Windward Sailing in Antiquity: The Elephant in the Room

D. Gal, H. Saaroni, D. Cvikel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study of windward sailing in antiquity is subject to discord, misunderstandings and misinterpretations. This paper attempts to broaden the understanding of windward sailing by revisiting the theoretical basis of windward sailing, performing a critical review of previous works, reconstructing historic passages with new methods to re-evaluate them being considered as unfavourable wind passages, and considering the ancient mariner’s limits of windward sailing. It is suggested that ancient ships had less windward capability than commonly perceived, and that the limits of the ancient mariners were more restrictive than ships’ technological windward capabilities, highlighting the necessity to consider practical windward capabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-194
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Nautical Archaeology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Mediterranean
  • Windward sailing
  • antiquity
  • experimental archaeology
  • seamanship
  • square sail

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • History
  • Archaeology
  • Paleontology


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