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Bermuda sloop

The Bermuda sloop is a type of sailing rig (or sail-plan) based on the sloop rig. Its key feature is the mainsail, which is triangular (as opposed to square or gaff-rigged sails).

It was developed on the island of Bermuda in the 17th century and became the predominant type of sailing vessel both in the Bermudan colony and amongst sloop rigs worldwide as Bermudian traders visited foreign nations. Soon, shipbuilding became one of the primary trades on the island and ships were exported throughout the West Indies and eventually to Europe.

The Bermuda sloop differs from other sloops largely in the form of its hull, which is very stiff. This stiffness was a result partially of the ship-building skills on the island, but also thanks to the availability of large quantities of cedar, which has superior qualities of rot-resistance, low density (making the ships lighter and faster) and high strength (making the ships more durable). Thanks to these qualities, Bermuda sloops could be built with relatively small hulls, making them more manoeuverable and easier to sail in shallow waters (essential in the Caribbean islands).

A large problem in the 17th and 18th centuries was the possibility of pirate attacks, so the extra speed of the Bermuda sloops was highly prized amongst merchantmen. The ability of the sloop rig in general to sail upwind also meant that Bermuda sloops could outrun most other sailing ships by simply turning upwind and leaving their pursuers foundering in the wake. Of course, these qualities also made Bermuda sloops the ship of choice for the pirates themselves, along with the various smugglers, privateers and buccaneers of the high seas.

The commercial success of the Bermuda sloop must be credited in part to the contribution of many hundreds of slaves on the island. As a result of the Maritime revolution[?], the owners of many slaves retrained them from their previous agricultural work to highly skilled shipwrights, blacksmiths and joiners. The use of many able slaves as sailors added considerably to the power of the Bermudian merchant fleet.

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