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Barbary sailing rigs

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Bernard Woolley View Drop Down
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    Posted: 18 Jul 2010 at 18:34

After following a couple of recent topics on this forum involving the capabilities of ancient sailors, I decided to read up a bit on different designs for sailing ships. I learned some new things, like what a leeboard is, but I was also reminded of something I've long believed: Xebecs are pretty.

 

The Barbary pirates who used these ships developed a peculiar rig that allowed them to sail into the wind at a tighter angle than anyone else. There's a good picture (and explanation) of it here: http://www.hugohein.com/classic.sail/pelican/the.rig/development.htm.

Basically the rig consisted of a large lateen sail up front, a set of square sails on the main mast that could be turned almost parallel to the hull, and another small lateen at the back.

 

My question for anyone that knows is, if the rig was so good for tacking into the wind, why did it remain peculiar? Did others try to copy it?

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Omar al Hashim View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2010 at 23:39
I didn't think Xebecs had square sails. The site you linked to is unclear, but I thought the first picture was the Xebec, and the rest his own adaptation.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2010 at 23:44
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xebec
The wiki article states that the addition of a square sail mast was done in the 18th and 19th century models. So the Xebecs with only Lanteens are from an eariler period.
 
Also, both the Spanish and French navies copied Xebecs and put them into use in their navies. But they were still primarily mediterrainian craft. Do you know anything about their Ocean handelling?
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Bernard Woolley View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bernard Woolley Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Jul 2010 at 16:59
Sadly I don't know that much about it. But from what little I've read, I understand that their hull design (low sides, shallow draft) made them unsuitable for the open ocean.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Jul 2010 at 18:54
Xebecs were so rigged that they could be sailed either as fore-and-aft vessels (like a three-masted schooner) OR as square-rigged ships OR a mixture, and converted from one to the other. In a sense therefore there was no 'xebec rig'. Wikipedia is not good on this at all: the rig it describes with square on the fore and fore-and-aft on the main and mizzen distinguishes a barquentine not a xebec (though a xebec could be rigged that way at some point in time.
 
Obviously the ability to switch rigs gave xebecs a theoretical advantage, but it was too cumbersome for the infighting requirements of sophisticated navies. That's arguably one reason that Cochrane's Speedy was famously able to defeat El Gamo.
 
This from a modelling enthusiast has it right ( http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=178460 )
Quote My info on the Spanish Xebec Frigates is that there is one class of 32 gun frigates that have all of the rigging on board for both the xebec rig and ship rig (three masts with square sails). To change the rig in use you stop the ship and take down the one rig and setup the other. This could take some time to do. NOT a battle sort of thing. Oh and the hull is that of a stadard 32 so the GHQ 32 gun could be used as a start for a 1/1200 model.
 
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The Xebec proved so useful as a fast raider, despatch boat or even merchant ship that versions of it were adopted in other countries.
1749 the commander of the French navy in Toulon decided to build four such chebecs, instead of the usually built corvettes. One of these four ships was the INDISCRET, which was launched on 24 March 1751 in Toulon with a crew of 300 men.
The naval museum in Paris has a contemporary model of the ship. It is covered with 22 photos and with extensive explanations in the book by Jean Boudriot, "Modeles Historiques, Mus�e de la Marine", A.N.C.R.E., Paris, 1997.
A Xebec, was a small, fast, three-masted vessel of the 16th to 19th centuries used exclusively in the Mediterranean Sea, with a distinctive hull, which added a pronounced overhanging bow and stern.
Xebec were greatly favored by Mediterranean nations as corsairs, and for this purpose were built with a narrow floor to achieve a higher speed than their victims, but with a considerable beam in order to enable them to carry and extensive sail plan. As these vessels are usually very low-built, their decks are formed with a great convexity from the middle of their breadth towards the sides, in order to carry off the water, which falls aboard, more readily by their scuppers.
When a xebec is equipped for war, she is navigated in three different methods according to the force or direction of the wind.
When the wind is fair, and nearly astern, it is usual to extend square sails upon the main-mast; and indeed frequently on the fore-mast: and as those sails are rarely used in a scant wind, they are of an extraordinary breadth.
When the wind is unfavorable to the course, and yet continues moderate, the square yards and sails are removed from the masts, and laid by, in order to make way for the large lateen yards and sails, which soon after assume their place: but if the foul wind increases to a storm, these latter are also lowered down and displaced; and small lateen yards with proportional sails are extended on all the masts.
By the very complicated and inconvenient method of working these vessels, the crew of every xebec has at least the labor equivalent to three square-rigged ships, wherein the standing sails are calculated to answer every situation of the wind.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Jul 2010 at 19:00
Originally posted by Bernard Woolley Bernard Woolley wrote:

After following a couple of My question for anyone that knows is, if the rig was so good for tacking into the wind, why did it remain peculiar? Did others try to copy it?

The trouble with fore-and-aft rigs is that theyx only work in relatively small sizes - more accurately you could then only make and fly them in relatively small sizes. Their efficiency also depends on heir height-to-width ratio - the greater the ratio the more efficient the sail (into the wind). So you can't pile them up the way you can square sails to drive a sizeable ship.
 
(As technology advanced, fore-and-aft did become more common. Most of the last generation of active ocean sailing ships were multi-masted iron barquentines - square on the fore or foremost few, and fore-and-aft on the rest.)
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