A sloop in sailing
is a vessel with a
fore-and-aft rig. A
sloop carries a
single mast step-
ped farther forward
than that of a cut-
ter. The sloop's
smaller than a
cutter's. As such,
the sloop usually
bends only one
this distinction is not definitive. A cutter rig generally carries multiple headsails, however sloops such as the Friendship Sloop carry more than one headsail and are properly designated a sloop and not a cutter. Ultimately position of the mast is the most important factor.
On a gaff rigged, single masted boat, the clearest distinction between a sloop and a cutter is the run of the forestay. On the sloop, it runs to the outboard end of the bowsprit, which means that spar must always stay in position and cannot be retracted. On the cutter, the forestay runs to the stem head of the hull. This allows the bowsprit to be run back inboard and stowed. This can be helpful in crowded harbours or when stowing the jib in strong wind conditions.
Sloops were, and still are (in summer) very popular on the Bristol Channel coasts of Wales and the West Country, as they can land easily on Wales/West Country beaches regardless of the massive tidal range of the Bristol Channel. This enabled coal and limestone from, for example, Cardiff Bay to be taken to the beach resorts of North Cornwall such as Bude and Crackington Haven without worrying about the tide.
Rationale Behind The Sloop Rig
No design is perfect for all conditions; sloops are designed to optimise upwind sailing. However, sloops also offer an excellent overall compromise acceptable, if not optimal, to all points of sail. It is clear that the most difficult direction to sail is to the windward (known as sailing close-hauled); this requires some specific design features. The sail should be as vertical as possible to optimize the energy of the wind.
Two forces act on a vessel to push it from vertical (also known as heeling over): (1) the weight of the rig itself will tend to heel the boat, and (2) the sideways force of the wind on the sails. The sloop is a light rig with fewer lines and spars, and the sails on a sloop tend to be flat which minimizes sideways force when well trimmed. The heeling forces are also counterbalanced by the keel, which uses weight and hydrodynamics to offset the forces from the rigging and sails.
When sailing upwind, it is also important to minimize the drag of the wind on the sail and rig. A major cause of drag of the sail is a vortex of turbulent air generated by the top of the mast and sail. Secondary causes are non-optimal aerodynamic shapes of masts, stays and control lines. The sloop minimizes the drag of the tip-vortex with a high and narrow sail design (high aspect), maximizing the amount of sail for a given tip-vortex compared to a square-rigged or gaff-rigged ship. Also, the simplicity of the rig reduces the drag induced by control lines, masts and spars.
To maximize the amount of sail carried, the classical sloop may use a bowsprit, which is essentially a fixed spar that projects forward from the bow of the boat. For downwind sailing, the typical foresail may be replaced (or sometimes supplemented) by larger sails known as spinnakers or gennakers. The typical foresail known as the jib, which does not overlap the mast, may be replaced by a genoa jib, which overlaps the mast by up to 55 percent for racing rules and sometimes more. The mainsail and Genoa form an efficient double wing.
The Bermuda Sloop
The modern yachting sloop is known as the Bermuda sloop, due to its Bermuda rig (also known as the Marconi rig, due to its resemblance to the wireless towers of Guglielmo Marconi), which is the optimal rig for upwind sailing; consequently sloops are popular with sport sailors and yachtsmen, and for racing. The rig is simple in its basic form, yet when tuned properly it is maneuverable and fast. The main disadvantage is the relatively large size of the sails, especially on larger vessels. It is also less successful sailing downwind; the addition of a spinnaker is necessary for reasonable downwind speed in all but the strongest winds, and the spinnaker is an intrinsically unstable sail requiring continual trimming.
The Bermuda sloop is a type of fore-and-aft rigged sailing vessel developed on the island of Bermuda in the 17th century. In this sense, the term applied to small ships, rather than boats. In its purest form, it is single-masted, although ships with such rigging were built with as many as three masts. Its original form had gaff rig, but evolved to use what is now known as Bermuda rig, making it the basis of nearly all modern sailing yachts. Although the Bermuda sloop is often described as a development of the narrower-beamed Jamaica sloop, which dates from the 1670s, the high, raked masts, and triangular sails of its Bermuda rig are rooted in a tradition of Bermudian boat design dating from the early 17th Century. Part of that tradition included long, horizontal bowsprits, and large jibs. Three jibs were commonly used on Bermudian ships. Triangular sails appeared on Bermudian boats early in the 17th Century, a development of the Dutch bezaan, or leg-of-mutton rig, itself derived from the Lateen rig. This became the Bermuda rig, and was appearing on Bermudian ships by the early 19th Century. A large spinnaker was carried on a spinnaker boom when running down-wind.
Historic Naval Definition
The naval term "sloop" referred to ships with different rigs and sizes varying from navy to navy. "Sloop-of-war" was more of a reference to the purpose of the craft rather than the specific size or sailplan. The Royal Navy began buying Bermuda sloops, beginning with an order for three sloops-of-war (HMS Dasher, HMS Driver, and HMS Hunter, were each of 200 tons, armed with twelve 24 pounders) placed with Bermudian builders in 1795. They were intended to counter the then-extant menace of French privateers, which the Navy's ships-of-the-line were ill-designed to counter. Eventually, Bermuda sloops became the standard advice vessels of the navy, used for communications, reconnoitring, anti-slaving, anti-smuggling, and other roles to which they were well suited. The most notable examples of these were HMS Pickle, which raced back to England with news of the British victory and the death of Admiral Lord Nelson at the end of the Battle of Trafalgar, and HMS Whiting (79 tons and four guns), which lowered anchor in the harbour of Hampton Roads on 8 July 1812, carrying despatches. The American privateer Dash, which happened to be leaving port, seized the vessel. The crew of the Whiting had not yet received news of the American declaration of war, and her capture was the first naval action of the American War of 1812. Generally a sloop was smaller than a frigate; however, in the later days of the U.S. Navy's sailing fleet, some of the largest vessels were called sloops because they carried fewer guns than a frigate (fewer than 20) and the mission was that of a sloop (vague). The classification of sloop was similar to a corvette.
Modern Naval Definition
In modern use, a sloop refers to a warship between a corvette and a frigate in size. Such vessels were common during the age of steam, but ships of this type were becoming obsolete by the Second World War. The Royal Navy used sloops, such as those of the Flower Class, for numerous roles, including escort duty and anti-submarine warfare, during the Great War. The same was true during the Second World War, when the Royal Navy used the Black Swan class, but for many years, now, its smallest warships have been frigates (not including fishery patrol vessels and offshore patrol vessels, like the Peacock Class).
Modern Civilian Connotation
Sloops in their modern form were developed by the French Navy as blockade runners to circumvent Royal Navy blockades. They were later adapted to pilot boats (small ships that take a pilot out to a ship to guide it into a harbor). Later still, they were adapted to smaller revenue cutters.
In the 1920s, racing sloops were developed into extremes in the amount of sail they would carry. The "J-boats" became infamous for capsizing, although in good weather they were very fast. These excesses led racing authorities to establish rules for racing yachts, intended to make them fully seaworthy. The first modern sloops were fitted with the Bermuda Rig, so called as a result of its development in Bermuda during the 17th Century. This rig is also called the Marconi rig because of the resemblance of its tall mast and complex standing rigging to Guglielmo Marconi's wireless (radio) transmission antennas.
The state of the art in racing sloops today may be seen in the IACC yachts sailed in the America's Cup competition. This statement is only true in that the most money has been spent in this class, to build the fastest boats that meet the IACC rule. Much faster sloops have been built that don't fit the rule, using such forbidden technology as canting keels and movable water ballast. The current Volvo Ocean Race is using a new class, the Volvo 70 which boasts a canting keel, carbon construction throughout and very powerful sailplans. The 24-hour distance record was recently broken several times, with ABN AMRO 2 setting the record distance of 563 nautical miles for a monohull (January 2006). These boats routinely sail at or above wind speeds and can sustain mid-20 knot speeds hour after hour.
The largest yachting sloop built to date is Mirabella V, with a carbon-fiber mast that is 289 feet (90 m) high.