Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Definitions | 8

Tack; Starboard or Port A boat is on the tack, starboard or port, corresponding to her windward side.
In fact, I've already made some notes on this in definitions | 6, so I'm not going to repeat those.
Instead I did some research on the origin of the word "on a tack"

From Wikipedia: " The tack of a square-rigged sail is a line attached to its lower corner. This is in contrast to the more common fore-and-aft sail, whose tack is a part of the sail itself, the corner which is (possibly semi-permanently) secured to the vessel.

Most square-rig sails have their clews pulled down to the yard of the sail below, and hence the position of the foot of the sail is controlled by the braces of the sail below. These sails do not have tacks. The exception to this scheme is the course (lowest sail), which does not have a yard below it. On this sail, the sheets are led aft, and pull the clews back as well as down, taking the place of the braces of the non-existent sail below. This works perfectly well when the wind is aft of the beam, but as the ship heads further to windward the sheets become less and less effective for controlling the windward clew.

Rather than being a simple "bag of wind" held from behind, the sail must be pulled into a (fairly poor) approximation of an aerofoil, like a modern triangular sail, by hauling the windward leech as far forward and as tight as possible. The sheet is in totally the wrong position to do this and so at this point the tack is brought into play. It is a second line attached to the clew along with the sheet, but the inboard end may be taken to a suitable point well forward of the sail and pulled taut to tighten the leech into some kind of leading edge. "

Placing the tack becomes the most important part of efficient sailing in a square rig boat. The tack 'points' forward, to windward. And the angle to the wind a boat can sail - poor at best in a square rigger - depends on it. To name the tack as being to starboard or to larboard (port) was the shortest way to understand what was needed in trim. Everything else depended on that.

The use of sailing 'on starboard tack' or 'on port tack' has been carried over to more modern sails and sailboats and is still one of the first things anybody learns when someone goes sailing for the first time.


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