The oldest and bigest sailing ships

Marko T April 7, 2020 637 4 Comments


Although, every sailing ship has its own characteristics, some things are in common to all of them: a hull, rigging and at least one mast to hold up the sails which use the wind to power the ship. Sailors are the people who work as a crew on the ship.

The first ship was created thousands of years ago, and it is believed that it was just logs, used as buoyancy aids. Later, those logs were tied together to make rafts or canoes. The first crafts were propelled by simple paddles, or poles pushed into the river.

Ancient Egypt

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The first sailing ships were used on the River Nile in Egypt 3400 BC. The hulls were made of papyrus reeds. Those ships had one mast with a square sail and were steered by long oars. Later Egyptian vessels were built with keels and a ribbed frame, and Warships of this construction sailed in about 1400 BC, commanded by Pharaoh Ramesses III.

Ancient Greek

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Greek warships had oars and sails which could provide more speed and maneuverability. Ancient Greeks used oared ships, galleys, in war, and triumphed over the mighty Persian fleet in the naval battle of Salamis in 480 BC.

Roman cargo ship

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Roman cargo ships used some features from earlier Phoenician vessels. The Romans made some changes by added high sterns, more sophisticated rigging and a small sail at the bow, a spritsail, with the idea of improving maneuverability.

Viking longship

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The Vikings, people from Scandinavia, started voyages across the North Sea in about 800 AD. They sailed round the coasts of Britain, Ireland, France and Spain, planning to reach the Mediterranean. Their longships were very strong and flexible which enabled them long sea journeys. These cargo ships were called knars and they had wider hulls. It is believed that they could reach North America in about 1000 AD.


Chinese junk

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Chinese junk is a wooden sailing ship, developed in the 2nd century AD and sometimes still used by fishermen today. This ship was very massive, nine-masted, long 150 meters.

Some of the biggest sailing ships today:

Barque Sedov

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This ship is known as the Magdalene Vinnen II and was built in Germany in the 1921. It was used as a cargo ship until 1936, when was converted into a naval training vessel. After the WW2, the ship was handed over to the Soviet navy and was renamed to Sedov, after the famous Soviet explorer Georgy Sedov. Today, the Sedov is still used as a training ship for cadets from the Russian universities, and it also participates in many of tall sailing ships’ races worldwide.

Royal Clipper

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The Royal Clipper is a cruise and five mast sail ship, built in 1902. It is world’s largest sailing ship. The Royal Clipper offers Mediterranean and Caribbean cruise. It is also in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest sailing ship with squarely rigged masts.


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When created, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Preussen was the largest sailing ship. Its hull was made of steel and powered with five fully rigged masts.

Juan Sebastian Elcano

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This sailing ship was built in the year 1927 and was the third world’s tallest sailing ship. Its name comes after Juan Sebastian Elcano, the commander of the fleet during Ferdinand Magellan’s last expedition. Today, it is used as a training vessel for the Spanish Royal naval forces.

Thomas W. Lawson

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This ship was built by the Fore River Ship and Engine Co. in 1901. It was used for the oil cargo transportation and was the first sailing tanker vessel in the world.

These were some of the oldest and the biggest sailing ships in the world. A need to diminish the distance between some countries or even continents, transport goods or conquer the enemy, sailing ships have always played a very important role.


Written by Marko T.

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