With over a century of featured appearances at the Summer Olympics, sailing has been a prevalent sport/hobby for many individuals who are keen to challenge the open waters under the harshest of conditions and the art of mastering the sail-boat in hazardous situations is not one to be taken lightly.
The idea of travelling across water to other lands, whether it was for trading, exploration or even warfare possesses obvious advantages and there are examples of early sail-boats all over the globe. In these early days, wind was the only form of power for transportation and boats cut from the stumps of trees with segments of cloth acting as sails were used in smaller, developing countries to harness the power of the wind, and this saw a need for more innovative designs and navigation tools.
The Middle Ages
Advancements in this period were vital as they paved the way for explorers from the continents to travel across stretches of water in order to trade goods. The rise of ancient civilisations such as Mesopotamia saw this really kick-start and by the time the Roman Empire came about, many land/sea trade routes had been established which even facilitated the canals around North Africa, something which the Egyptian Pharaohs would also have a helping hand in.
A boom in interest surrounding different aspects of water-navigation such as meteorology and shipbuilding occurred as well which started to pave the way for different types of sailboats, with both the Roman Empire and the Vikings making use of boats with oars to harness both the wind and human strength. They’d also use square-sail rigs which quickly became the norm around the European continent.
China and new ideas
The Chinese would use ‘lug-sails’, which were constructed in a series of long bamboo patterns. It was cheap to make and very easy to navigate with so the ships were able to make use of less crew-members.
The introduction of new materials, something which was rarely seen outside of each continent, was brought about after the Spanish Armada. The industrial revolution had increased the amount of material available and as the British Empire expanded, longer distances were starting to be travelled which required further innovation.
Around the 17th century, a new invention was formed; the invention of a hobby. The idea that navigating the oceans could be for entertainment was a strange notion at the time and the first ever yacht was delivered to Charles I of Great Britain as a gift. He took it on and had a yacht built for his brother also; upon completion, the two brothers raced their yachts around the Thames and it became the first yacht-race in history.
This in turn led to the formation of ‘Yacht Clubs’ where more, usually those of elite backgrounds, would gather to this exclusive establishment to race each other for pure sporting entertainment. Even though the idea of sailing was still used as a way of trading and warfare, more countries would come together for sporting events.
A Sporting Event
After many long years of serving nations and empires as a means of warfare, the idea that sailing could be anything more was unheard of. The use of new materials like plywood and glass-fibre meant that boats were lighter, and the advancement in technology continued to see improvements surrounding the vehicles.
Nowadays, sailing is primarily seen as a sporting/luxury means rather than anything else. Communities are coming together to promote the benefits of sailing the open-oceans and there’s a bright future ahead.