History Of Sailing

Throughout history sailing has been instrumental in the development of civilization, affording humanity greater mobility than travel over land, whether for trade, transport or warfare, and the capacity for fishing. The earliest representation of a ship under sail appears on a painted disc found in Kuwait dating between 5500 and 5000 BCE. Austronesian oceanfarers traveled vast distances of open ocean in outrigger canoes using navigation methods such as stick charts. Advances in sailing technology from the Middle Ages onward enabled Arab, Chinese, Indian and European explorers to make longer voyages into regions with extreme weather and climatic conditions. There were improvements in sails, masts and rigging; improvements in marine navigation, including the cross tree and charts of both the sea and constellations, allowed more certainty in sea travel. From the 15th century onwards, European ships went further north, stayed longer on the Grand Banks and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and eventually began to explore the Pacific Northwest and the Western Arctic. Sailing has contributed to many great explorations in the world.

According to Jett, the Egyptians used a bipod mast to support a sail that allowed a reed craft to travel upriver with a following wind, as late as 3,500 BCE. Such sails evolved into the square-sail rig that persisted up to the 19th century. Such rigs generally could not sail much closer than 80° to the wind. Fore-and-aft rigs appear to have evolved in Southeast Asia—dates are uncertain—allowing for rigs that could sail as close as 60–75° off the wind.