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"Wind Direction and Speed" Topic

8 Posts

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608 hits since 28 Aug 2017
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Comments or corrections?

Pyrate Captain28 Aug 2017 7:51 p.m. PST

I realize that the performance of a sailing ship is greatly influenced my many factors, not in least of importance the rigging. Having sailed sloop rigged vessels, knowing that close hauled I can obtain a faster speed over ground than a spinnaker enhanced run, I pose this question to those that have more experience sailing on the tabletop than perhaps in reality.

I recently played a very popular age of sail game in which the greatest speed was achieved by running with the wind than close hauled. Not having experience with a wide variety of similar miniatures rules sets, is what I encountered almost universally true among age of sail rules and if so, why?

BrianW28 Aug 2017 8:21 p.m. PST

If you mean running with the wind directly astern, then no, that's not common at all in AOS rules sets. Most rules give you your best performance with the wind on the quarter.


attilathepun47 Inactive Member28 Aug 2017 10:14 p.m. PST

The performance and handling of traditional sailing vessels, especially square-riggers, was quite different from that of modern Bermuda-rigged craft. Each vessel had its own peculiarities, including some variation on the best point of sailing, but I very much doubt that any square-rigger sailed better close-hauled than with the wind abaft the beam. Only a single-masted square-rigger (think Medieval) could make its best speed running with the wind dead aft. With more complex rigs, the sails aft blanketed the sails ahead, preventing the ship from reaching its best speed; in practice, part of the sails on mizzen and main were taken in to allow those on the foremast to draw fully. This is why sailing with a quartering wind was usually the fastest point of sail--all the sails could draw.

At least until the mid-nineteenth century few square-riggers could effectively sail much closer to the wind than about 45 degrees either side of the eye of the wind. This is not to say that sails would not fill and the ship seem to point higher than that, but waves coming from windward combined with the windage of heavy spars and cordage and (by modern standards) high superstructures meant that leeway largely negated the slow speed through the water. Hull form played a part too. Typical hulls were broad and bows were quite bluff with the point of maximum beam forward of midships; and, of course, there were no deep fin keels. Except in critical situations, it generally was not worth even trying to sail extremely close to the wind.

Traditional vessels carrying some form of fore-and-aft rig could do somewhat better, but nothing like a modern racing yacht. The previous comments on hull form still apply, and the cordage was heavy and stretchy, the sails relatively loosely woven and inclined to become baggy in use. And all traditional forms of fore-and-aft sails were low-aspect: lateen, lugsail, sprit, or gaff. This had an advantage in seaworthiness in high winds over the modern Bermuda rig, but was less efficient in light to average wind.

So, in short, the rules have not got it all wrong.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Aug 2017 2:08 a.m. PST

few square-riggers could effectively sail much closer to the wind than about 45 degrees either side of the eye of the wind.

This is still far too generous. Square rigged ships never made 45 degrees to the wind . . . the geometry of the spars and standing rigging would limit the traverse of the yards to about 6 points (68 degrees) from the wind, maximum. Leewardliness of particular hulls would reduce this to something closer to 80 degrees in many cases.

Any set of Age of Sail rules that allows square-rigged ships to sail so close to the wind (or, in one particularly egregious case which I will not name, directly into the wind) or allows them greater speed when sailing directly downwind than with the wind off the quarter, was written by a designer who either a) didn't bother to learn anything about the subject of his game before beginning, or b) didn't care that his rules violated both the laws of physics and the historical record. The work of such a designer is worthy of neither your attention nor your hard-earned money.

Pyrate Captain29 Aug 2017 4:45 a.m. PST

I ageee with all points except to note that modern triple braid line will stretch by 40% under the right conditions so line weight may be a factor but I doubt that the stretchy-ness of the tacks, sheets, stays and hawsers was all that different.

DeRuyter Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2017 9:23 a.m. PST

PC it has more to do with the spars than the line itself.

The fastest point of sail for square riggers is the same as a modern Bermuda rigged sloop – broad reach.

Ghecko Inactive Member02 Sep 2017 3:21 a.m. PST

See the maneuver diagram/gadget in the Armada rules at

Blutarski10 Sep 2017 1:40 p.m. PST

Pick up a copy of John Harland's "Seamanship in the Age of Sail". It will answer the question.


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