Old sailing ships helped develop the naval industry to the point it is at today. From meager beginnings of ships built of bits of wood and cloth, ending up at massive 3 masted ships of the line and went on further to have steam powered and sail powered ships.
Before steam power arrived, sails were the only way ships could move and they were mostly square sail rigged as the modern invention of the Bermuda Dinghy (genoa and mainsail) had not been invented yet.
These ships could not tack or go very far upwind and used their baggy sails (much like small spinnakers) to propel them forward away from the wind. Here you can read about the different eras of boats that existed and how they fared in this clash of cultures through naval conquest and empires.
Ancient Sailing Ships
Ah, the start of the old sailing ships as we know them. Ancient sailing ships from the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all the way to the Vikings and pre-Age of Sail factions. There is such rich diversity of ships in this era with all the developments in place that allowed the next few centuries to accelerate in their progression of sailing boats.
One of my favourite bits of history and a very interesting read with lots of different ships and cultures all smashed together trying to develop their sea trade, colonies abroad or to start wars.
The 16th Century Sailing Ship
In this century, things started to get more ordered and naval supremacy of certain nations started to run true. Starting with the Portuguese and Spanish of the America and then with the rest of Europe rushing to colonise the rest of the world.
Without the different 16th century sailing ship available and technologically advanced to its predecessors, this would have never happenned. So figure it out for yourself why this era is the start of the Age of Sail and why it was such a pivotal point for the sailing boat.
The 17th Century Sailing Ship
At this point the Dutch and British, became major plays in the international game of expansion of ones territories with each starting to develop their own very advanced old sailing ships that surpassed all others in terms of complexity and speed in this era. They went seeking out the territories controlled by the Spanish and Portuguese and started to take it for themselves.
Merchant old sailing ships were also very important at this point as huge amounts of resources that could not be found in Europe were taken back to the home countries to sell at a very high price.
The 18th Century Sailing Ship
Around this time, the huge warships that you see in films such as 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and 'Master and Commander' are beginning to be developed as large naval wars over the lucrative trading all over the world. Every country wants a piece of the large pies in the West Indies, East Indies and Africa.
The square rigged sailing ship that we know and love was going into full swing around this time, with each vessel having at least 3 masts and huge numbers of cannons. There was a war being fought over naval supremacy around the globe for practically every year in this century.
19th Century Sailing Ships
The golden age of sail as it was known during the early and mid 19th century, before the invention of the steam engine. Britain's worldwide naval empire started to accelerate in this time period and by the end of the century had one quarter of the land mass of the world under its flag.
Before these steam ships arrived, huge ships were still being built that weighed thousands of tons and were a real sight to look at. The ships of this era were still very fast and were still used to trade, hold cargo and to make war. The United States of America also started to expand its border in this time period with the invasion of Cuba in the late 1890s.