Tall Ship Festival held on Lake Michigan in 2003. Traditional rigging may include square rigs and gaff rigs, with separate topmasts and topsails. It is generally more complex than modern rigging, which utilizes newer materials such as aluminum and steel to construct taller, lightweight masts with fewer, more versatile sails. Most smaller, modern vessels use Bermuda rig. Though it did not become popular elsewhere until the twentieth century, this rig was developed in Bermuda in the seventeenth century, and had historically been used on its small ships, the Bermuda sloops.
The term tall ship came into widespread use in the mid-20th century with the advent of The Tall Ships' Races, and was not generally used in the era when such ships were the norm. The term's popularity may have stemmed from its use in a well-known nautical poem by English Poet Laureate John Masefield entitled Sea Fever, first published in 1900.
While Sail Training International (STI) has extended the definition of tall ship for the purpose of its races to embrace any sailing vessel with more than 30 ft. (9.14 m) waterline length and on which at least half the people on board are aged 15 to 25, this definition can include many modern sailing yachts, so for the purposes of this article, tall ship will refer to those vessels rated as class "A" only.