Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
On large tall ships the bowsprit may be a considerable length and have several forestays attached. When not in use the foresails are stowed by being tied onto the bowsprit. The crew must then work out on the bowsprit to stow or prepare the sails. To minimise the risk of the bowsprit (and any crew working on it) being buried in large waves, the bowsprit is normally angled upwards from the horizontal.
Early ocean-going vessels tended to tilt the bowsprit at a high angle, and hung one or two square spritsails from yards. In the 17th century and early 18th century a vertical sprit topmast was added near the end of the bowsprit and another square sail added to it; this is not a particular successful design however, the mast tending to carry away in heavy weather. Fore-and-aft jibsails hung from the stays proved more useful for speed and maneuvering, and the basic bowsprit was lengthened with a jibboom and then even further with a flying jibboom , resulting in bowsprits of tremendous length, up to 30 meters total.
On smaller vessels, where the bowsprit is not used for stowing sails, it is often horizontal. Bowsprits are rare on modern yachts; the forestay merely runs down to the tip of the bow.
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