We today are used to sort things and ships by "types" to be recognized. Yet, in the old days,
ships, types were not as clearly defined as in our days...
There were and are hundreds of different ship types and shapes through the ages all over the world.
In modern maritime research, two ways of distinctions are applied:
The Hulls´ Shape
The hull of the ships was most important, and most difficult to build. In contrary to the more eye-catching rigging,
the hull can look much the same from a distance, and reveals its qualities only on a closer look
and experience, what the ship was used for: as a heavy gun ship or as a fast trading ship. In the old days,
ships were used for many purposes, and even merchant ships were armed to defend themseves against pirates.
The hulls shape "defines" the "role" and the "speed class" of the ship.
does NOT refer to its extreme rigging, but to its extreme lines of construction under water, allowing for maximal speed under sails.
Those sails were also subject to developements, but even the best sails could not make a ship fast when it had a bad shape under water.
All scientific studies on ship construction concentrated mostly on the hulls, and most plans presevred in the archives do only show the hull.
The famous British Admiralty models, used as patterns to build the real ships and not vice versa, were not equipped with
a rigging in the first place; it was assumed that a standard 3 mast rigging could be adapted to any kind of deck and hull layout.
In reality as well as in ship modelling, the rigging of masts and sails is the first impression of the ships, as it takes 90% of the "image space"
and most often covers even a major part of the hull, depending on the view angle and the scene...
But, compared to the hull,
masts and sails were quite easy to make,
and changed as needed like a set of tires on modern automobiles.
Spars, sails and ropes wear out rather fast even under disciplined handling conditions, and the lifespan of those parts
lied between a few years and a few days(!).
The sail rigging, as sophisticated as can be, was also
the most fragile equipment onboard, and spare spars and sails were stored for immediate repairs at sea; the wind after all
remained an unpredictable phenomenon, and a sudden squall destroyed rigging parts oh so many times ...