Monday, September 21, 2015

AEther Salon: Sailing! (Edited Transcript)

Bookworm Hienrichs: Welcome, everyone, to a new season of the Aether Salon here in New Babbage!  We thank you for finding the time to attend, and hope you'll enjoy today's topic. Admiral Beaumont will be regaling us with tales and information on the Age of Sail. Before we begin, a few housekeeping items:

1) To ensure you can hear the speaker, stand or sit on the patterned carpet.
2) If you do not have a wearable chair and wish one, please contact Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, or me.
3) Please remove all lag-feeding thingamajigs you might be wearing.
4) A tip jar is out for our speaker. Do please show your appreciation!
5) Any tips to help support the establishment will also be welcome - just click on one of the support signs!
6) If you're not a member of the AEther Salon group, there are signs that will let you join up. You'll be most heartily welcome!
7) Edited and unedited transcripts of these proceedings will be posted at
8) Tea and treats are set out - help yourself!

And now our host, Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, will introduce our speaker.

Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Admiral Wildstar Beaumont was promoted to his rank in Winterfell, after earning it several times over. He has worked hard to promote sailing and sailing events everywhere on the grid, working with Antiquity during Relay For Life for fundraising events, and organising the Privateers' Ball every year near September 19th. He is also well known for his photography. Today, however, he will show us his expertise in the history of his craft.  Admiral Beaumont?

Wildstar Beaumont: thank you Herr Baron

Wildstar Beaumont: Greetings and welcome to my talk. My thanks to the Baron and Miss Book for having me.  This is a short introduction to that period in history known as Age of Sails. We will go through the major cornerstone characterizing the period and will end with some information about how the Age of Sails has influenced Second Life.  I have intentionally decided not to dwell on what is called the Age of Piracy, or Golden Age of Piracy It is something that would require its own presentation and maybe we will discuss it some other time.

By Age of Sail we intend the period in history where international trade and naval warfare was largely dominated by sailships, and, in particular, square rigged sailships.  The Age of Sail roughly covers the period from the16th to the 19th century and traditionally - as inexact as these approximations may be - it is delimited by two events where sailships were not at the center of the action, i.e. the battle of Lepanto, in 1571, where the largest part of the two opposing fleets were made of Galleys, and the Battle of Hampton Road, in 1862, during the American CIvil War, where steam powered Ironclads battled each other to a standstill, making traditional sailships easy victims.

A square-rigged sail is not in fact square, but more trapezoidal, being symmetrical but longer in the bottom than in the top side.  The name derives from the fact that primary driving sails are carried on horizontal spars which are perpendicular, or square, to the keel of the vessel and to the masts.

A sailship can be classified according to the its sailplan : the number of masts and the type of sails. Some popular types (with some liberty in the descriptions) are
- full rigged ship : three (or more) masts with square sails on all of them
- barque : three (or more) masts with square sails on the fore and main masts and mizzen (the aftermost mast) rigged fore-and-aft (i.e. along the line of the keel rather than perpendicular to it)
- barquetine : three (or more) masts with only the fore mast rigged square and all the others fore-and-aft
- brig : two masts , both square-rigged
- brigantine : two masts , the foremast square-rigged the other fore-and-aft
- schooner: two (or more) masts rigged fore-and-aft
- sloop : a single mast, rigged fore and aft

Galleon and carracks were very big ships, built mainly for trade in the 15th and 16th century.  They became more and more the main vessel for oceanic trade and far away explorations.  As piracy became a problem they started to be armed more and more.  Heavily armed portuguese carracks are considered to be the precursor of the ships of the line of the following centuries.

A ship of the line was the centerpiece of the naval warfare during the Age of Sails. They carried many cannons (from 50 to more than 100) on multiple decks. The British navy used to rate ships of the line into different classes according to the number of decks and guns.  The ship of the line was meant to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would maneuver to bring the greatest weight of broadside firepower. This tactic required to add more and more power to overcome the opposing line and this progression caused to build sailing vessels that were the largest and most powerful of their time.  This also made the ships of the line too expensive to be risked if not in major engagements and with the protection of the entire fleet. So typically many duties were carried out by smaller ships such as frigates.

Frigates in the Age of Sails were ships that were usually as long as a ship of the line and were square-rigged on all three masts, but were faster and with lighter armament, used for patrolling and escort.  The definition was not the same across the years and the different navies, but in the definition adopted by the British Admiralty, they were ships of at least 28 guns, carrying their principal armaments upon a single deck.  The upper deck in mid-19th century frigates evolved into armored ironclads, then further evolved into the late 19th century battleships. Therefore frigates, rather than ships of the line can be considered the origin of modern capital ships

The age of sail has been characterized by a number of major military engagements, where fleet sized formations battled each other. Here are some of them worth remembering because of their size of because of their historical outcome.

The Battle of Lepanto (1571) which took place when a fleet of Catholic states decisively defeated the fleet of the Ottoman Empire on the northern edge of the Gulf of Corinth, off western Greece. The battle is the last major engagement mainly fought by galleys and traditionally is considered to mark the beginning of the Age of Sails.

Battle of Gravelines (1588) between the English fleet and the Spanish Armada. The English defeated the Spanish near the port of Gravelines in the Flanders, even if the actual destruction of the Armada took place because of the adverse weather condition and the bad condition of the ships on their way back.

In the 18th century the naval confrontations saw mainly Britain and France fight each other.  The Seven Years War is considered the first “global” war, being fought all around the globe, in Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines. The battle of Quiberon Bay took place in 1759 and was the major naval event of the war where yet another French attempt at invading Britain failed.  The major naval French victory over a British fleet took place in 1781. The Battle of the Chesapeake was part of the American Independence war. The Battle prevented the British to reinforce their troops at Yorktown, causing eventually Lord Cornwalli’s surrender and the independence of the colonies

The battle of Svensksund was fought between a Swedish and Russian fleet in the gulf of Finland as part of the Russo-Swedish War of 1788-90. Around 250 small to medium ships were involved, with still a significant number of galleys.

The battle of the Nile : 1798, the first of the two major engagements between the British and French navies during the Napoleonic wars. Like at Trafalgar, Admiral Horatio Nelson was in command of the British Fleet.

The battle of Trafalgar was fought in 1805 between the British and the allied French and Spanish fleets, the major naval battle in the napoleonic wars and probably the largest fleet engagement with ships of the line involved.

The battle of Navarino was fought in 1822 between a British-French-Russian alliance and the Ottoman Empire as part of the Greek War of Independence. It was the last major battle fought only by sailships.

I’d like to point out the dates here : in 1790 at Svensksund we still have a significant presence of Galleys in a major engagement. In 1822 we have the last major battle where just sailships were involved. Steam and ironclads were just a few decades away. We could argue that the age of sail, from a warfare point of view, basically covers the Napoleonic wars.

Riven Homewood: Not earlier?
Wildstar Beaumont: yes .. of course earlier ... it is a bit of a provocative statement to point out that they were still using galleys (oar propelled ships) at the end of the 18th century

Wildstar Beaumont: Despite their obsolescence in naval warfare, in terms of size and efficiency the middle of the 19th century sees the golden age of sailships with the rise of the clippers for fast transportation of cargo on some trade routes. China tea (and opium), gold from California and Australia were the main goods been transported by these vessels. The peak of glory ended with the Opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.  Clippers were built for speed: fully rigged three masted ships, rather narrow, they could carry limited cargo. The fastest china clippers could reach 16 knots, which is the best speed ever reached by commercial sailships.

Sailships have continued to be a competitive way to transport goods well within the 20th century, until the 1920s, with large windjammers.  Of course sailships are still popular these days for recreational uses, along with some small niches where they may still be economically viable.

We are now moving to the second and final part of my presentation: Sailing in Second Life. For those who want to go in more depth on the subject, I suggest to review the first section of the Episode of Designing Worlds aired on the 23rd of September 2013 ( where Saffia and Elrik interview Mark Twain White, a legendary figure in the SL sailing community, about the story of Sailing in SL.  The entire episode is worth being watched, but if you have limited time, I’d also suggest to have a look at the end titles sequence of the episode (1h33’ into the show),  not because I am in it at the elm of the Star of Winterfell, my flagship, but because Elrik’s editing of that sequence and choice of music is a little masterpiece of SL videography and always gives me goosebumps.  More information and historical footing can also be found on Mark Twain White’s own channel on youtube.

As you probably know the origin of SL sailing as we know it dates back to early 2005 when Kanker Greenacre developed his system of scripts to make use of SL wind. Sailboats existed even before that, but they were driven using the directional keys of one’s keyboard. With Kanker’s system one could sail in SL using the same physics principles of RL sailing, being affected by the direction and the power of the wind. On top of that , Kranker’s system also allowed to have a more realistic wind condition than those recreated by the default SL wind.

Kanker’s system has been the origin of almost all sailing vessels that came in the following years, whether for fun sailing or for racing or for naval warfare . More recently different script systems have been developed (BWind comes to my mind above all, which for instance is used by the hugely popular loonetta cruiser) , but is it safe to claim that , especially where racing and fighting are involved, Kranker’s scripts and the direct derivatives are still the dominant systems.

Racing was a major factor in the development of sailing in Second Life, both in terms of communities, with the creation of a number of Yacht Clubs all over the grids, and technology, with the evolution and improvement of Kranker’s system. But there were also those less interested in peaceful  yachting and more interested in fighting  And we have come to another legendary name in the history of SL : Chase Speculaas.

Chase Speculaas created a popular ship combat system, the SPD (SPeculaas Design), which, in its evolutions, is still in use in all the pirate and age of sail communities in SL.  The SPD system covers both naval combat and a melee system, and has given birth to an ecosystem of compatible ships and weapons.  Chase released a number of ships under the SPD brand, sometimes in cooperation with other creators that worked on the actual ships. He created a first set of ships that are the original bulk of SL sailing warships, left SL, came back, create more, among which the beautiful SPD frigate, still one of the most elegant vessels in SL, planned an evolution of his combat system, left again.  You can learn more about Chase and his ideas here :

Soon other creators started to build their own ships using and improving the SPD system and the ships have become more complex and elaborate since then. Ships grew from small gunboats to little galleons, schooners, brigs, xebecs  up to frigates, big galleons and and ships of the line.  The first brand after SPD was Martina Lawsey TSS. Martina made some very popular sailships such as the Brigg (that I used for tall ship races in several occasions, including a couple of editions of the fleet week of the steamlands) , the Dhow, the Xebec, the Bilander and the Black Pearl.

After Martina the name that came to the attention of the Sailing communities was Evva Viper’s. Evva is the owner of the SSS brand, and has been very active in founding and developing several sailing communities , such as Fair Winds and Trade Winds. Some of her beautiful ships include the Sloop, the Sampan, the Goelette, the Frigate and the Hercules, a ship of the line.

Today we have a number of popular brands making beautiful sailing vessels that can be used for naval combat :  JRS, AT, SCS, just to mention a few. Each creator and their testers have contributed to improve and grow the system to make naval combat in SL more and more realistic and challenging.

No presentation would be complete without mention the sailing communities that have been active in SL in these past years. Many have come and gone, but have left their sign in the history of SL historical sailing.  I’d like to mention Beek Haven (where I first learn to sail and run a SPD ship), Jabberwock, our friends of Antiquity, Oceania, the Magellan sims, Fair Winds, Trade Winds, the Blake Sims in the Blake Sea/Sailing Sims area, and, again, very close to us, the Scoundrels.

The sailing community of course suffer of all the problems that we all experience in SL, and sometimes disappear, but they are always very nice and active community and source of great fun. As I conclude I’d like to point at these two last images that are from a couple of events that took place a couple of years ago: two major naval battles that took place between Antiquity and Trade Winds with fleet level engagements. Absolutely fantastic !

Thank you all for listening.

Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Next month we celebrate Salon's anniversary with a planning session.  Bring your ideas and your volunteers.

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