Ship Modelling

Rigging Patterns - The Clippers

The famous painting of the Cutty Sark by Spurling

The term "clipper" originally refers to a type of hull construction, not the rigging. A clipper ship has a long, slim hull and thus "clips" or "cuts" the water, thus allowing for speed. So, the other term for these types of ships is "Fast Sailing Ships". They were merchant ships, in contrary to the frigates, of which they inherited much of their rigging.

But yet, the clippers were dependent on the wind, and so they had also the most advanced rigging of their time.

  • Bowsprit: 3-5 fore triangular staysails [staysail, inner jib, jib, outer jib, flying jib], but no more sprit yards
  • Fore Mast: 4-7 square sails [course, upper + lower topsail, upper + lower topgallant sail, royal sail, skysail], auxiliary stunsails on each side of each yard
  • 2-4 main triangular staysails
  • Main Mast: 4-8(!) square sails [course, upper + lower topsail, upper + lower topgallant sail, royal sail, skysail, moon sail ...], auxiliary stunsails on each side of each yard
  • 1-4 mizzen triangular staysails
  • Mizzen Mast: a quadrangular "spanker" mizzen sail, and 3-6 square sails [upper + lower topsail, upper + lower topgallant sail, royal sail, skysail], very rarely auxiliary stunsails on each side of each yard (douptful)
  • NOTE: as the rigging of the ships became ever bigger, the now giant topsails were devided into upper and lower topsails, eliminating the reefing work of the topsail. Later, also the topgallant sails were devided for they were "too big" to handle.
  • NOTE: sky and moon sails, the uppest yards, were not standard but used very rarely, "flying" with a minimal running rigging, just a halyard and sheets, in light weather only.
This rigging was later inherited by the Windjammers / Tall Ships; but those had no more stunsails.

The famous Cutty Sark (Source: Wiki Commons). She is the only surviving of hundreds of clipper ships between 1840 - 1880. Without stunsails on this rare picture, she looks almost like one of the later Tall Ships.

Clippers were wooden in the first place, then of "composite" construction, of wood on an iron/steel framework, that provided for a bigger size.

The most clipper ships were built in the UK and the U.S.

Sources and Books

Some books can be recommended:
Along the Clipper Way
PAN books T40 (English)
Chichester, Francis PAN 1966 288
British & American Clippers - A Comparison of their Design, Construction and Performance in the 1850s
McGregor, David Conway 1993 192
Building a Clipper Ship
Coleman, H.S. Modelcraft Ltd. (1960) 70
China Tea Clippers
Campbell, George Adlard Coles Ltd. 1974 156
Clipper Ship
Cosgrave II, J.O.H. The Macmillan Press 1963 52
Clipper Ships
MacGregor, David R MAP 1979 154
Clipper Ships & the Cutty Sark
Jackdaw no97 (English)
Johnson, David (1975) loose
Clipper Ships and Captains
Lyon, Jane D Harper & Row 1962 154
Clippers, Packets & Men o´War - The Tall Ship in Art
Cross, Gardner, Groves, Hunt, Myers Bounty Books 2005 144
From Carrack to Clipper
Bowen, Frank C. Halton & Company 1948 100
How to make Clipper Ship Models
Hobbs, Edward W. Brown, Son & Ferguson 1960 216
Klipperschiffe des 19.Jahrhunderts
Modellbaureihe DK (German)
Hölzel, Wolfgang DK 1976 82
Klipperschiffe und Schnellsegler
Kozian, Walter A nwv 2002 254
Masting and Rigging - The Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier
Underhill, Harold A. Brown, Son & Ferguson 1965 290
Running her Easting Down - The Story of the Cutty Sark and other Great China Clippers
Baker, William F. The Caxton Printers 1974 170
Ship Model Making - Vol II - Clipper Ship
McCann, E. Armitage The Norman W Henley Publishing Co 1926 150
Sovereign of The Seas - How to make a model of the American Clipper Ship
McCann, E. Armitage Edward W. Sweetman Co, NY 1967 150
The Baltimore Clipper
Chapelle, Howrad I. Edward W. Sweetman Co, NY 1930/1968 192
The Clipper Ship
Knight, Frank Collins 1973 96
The Clipper Ship Era
Clark, Arthur H. 7C´s Press 1970 404
The Clipper Ships
TL The Seafarers (English)
A.B.C.Whipple Timelife Books, Amsterdam 1980 176
The Romance of the Clipper Ships
Lubbock, Basil Hennel Locke Ltd. 1958 160
The Tea Clippers - Their History and Development 1833-1875
McGregor, David Conway 1952/1972/1983 256
Under Sail in the Last of the Clippers
Wallace, Frederik William Brown, Son & Ferguson
When Clipper Ships Ruled the Sea
McCague, James Garrard Publishing Company 1968 96