« Back to Glossary Index

Historical Significance:
– Sailing has been crucial for exploration, trade, transport, warfare, and fishing throughout history.
– Water transport was faster, cheaper, and safer than land travel until 19th-century land transportation improvements.
– Sailing ships played a significant role in the economy and transportation systems.
– Examples include the Mediterranean grain trade in Rome and the coal trade to London.
– Sailing vessels were essential for delivering goods and resources.

Exploration and Innovation:
– Early evidence of sail usage dates back to Mesopotamia in the 6th millennium BCE.
– Austronesian peoples used advanced sail technologies for exploration and expansion.
– Square-rigged vessels dominated during the Age of Discovery, enabling transoceanic voyages.
– Different sail plans emerged, including fore-and-aft sails and a mix of sail types.
– Understanding the point of sail is essential for effective sailing maneuvers.

Commerce and Trade:
– Fast blockade-running schooners evolved into three-masted sailing vessels in the early 1800s.
– Clippers achieved impressive speeds, but bulkier vessels became economically competitive later on.
– Coastal top-sail schooners with small crews were efficient for carrying bulk cargo.
– Sailing vessels were key players in global trade and commerce.
– Various sail plans emerged to optimize sailing efficiency.

Naval and Modern Applications:
– Sailing ships were initially used for transporting fighters for battles.
– Modern navies use sailing vessels for cadet seamanship training.
– Commercial sailing cruises still operate for passengers.
– Sailing yachts are used for cruising and racing.
– Sailing regattas and races are organized at various levels.

Recreation and Sport Evolution:
– In the 21st century, sailing is primarily a recreational activity or sport.
– Recreational sailing includes racing and cruising activities.
– Sailing enthusiasts engage in various forms of recreational sailing.
– The sport of sailing continues to evolve with new technologies and competitions.
– Different sailing disciplines include oceanic racing, fleet racing, match racing, team racing, and speed sailing.

Sailing (Wikipedia)

Sailing employs the wind—acting on sails, wingsails or kites—to propel a craft on the surface of the water (sailing ship, sailboat, raft, windsurfer, or kitesurfer), on ice (iceboat) or on land (land yacht) over a chosen course, which is often part of a larger plan of navigation.

Sailing craft and their rigs
Three-masted barque with square sails
Class 3 competition land yacht

From prehistory until the second half of the 19th century, sailing craft were the primary means of maritime trade and transportation; exploration across the seas and oceans was reliant on sail for anything other than the shortest distances. Naval power in this period used sail to varying degrees depending on the current technology, culminating in the gun-armed sailing warships of the Age of Sail. Sail was slowly replaced by steam as the method of propulsion for ships over the latter part of the 19th century – seeing a gradual improvement in the technology of steam through a number of stepwise developments. Steam allowed scheduled services that ran at higher average speeds than sailing vessels. Large improvements in fuel economy allowed steam to progressively outcompete sail in, ultimately, all commercial situations, giving ship-owning investors a better return on capital.

In the 21st century, most sailing represents a form of recreation or sport. Recreational sailing or yachting can be divided into racing and cruising. Cruising can include extended offshore and ocean-crossing trips, coastal sailing within sight of land, and daysailing.

Sailing relies on the physics of sails as they derive power from the wind, generating both lift and drag. On a given course, the sails are set to an angle that optimizes the development of wind power, as determined by the apparent wind, which is the wind as sensed from a moving vessel. The forces transmitted via the sails are resisted by forces from the hull, keel, and rudder of a sailing craft, by forces from skate runners of an iceboat, or by forces from wheels of a land sailing craft which are steering the course. This combination of forces means that it is possible to sail an upwind course as well as downwind. The course with respect to the true wind direction (as would be indicated by a stationary flag) is called a point of sail. Conventional sailing craft cannot derive wind power on a course with a point of sail that is too close into the wind.

« Back to Glossary Index