Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Ketches Winners Over All, This Time: Schooner Days MCCLXXXV (1285)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 1 Sep 1956
Full Text
Ketches Winners Over All, This Time
Schooner Days MCCLXXXV (1285)

by C. H. J. Snider

Square Rig v. Fore-And-Aft

DISCUSSION of the recent sailing ship race from Devonshire to Portugal has produced so many requests for information about the participants that definitions may be in order before going on with the race and its winner. We shall do that next week, please God. Meantime--

The race was, as said, a very mixed grill, with handicaps intended to even up the differences in speed due to varying sizes and rigs. The square rig, used by ships, barques, brigs, barquentines and brigantines, requires more gear and more hands, and is more effective for long courses, strong following winds, and rough water.

The fore-and-aft is best for smooth water and variable winds, and especially for beating about in small compass. In the square rig the sails hang like curtains or window blinds from spars called yards which cross the masts. Fore-and-aft sails are hinged on the masts and stays like the leaves of a book.

The fore-and-aft rig is used by cutters, sloops, yawls, ketches and schooners. The distinction between the two latter, both of which are two-masted, is that in the ketch the mainmast is the one farthest forward and loftiest, the mizzen being shorter and nearer the stern but sufficiently inboard to he forward of the after end of the waterline. The yawl has a still smaller mizzen and it is farther after, and her mainsail is consequently longer on the foot. The schooner may have any number of masts - the Thos. W. Lawson, 10,000 tons displacement, had seven, and was 404 feet long. But the schooner was originally only two-masted, and that number is still in vogue with most yachts, fishermen and coasters. Two-masted schooners and all others have their shorter mast, called the foremast, forward of all, while the shorter mast of the yawl or ketch, called the mizzen, is always aft. That is the simplest distinction between them and schooners.

The ketches did better than any other rig in the race. Two were out and out winners and a third won brilliantly on time allowance.

On the lakes we had both square and fore-and-aft rigs and combinations of the two for two hundred years. The square rig disappeared in the 19th century. One foremast, fully square rigged, cost as much to rig and maintain as three fore-and-aft rigged masts, and square-riggers required crews larger by 50 percent. Costs drove the square rig away, but Matthew Knapp of Sackets Harbor reintroduced it in his 60 ft. yacht Elizabeth K., 35 years ago. He soon changed over to fore-and-aft. But we have a little steel brigantine, square-rigged, at Kingston. She is visiting Toronto as a training ship for cadets.


In the Torquay-to-Lisbon training ship race there were sixteen fore-and-afters and four out and out square-riggers, two full-rigged ships, a large barque, and a barquentine. The Swedes also had some fine schooners, the Falken and Gladan, each 140 tons, and Flying Clipper, placed 4th, 5th and 6th. Two were three-masters, with square topsail and top-gallant-sail forward.

A larger schooner was the "three-and after" Creole of 670 tons, a beautiful big yacht somewhat like the famous Atlantic which crossed the ocean of her name in 12 days for the German Emperor's Cup in 1905. The Creole is owned by Starvros Niarchos, a Greek Midas with 2,000,000 tons of shipping, biggest single fleet in the world. Loaned to the cadets of four Royal Naval Colleges - Dartmouth, Worcester, Conway and Pangbourne for the race she finished 7th. Probably over-ballasted with gold-dust. She was stay-sail rigged with seven triangles of sail on her three masts - easy enough to work as everything handled from the deck, but a lame rig with the wind over the taffrail, or indeed to go to sea with at all.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
1 Sep 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Lisbon, Portugal
    Latitude: 38.71667 Longitude: -9.13333
  • England, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 50.46198 Longitude: -3.52522
Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Ketches Winners Over All, This Time: Schooner Days MCCLXXXV (1285)