Worldbuilding: Sail Plans

Taking a brief moment to hand out a random factlet, let us turn from space navy to wet navy. Old school wet navy.

Did you know that the most widely used rig back in the days of sail, especially by the Alatian fleet, the largest both mercantile and military and which went on to form the core of the Imperial fleet, was a variation on what on Earth is called the junk rig?

(Well, no, you didn’t, because I’ve only just told you. It was a rhetorical question.)

Using bamboo battens and silk sailcloth, even, for a very Eastern flavor for the Earth reader.

The chief experimenters with alternate rigs and modifications to the standard junk rig were the actual Alatian Navy, principally because the major flaw in the junk rig is its difficulty in sailing close-hauled (i.e., close to into the wind), but in contrast, it’s exceedingly efficient at sailing with the wind, and requires – always a consideration – a rather smaller crew to manage it than a typical western rig.

With careful attention to hull design, too, the eventual junk-rigged clippers and windjammers of the Alatian merchant fleet ruled the ocean trade up to, and even into, the steam era: as their sailors would cheerfully point out, the trade winds were very reliable, and given that, that a good rig could deliver as much or more power than steam could, and also that it didn’t require all that fuel taking up space that could contain earning cargo kept the sailships in business, and in many cases those which carried steam engines used them as an auxiliary power source only, for when the wind failed.

(Why this digression into nautical history? I have no idea. But I found it an interesting piece of the universe, and so I wrote it down.)

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