general or other suitable return cargo of sufficient quantity to serve as ballast.


Recent years have seen the partial or total dismasting of a number of large French sailing vessels. Among them were the barques Emilie Galline, Grand Duchesse Olga, Marechal de Turenne, Marechal de Villars, Max, Normandie, Paris and Seine. Another, the Bretagne, foundered off Cape Horn due to dismasting and rudder damage. Ville de Dyon was towed into Montevideo dismasted and in a leaking condition. The barques Geneviena Melinos, Marie Melinos, Vendee and the four‑masted barques Emilie Siegfried, Ernest Siegfried, President Felix Faure and Ville du Havre all sprung leaks at sea. Both Emilie Siegfried and Ville du Havre had a gross tonnage exceeding 3000 tons. The remainder were between 2000 and 3000 tons. Vessels less than 2000 tons or greater than six years old have been excluded from this discussion. President Felix Fauvre was built in 1896 while the others were built in the years 1898, 1899 and 1900. All were constructed subsequent to the French bill of January 1893 that introduced shipbuilding and voyage bounties. With this bill came a whole new generation of large French sailing vessels. Some 60 to 70 in number, they differed little in construction from other already well‑proven vessels. There appears to be a correlation between many of the mishaps which befell this, class and the provision of water ballast tanks and various other innovations. No indication could be found to show that the type of cargo was a factor. Though two of the leaking vessels and one of those dismasted were loaded with ore cargoes, the remainder were loaded as follows: five with coal, four with general cargo and one with grain. It has been established that none of the vessels laden with coal was lost through spontaneous combustion. Neither the dimensions nor proportions of these vessels were extraordinary. Other nations operate vessels of similar tonnage without incident, indicating that size was not a factor. Generally, the workmanship used in the construction of these French ships has been sound.


In the absence of the above possibilities, the greater‑than‑average number of mishaps to French ships can probably be attributed to one or more of the following:


   flaws in the design of the vessel and/or its rig combined with an excessively large sail plan

   poor stability characteristics caused by improper loading

   poor judgement on the part of the master together with other manning deficiencies.


The first is entirely dependent upon the original design drawings that, unfortunately, are not available for scrutiny. Similarly, the second cannot be verified without access to the findings of the various inquiries. While one might expect that manning should not be a problem, it is conceivable that the boom in French sailing fleets could have led to a shortage of experienced masters, officers and crew.


When designing a sailing vessel, it is crucial to ensure that the sail area is properly proportioned relative to the size and form of the hull. When this is achieved, the vessel will sail well without requiring constant tending by her crew. Often an oversized rig is fitted in the expectation that this will increase the speed or, at least, result in smarter passages. Such assertions are erroneous in most cases. The author has analysed the rigs of a number of speedy vessels renowned for their fast passages. None were particularly heavily rigged. Other vessels with a comparatively larger rig did not perform as well.


Obviously, a vessel that is excessively rigged must be sailed with more caution and a larger crew than a vessel that has a rig in proportion to its size and stability.


For the rig of a vessel to be optimised, spar sizes should be kept within the limits nominated in this book. The latter have been determined empirically from the analysis of a large number of successful sailing vessels.


Although operational aspects fall outside the scope of this work ‑ this being really the concern of the master ‑ a brief mention is appropriate in so much as they require the cooperation of the shipbuilder.


The master of a vessel loaded with a low density or general cargo may need to stow a quantity of ballast beneath the cargo in order to ensure adequate stability. Often, the quantity of ballast required is not easy to determine, particularly if the cargo in question has not been carried before. Cases arise where even the most experienced seamen have had difficulty assessing how a vessel will behave at sea. The larger the vessel, the more difficult this becomes. With small vessels, the characteristics may be determined intuitively from the vessel's "feel". The same techniques are not readily applicable to larger vessels.


The master carries a heavy responsibility for both the lives of all those aboard and a valuable cargo. He should, therefore, be well versed with the concepts of stability; preferably through formal study at a school of navigation. Armed with this knowledge, the master should be sufficiently competent to independently perform an inclining experiment and then apply the results. To assist the master of a larger vessel in his investigation of the stability, the shipbuilder must provide the necessary curves, tables and drawings. The builder should also furnish a statement of the permissible values of metacentric height through the range of draughts. The stability of a vessel should be investigated over the range of loading conditions, viz., for a variety of cargoes and draughts and when ballasted. A number of loading combinations may need to be calculated before adequate stability is attained.


Already, some knowledgeable circles believe that it will only be a matter of time before sailing vessels disappear entirely from the world's oceans. One can only hope that this will not be the case. There is still much scope for potential improvement in the efficiency of sailing vessels; both by means of new innovation and reductions in operating costs. Inevitably, steamers will also undergo further development; at least partially counteracting any potential gains made through the improvement of sailing vessels. Analysis has shown that the annual operating costs of the more common sailing vessel types are approximately 25% of the initial purchase price. This is about 30% less than the figure for steamers. Moreover, while fuel costs for steamers will steadily increase, the motive power for sailing vessels, the wind, will forever remain free.


While a decline in sailing vessel numbers is already apparent in the merchant fleets of the world; interest in sailing for sport is increasing. In Germany, this has been largely due to the example set by our Kaiser. Recently, the Grand Duke of Oldenburg has sponsored the construction of a number of school ships for the training of young seamen. In France, sailing vessels continue to be heavily subsidized by the government. These developments are mainly due to the correct realization that sailing vessels are and will always remain the ultimate school for seamen.