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Flatness of Sails

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FLATNESS OF SAILS In the figure I have represented the sail as being a flat surface, which in point of fact it never really is, hut it should always be remembered that the nearer a sail can be made to approach to a flat surface the better the boat will work to windward. The most efficient angle with the keel at which the sail should be trimmed is a matter to be learnt by experience and practice, it not only varies in different boats, but it also varies considerably in the same boat under different circumstances of wind and sea, so that it would be impossible to lay down any fixed rule for it, with the exception of the general rule, that in smooth water sheets may be hauled flatter aft than in rough water, but the flatness of the sail itself admits of no variation under any circum stances, or on any point of sailing. Our forefathers used to consider that a certain amount of " belly " (as it is called) was desirable, but it has since been proved, first by the famous "America" schooner in in 1851, and since admitted by all seamen, that a flat sail is best. This being the case, the first object should be to get sails when hoisted taut up, and the sheets aft to approach as nearly as possible to a flat surface, especially avoiding a bag in the after leech. The success of a sail, that is to say its close approach to a flat surface, depends primarily upon the sailmakers who cut it, sewed it, and roped it, but it also depends in no small degree upon the person who bends and sets it, and although it is impossible to turn a badly made sail into a good one, it is very easy to spoil a well made sail by injudicious treatment, more especially when the sail is new. Perhaps the easiest way to spoil a new sail is to haul it very taut out on the yard or gaff, then haul the sheet or out-haul very taut out, bowse the tack taut down, and then take it out in a shower of rain and get it well wet without slacking anything, this treatment will probably spoil it beyond all cure, it will stretch it unfairly and unequally, pulling it out of the shape that it was originally intended to be, it will certainly produce either a shaking leech, a slack or hollow foot, or an ugly bag in some part of the sail which it will be impossible to get rid of, and the sail will be spoilt. This being the way to

spoil a new sail, the opposite treatment will obviously be the way to avoid spoiling it ; thus, do not haul it taut out on the yard or gaff, but let it stretch gradually, and haul out the slack as it stretches ; if a gaff sail on a boom, on no account haul it taut out on the boom when new, but be content to sail about with it rather baggy at first, allowing it to stretch gradually in all directions, also avoid bowling the tack down in a new sail.

It is a common practice amongst yachtsmen when they get a new sail, to moor their vessel broadside on to the wind and set the sail, thus alloying it to stretch gradually and equally from the pressure of the wind ; when this can be done it is no doubt preferable to sailing about for a week or a fortnight with a baggy sail. A jib is not so easily spoilt as a gaff sail, but this may be done by hoisting it very taut up, and then bowsing the sheet very flat aft in a calm.

I have already remarked that the art of boat sailing is to make a boat go to wind ward, and although boats are required to sail " off the wind " also, it will be found that very little skill is required to make them do so, as the tendency of all floating objects, including hay stacks, is to blow to leeward with more or less velocity, and although I shall probably have something to say on the management of boats " off the wind," I propose first to consider the art of beating to windward.