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A sloop (from Dutch sloep) is a sail boat with a fore-and-aft rig and a single mast farther forward than the mast of a cutter. A sloop's fore-triangle is smaller than a cutter's, and unlike a cutter, a sloop usually bends only one headsail, though this distinction is not definitive; some sloops such as the Friendship Sloop have more than one. Ultimately the position of the mast is the most important factor in determining whether a ship is classified as a sloop.[citation needed]

On a gaff rigged, single masted boat, the clearest distinction between a sloop and a cutter is the run of the forestay. On the sloop, it runs to the outboard end of the bowsprit, which means that the bowsprit must always stay in position and cannot be retracted. On a cutter, the forestay runs to the stem head of the hull. This allows the bowsprit to be run back inboard and stowed. This can be helpful in crowded harbours or when stowing the jib in strong wind conditions.[citation needed]


Rationale behind the sloop rig

No design is perfect for all conditions; sloops are designed to optimize upwind sailing. However, sloops also offer an excellent overall acceptable compromise, if not optimal, to all points of sail. It is clear that the most difficult direction to sail is to the windward (known as sailing close-hauled); this requires some specific design features. The sail should be as vertical as possible to optimize the energy of the wind.

Two forces act on a vessel to push it from vertical (also known as heeling over): (1) the weight of the rig itself will tend to heel the boat, and (2) the sideways force of the wind on the sails. The sloop is a light rig with fewer lines and spars, and the sails on a sloop tend to be flat which minimizes sideways force when well trimmed. The heeling forces are also counterbalanced by the keel, which uses weight and hydrodynamics to offset the forces from the rigging and sails.

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