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Harnessing the wind

Combining the rigs

Screen DS3E explains how, in the 15th century, ship builders combined square sails and lateen sails, the triangular sail which was the fore-runner of the fore-and-aft rig.  Square sails were better with the wind well behind them, and lateen sails better when the vessel was heading more into the wind.  Having both types of sail was a compromise that made the vessel easier to sail in most wind conditions.  The full-rigged ship which evolved had square sails on the fore and main masts, and one (sometimes two) lateen-rigged mast aft, the mizzen.  Over the years, the triangular lateen sail evolved into a four-sided sail.  Other fore-and-aft sails called jibs were rigged between the fore mast and a pole called a bowsprit which points forward over the bow.  Further triangular sails called stay sails were rigged between the masts.  The section ‘Ships in the great age of sail’ explores this subject further, and gives examples of ships with square and fore-and-aft rigs. 

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