Sailing101

A Short History of Sailing


Two thirds of the World’s surface is covered by water. The majority of all people on this planet lives by or near the coast – and has done so for millennia. The striving of man to explore and extend his horizon has always been constrained by the sea and the limitations of those vessels that would carry people further and further offshore. The history of sailing is in fact, the history of people who pushed the world’s horizon.

For thousands of years, wind was the only source of energy that would allow man to pass long distances overseas such as the Mediterranean or the Atlantic Ocean. Distances that proved to be too long to be overcome by the use of muscle power and paddles only. This limitation naturally led different civilizations to develop different ways to exploit this only sufficient source of energy. Starting from the most primitive vessels – little more than trees with a piece of cloth on top, a construction still used by many fishermen in developing countries – people quickly improved their skills in navigation and the construction of more sophisticated boats.

In the 16th and 17th century, the oldest indications for a new trend appear: sailing out of pleasure rather than transportation, exploration or warfare.


Famous Sailors

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus

Columbus, Christopher (1451?–1506), was an Italian navigator and explorer. His grand dream was to reach Asia by sailing westward across the Atlantic. Although in this he failed, his four voyages to the Americas, 1492–1504, opened the Western Hemisphere to European exploration and colonization. While the Americas had been inhabited for thousands of years, and other Europeans, including the Vikings, may have reached American shores hundreds of years before Columbus, it was his voyages that revealed the existence of this so-called New World to the great powers of Europe.


Amerigo Vespucci

Amerigo Vespucci

Vespucci, Amerigo (1451–1512) was the Italian navigator for whom the continents of the Western Hemisphere are named. According to letters Vespucci wrote to friends, he made four voyages to the New World—two for Spain (1497 and 1499) and two for Portugal (1501 and 1503). He claimed to have reached the coast of South America on June 16, 1497, on his first voyage. Many of Vespucci's claims are doubted by scholars, although he is generally credited with being the first European to recognize South America as a separate continent.


Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama

Gama, Vasco da (1469?–1524) was a Portuguese navigator. During 1497–98, he completed the first ocean voyage from Europe to Asia, opening the Far East to European trade and colonial expansion. His achievement is the subject of Portugal's national epic poem, Luis Vaz de Camoëns' The Lusiads.


James Cook

James Cook

Cook, James (1728–1779), a British navigator. Captain Cook accurately charted vast regions of the South Pacific; provided a basis for England's claim to Australia and New Zealand; and developed a diet that prevented scurvy among seamen. Cook was born of farming parents in Yorkshire. He went to sea as a boy and joined the Royal Navy in 1755. His seamanship and diligence soon gained recognition, and four years later he was made master of a naval sloop. From 1763 to 1767 he explored the St. Lawrence River and the shores of Labrador and Newfoundland.

After his return to Hawaii, he was killed by a native because of a misunderstanding over a missing boat.

http://history.howstuffworks.com/european-history/james-cook.htm