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A large spar projecting from the stem of sailing vessels to provide the means of staying a fore-topmast and from which the jibs were set. When a fore-topgallant mast was set, the bowsprit was extended by a jib-boom, to the end of which was led the fore-topgallant mast stay on which the flying jibs were set. The bowsprit itself was held rigidly in place by shrouds led to each bow of the vessel and by a bobstay led from its outer end to the stem of the vessel just above the waterline. A running bowsprit, as opposed to a standing one, was where, in some smaller cutter-rigged sailing vessels, the bowsprit was fitted so that it could be run in, or furled, by sliding inboard.

Sail training ships and classic yachts apart, the bowsprit has now virtually disappeared.

Bowsprit and jib-boom of a square-rigged ship

Subjects: Maritime History.

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