Sailing ships are ships that use wind as the main source of propulsion power. This vessel type is now historical in nature, however the technology (wind) is still used on sailboats, high class yachts and as racing yachts. Some companies are working to adapt the technology to lower fuel consumption on large ocean going vessels such as bulkers and tankers through the use of large wings or kites.
Sailing vessels were developed several thousand years ago and were used on the Nile river during the height of the Egyptian Empire. Here the Lateen rig was developed, this simple rig was easy to consruct and is easy for one person operations. Lateen rigs are still in use today on small recreational sailboats.
As ship size increased the use of triangular sails was replaced with rectangular sails. This type of rigging is known as square rigged. As the technology increased so did the distance the vessels could travel. This allowed european societies to explore and colonize new lands far from their homeports.
Since the development of steam and diesel propulsion in the 1800's the use of sail commercially all but ceased. however there is still a market for large sailing yachts among the ultra rich. Vessels such as the 'Maltese Falcon' and the 'Mirabela V' demonstrate the niche market that is available for sailing ships. In order to create the vessels with such large sail areas new materials were required that could withstand the forces of sailing while remain light enough to be practical. Most modern sailing ships are constructed of composites or aluminum with the same being used for the masts. Rigging using ultra strong spectra or even carbon fibre lines are now used on large sailing ships. Sails of modern vessels will also be made of high-tech fabrics such as dacron.