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Sail Ship Sails

In English, thanks to the British Admiralty, all sail-plans call a sail by the same name, no matter what their sail-plan. Once a sail is named, its ropes have standard names according to their use. So once a sailor learns the standard names for the sails, he knows the terms for all the parts on any sail-plan.

A sail plan is made by combining just a few basic types of sails:

  • A square sail is a square piece of canvas. It is one of the hardest to manage, but also one of the most efficient sails. To furl and unfurl this sail, sailors would walk on "ratlines" under the yard-arm holding the top of the sail.
  • Studsails may be carried on either side of any or all of the square rigged sails. They are named after the adjacent sail and the side of the vessel on which they are set, for example main topgallant starboard studsail. In light breezes, the working square sails would be supplemented by studding sails out on the ends of the yardarms. These were called as a regular sail, with the addition of "studding." For example, the lower-main-top-studding-sail.
  • A fore and aft sail is one that, when flat, runs fore and aft. These types of sails are the easiest to manage, because they often do not need to be relaid when the ship changes course.
  • A gaff-rigged sail is a fore-and-aft sail shaped like a truncated triangle whose upper edge is held up by a pole called a gaff, controlled by two ropes called vangs, (Dutch for pulls). Almost every type of tall ship had a gaff-sail on the mizzenmast, and called it the spanker. One or two spankers are carried aft of the aftmost mast, if two they are called the upper spanker and lower spanker. A fore-and-aft topsail may be carried above the upper or only spanker, and is called the gaff sail. In a bark or barquentine, each mast only has one gaff-sail, and this is always the lowest sail on the back of the mast. Barks are famous for being easy to sail. A gaff rigged sail is easier to manage than a square rigged sail but more difficult to handle than a triangular or Bermuda sail. Due to the weight of the gaff high above the deck and the extra lines required to control it the gaff rig requires more work to manage than a Bermuda rigged sail. Also the top of the gaff rigged sail tends to twist away from the wind reducing its efficiency. However, due to the extra boom on the top edge of the sail the gaff rigged sail is considered more sturdy than a triangular sail and the center of effort is typically lower, somewhat reducing the angle of heel (leaning of the boat caused by wind force on the sails) compared to a similar sized Bermuda rigged sail.
  • A lateen sail is a triangle with one or two sides attached to a wooden pole. This is one of the lowest drag (the sailing term is windage) sails, and it's often easy to manage.
  • A bermuda or marconi sail is a triangular sail with one point going straight up.
  • A stay-sail is a piece of cloth that has one or two sides attached to a stay, that is, one of the ropes or wires that helps hold the mast in place. Staysails may be carried between any other mast and the one in front of it. They are named after the mast from which the are hoisted, so for example a staysail hoisted to the top of the mizzen topgallant on a stay running to the top of the main topmast would be called the mizzen topgallant staysail. The staysails between the masts are named by the highest point (the danger) to which a sailor must climb to furl or unfurl the sail. The name is from the sail immediately below the highest attachment point of the stay holding up the staysail. Thus, the mizzen-top-gallant-stay-sail can be found dangling from the stay leading from above the mizzen (third) mast's top-gallant (fifth) sail to some place (usually two sails down) on the second (main) mast. A staysail was classically attached to the stay with wooden or steel hoops. Sailors would test the hoops by climbing on them.
  • A jib is a stay-sail that flies in front of the foremost vertical mast. Jibs are carried from the foremast, and have varying naming conventions. The jibs, the staysails between the first mast and the bowsprit, were named like staysails, except the middle one was called a jib, and the top one was called a flying jib.

Sails were classically made of hemp or cotton. They are now made from polyesters (Dacron and Mylar), sometimes reinforced with crystalline hydrocarbons (Kevlar and SpectraT). Some large, lightweight sails are made of polyamides (Nylon).

The primary sails on a fully rigged ship were the square sails, used to catch the largest volume of air in order to drive the ship forward. On larger ships, the square sails could occupy two acres and weigh ten tons. The most forward triangular Jib sails, and Stay sails (the latter hung between the masts) would increase maneuverability.

Modern sails are designed such that the warp and the weft of the sailcloth are oriented parallel to the luff and foot of the sail. This places the most stretchable axis of the cloth along the diagonal axis (parallel to the leech), and makes it possible for sailors to reduce the draft of the sail by tensioning the sail, mast and boom in various ways.

Fore-and-aft sails can be switched from one side of the boat to the other, in order to alter the boat's course. When the boat's stern crosses the wind, this is called jibing; when the bow crosses the wind, it is called tacking. Tacking repeatedly from port to starboard and/or vice versa, called "beating", is done in order to allow the boat to follow a course into the wind.

The lower edge of a triangular sail is called the "foot" of the sail, while the upper point is known as the "head". The halyard, a line which raises the sail, is attached to the head. The lower two points of the sail, on either end of the foot, are called the "tack" (forward) and "clew" (aft). The tack is shackled to a fixed point on the boat such as the gooseneck in the case of a mainsail or the deck at the base of a stay in the case of a jib or staysail. The clew is movable and is positioned with running rigging, an outhaul on the mainsail and a sheet for a headsail.

The forward edge of the sail is called the "luff", which inspires the term "luffing", a condition where the sail ripples because wind is crossing over the front and back side simultaneously. A cunningham may be rigged on the mainsail to control sail shape. The aft edge of a sail is called the "leech".

Until the beginning of the 19th century the sails were quite markedly bellied - the older the more so - then after 1830 they became rather flat. A sail was less bellied the higher up on the mast it was located.

In modern times a sail is cut of the extreme size which is capable of being carried in fine weather, and when the wind increases in strength it is reefed -- part is gathered up and fastened by reef points, small cords attached to the sail. Until the 17th century at least the method was often to cut the courses small, so that they could be carried in rough weather. When a greater spread of sail was required, a piece called a bonnet was added to the foot of the sail, and a further piece called a drabbler could be added to that. It is an example of the tenacious conservatism of the sea that this practice is still retained by the Swedish small craft called lodjor in the Baltic and White Sea. It will be easily understood that no innovation was universally accepted at once. Jib and sprit topsail, lateen, mizzen and spanker, and so forth, would be found for long on the sea together.

It has always happened that extra sails have been invented and set by ingenious devices for particular purposes. One large sail requires more men to handle it than several small ones. For this reason it is that in the late 19th century the topsails of merchant ships were divided into upper and lower, with a great loss of beauty, but an increase of convenience. To the same cause, the wish to economize in the size of the crew, is to be attributed the introduction of machinery for reeling sail from the deck, which is also an easier,and a safer process than going aloft to reef them by hand.

With the introduction of steam, the number of fore and aft sails increased since they could often draw when steaming on a course too near the wind for square canvas to remain full however sharply braced up. Initially 'gaffsails' they were set on the fore and main trysail masts and, although later called trysails, they differed from storm canvas trysails.

In a general way it may be said that the development of the rigging has been towards establishing a fair balance between the fore and after spread of canvas. Until the jib was invented in the 18th century, a ship which was sailing on the wind was subject to a disproportionate pressure aft. If she was at all given to griping -- that is to say, inclined to turn head to wind (and all ships are liable to have ways and manners which are mysterious in origin and not seldom incurable), the mizzen-sail could not be used, for if it had been she would never have been out of the wind. Therefore when close-hauled (sailing with the wind on the side and somewhat from before her centre) she lost the use of part of her sail. The spritsail which could not be trained fore and aft was no use on the wind.

A Fully Rigged Ship has at least three masts, all square-rigged. Each mast has three parts, the lower mast, top mast and top gallant mast (three yards in which to hang sails.) The bowsprit is the spar jutting from the front of this ship in which sails and is also used to support the mast with stays, or support lines. Staysails could be set between the masts. Outboard of the square sails might be set studdingsails [studding sail , studsail, stun's'l) -- a sail on a special spar, extended outboard of a square sail or sails, for added sail area in moderate winds. Above the royals (uppermost sails) might be set sails commonly named skysail or moonraker, and much less commonly Trust to God, or Angel Whispers.



Port Topsail Studsail
Port Course Sail Studsail

Topsail
Course Sail

Starboard Topsail Studsail
Starboard Course Sail Studsail

Port Topgallant Studsail
Port Topsail Studsail
Port Course Sail Studsail

Topgallant
Topsail
Course Sail

Starboard Topgallant Studsail
Starboard Topsail Studsail
Starboard Course Sail Studsail

Port Royal Studsail
Port Topgallant Studsail
Port Topsail Studsail
Port Course Sail Studsail

Royal Sail
Topgallant
Topsail
Course Sail

Starboard Royal Studsail
Starboard Topgallant Studsail
Starboard Topsail Studsail
Starboard Course Sail Studsail


Port Topgallant Studsail
Port Topsail Studsail

Port Course Sail Studsail

Royal Sail
Topgallant
Upper Topsail
Lower Topsail
Course Sail


Starboard Topgallant Studsail
Starboard Topsail Studsail

Starboard Course Sail Studsail




Port Topgallant Studsail
Port Top Studsail
Port Course Sail Studsail

Moonsail
Skysail
Royal Sail
Topgallant
Topsail
Course Sail




Starboard Topgallant Studsail
Starboard Top Studsail
Starboard Course Sail Studsail


Port Topgallant Studsail

Port Top Studsail

Port Course Sail Studsail

Royal Sail
Upper Topgallant
Lower Topgallant
Upper Topsail
Lower Topsail
Course Sail


Starboard Topgallant Studsail

Starboard Top Studsail

Starboard Course Sail Studsail

Gaff Topsail
Upper Spanker
Lower Spanker

Mizzen Royal Staysail
Mizzen Topgallant Staysail
Mizzen Topmast Staysail

Main Spencer

Main Sky Staysail
Main Royal Staysail
Main Topgallant Staysail
Main Topmast Staysail
Main Staysail

Fore Spencer

Flying Jib
Outer Jib
Inner Jib
Fore Topmast Staysail



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