Sloop

Definitions vary from era to era and place to place. Current usage,

though tends to reserve it for fore-and-aft rigged yachts of moderate size,

setting only a mainsail and one headsail. A few hundred

years ago a sloop, insofar as rig was concerned, would have had a short fixed

bowsprit while a Cutter would have had a longer but reefable bowsprit. The

cutter could thus carry more sail in light airs and tended to be the choice

when speed was required – as in smuggling. Speed was also required by the

revenue men to chase the smugglers, so they adopted the cutter rig too. Today,

usage links ‘cutter’ with a two-headsail rig (staysail and jib), and that is

not infrequently allied to a fixed bowsprit much shorter than those of the

old-time cutters. At the same time, the modern sloop has lost her bowsprit

completely and sets her single headsail to the stemhead. But note that her

overhanging bow may carry the stemhead farther forward than that of the

old-fashioned sloop with her straight-up stem – in effect many a modern sloop

has integrated a short bowsprit into the hull structure itself. (See also:

Cutter.)