Colorful Sails

Sailboats have been a source of inspiration since the first ones set sail to the ends of the earth. While the days of exploration and shipping by sailing vessel are largely over; although, with our current global warming crisis container ships are looking to the wind to help ease the environmental burden of our shipping needs, sailing is still much loved across the world.

Here is a look at some colorful sail palettes, and an overview of some of the different types of sails from Wikipedia.

Photo by limonada and Drome


98px-sail_plan_sloopsvg.png     A Bermuda or gaff mainsail lifted by a single mast with a single jib bent onto the forestay, held taut with a backstay. The mainsail is usually managed with a spar on the underside called a “boom.” One of the best-performing rigs per square foot of sail area and is fast for up-wind passages. In modern times by far the most popular for recreational boating because of its potential for high performance. On small boats, it can be a simple rig. On larger sloops, the large sails have high loads, and one must manage them with winches or multiple purchase block-and-tackles.



121px-sail_plan_cuttersvg.png     Like a sloop with two jibs (a staysail and a yankee) in the foretriangle. Better than a sloop for light winds, it’s also easier to manage. It has slightly less up-wind ability than a sloop because it has more windage.


Photo by Duo de Hale


131px-sail_plan_yawlsvg.png     Like a sloop or catboat with a mizzen mast located aft (closer to the stern of the vessel) of the rudder post. The mizzen is relatively small, and is intended to help provide helm balance.



139px-sail_plan_ketchsvg.png     Like a yawl, but the mizzenmast is often much larger, and is located forward of the rudder post. The purpose of the mizzen sail in a ketch rig, unlike the yawl rig, is to provide drive to the hull. A ketch rig allows for shorter sails than a sloop with the same sail area, resulting in a lower center of sail and less overturning momentum. The shorter masts therefore reduce the amount of ballast and stress on the rigging needed to keep the boat upright. Generally the rig is safer and less prone to broaching or capsize than a comparable sloop, and has more flexibility in sailplan when reducing sail under strong crosswind conditions – the mainsail can be brought down entirely (not requiring reefing) and the remaining rig will be both balanced on the helm and capable of driving the boat. The ketch is a classic small cargo boat.


Photo by ChromaticOrb


82px-sail_plan_catboatsvg.png     A sailboat with a single mast and single sail, usually gaff-rigged. This is the easiest sail-plan to sail, and is used on the smallest and simplest boats. The catboat is a classic fishing boat. A popular movement among home-built boats uses this simple rig to make “folk-boats.” One of the advantages of this type is that it can be rigged with no boom to hit one’s head or knock one into the water. However, the gaff requires two halyards and often two topping lifts. The weight of the gaff spar high in the rigging can be undesirable. The gaff’s fork (jaws) is held on by a rope threaded through beads called trucks (US) or parrel beads (UK). The gaff must slide down the mast, and therefore prevents any stays from bracing the mast. This usually makes the rig even heavier, requiring yet more ballast.



    A fore-and-aft rig having at least two masts, with a foremast that is usually smaller than the other masts. Schooners have traditionally been gaff-rigged and in small craft are generally two-masted, however many have been built with Marconi rigs (and even junk rigs) rather than gaffs and in the golden age of sail, vessels were built with as many as seven masts. One of the easiest types to sail, but performs poorly to windward without gaff topsails. The extra sails and ease of the gaff sails make the rig easier to operate, though not necessarily faster, than a sloop on all points of sail other than up-wind. Schooners were more popular than sloops prior to the upsurge in recreational boating. The better performance of the sloop upwind was outweighed for most sailors by the better performance of the schooner at all other, more comfortable, points of sail. Advances in design and equipment over the last hundred years have diminished the advantages of the schooner rig. Many schooners sailing today are either reproductions or replicas of famous schooners of old.


Photo by Mikey G Ottawa & froggirl

Fully Rigged Ship

211px-sail_plan_shipsvg.png     Three or more masts, square rigged on all, with stay-sails between. The classic ship rig originally had exactly three masts, but four and five masted ships were also built. The classic sailing warship — the ship of the line — was fully rigged in this way, because of high performance on all points of wind. They were larger than brigs and brigantines, and faster than barques or barquentines, but required more sailors.


Bragana or Felucca

155px-sail_plan_feluccasvg.png     A classic in the Mediterranean or Indian Ocean. Three lateen sails in a row.


Photo by Mark McLaughlin and Colin 30d


144px-sail_plan_junksvg.png     The standard Chinese design: Elliptical sails made flat with bamboo inserts (battens), permitting them to sail well on any point of sail. Easy to sail, and reasonably fast. The nature of the rig places no extreme loads anywhere on the sail or rigging, thus can be built using light-weight, less expensive materials. Some of the largest sailing ships ever constructed were junks for the Chinese treasure fleets. Junks also customarily had internal water-tight rooms, kept so by not having doors between them. Usually they were constructed of teak or mahogany.


Sail plan info and images from Wikipedia

Header photo by Today is a good day

Author: evad
David Sommers has been loving color as COLOURlovers' Blog Editor-in-Chief for the past two years. When he's not neck deep in a rainbow he's loving other things with The Post Family (, a Chicago-based art blog, artist collective & gallery.