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Blackwall Yard from the Thames by Francis Holman (1784) (Public Domain)

Plain Sailing: Shapes And Speed In Historic Naval Designs

During the 1700s, European naval studies were decisive and very important, so much so that espionage by Spain and France against England for military and naval purposes alone had become a real scourge. The designers of the time had succeeded in improving vessel stability, hull, tonnage, and many other features as never before. What had not yielded the desired results, was the refinement of shapes. The perfect combination of a vessel’s shape and increased speed was still a vital missing element of shipbuilding.  There were many reasons for this, starting with the initial constraints of each design aimed at a specific use and the difficulties of adequate measurements, even in shipyards.

Two warships being constructed at the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company. (Public Domain)

Two warships being constructed at the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company. (Public Domain)

Constraints of Balance

In the naval military, it was the artilleries and their placement on board that were the most important constraint. Guns weigh a lot and require crew personnel in adequate numbers to operate them properly. In addition, the displacement parameter was a requirement that radically differentiated military ships from those for civilian use. In the merchant marine field, on the other hand, it was the internal volumes, rather than the guns, that were a constraint, since a greater volume of cargo loaded meant a greater cash profit for the company.


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