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Harnessing the wind

The square rig

In a square rig most of the sails are hung from poles known as yards, which are attached horizontally at their mid points to the masts.  These yards are arranged so that they can be turned to port or starboard to suit the direction of the wind.  Square rig generally requires considerable effort to move all the yards if the wind changes direction relative to the ship.  Even more manpower is required if the sails have to be put out or taken in as the force of the wind alters.  Square rig was therefore mostly used on large ships with big crews which made long voyages across oceans, where the wind direction and force tended not to vary much.

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