Weather Gage

The weather gage (sometimes spelled weather gauge) is the advantageous position of a fighting sailing vessel relative to another. The concept is from the Age of Sail, and is now largely antiquated. A ship is said to possess the weather gage if it is in any position, at sea, upwind of the other vessel. Close proximity with the land, tidal and stream effects, as well as wind variability due to geography (hills, cliffs, etc.) may also come into play.

An upwind vessel is able to maneuver at will toward any downwind point, since in doing so the relative wind moves aft. A vessel downwind of another, however, in attempting to attack upwind, is constrained to trim sail as the relative wind moves forward and cannot point too far into the wind for fear of being headed. In sailing warfare, when beating to windward, the vessel experiences heeling under the sideward pressure of the wind. This restricts gunnery, as cannon on the windward side are now elevated, while the leeward gun ports aim into the sea, or in heavy weather may be awash. A ship with the weather gage, turning downwind to attack, may alter course at will in order to bring starboard and port guns to appropriate elevations. Ships seeking to evade capture or attack, however, have the advantage being downwind if they are faster vessels or are close to friendly land.

The term has had a literary rebirth in the popular seafaring novels of C.S. Forester, Patrick O'Brian and Alexander Kent.

One of the last times that weather gage was perhaps a factor in a naval engagement was in the Battle of the Denmark Strait in 1941 where the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen held the weather gage over the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Hood. Being upwind the German ships had the advantage that their shells would carry further than those of the British; the British ships also had the disadvantage of spray being blown onto their optical rangefinders.

The concept of weather gage is still useful in modern yacht racing, although it is hardly ever referred to by that name. The sails of a boat disrupt the wind to leeward - this disruption is often called "dirt" or "dirty air". An overtaking boat on a downwind course can position itself to focus its dirty air on the boat ahead of it. Conversely a boat on an upwind course may find itself trapped in the dirty air of a boat immediately to windward. However right-of-way rules, which give priority to the leeward boat, can make it advantageous to be the boat without the weather gage especially just before the start or when the boat to leeward can point higher into the wind.

Read more about Weather Gage:  Weather Gauge

Other articles related to "weather gage, gage, weather":

Atlantic Campaign Of May 1794 - 29 May
... forcing Villaret to either abandon his ships or sacrifice the weather gage to save them ... Encouraged by Caesar's disobedience, he deliberately sacrificed the weather gage in the belief that Howe's fleet was more damaged than it appeared ... westwards, closely followed by the British van who were now holding the weather gage ...
Weather Gage - Weather Gauge
... Gauge and gage are often used as alternative spellings ... To the extent there is a difference, a weather gauge can be a form of meteorological instrumentation for measuring weather quantitatively, such as a rain gauge, thermometer, anemometer or barometer ... A gage is a challenge, and hence an entry into battle, though the word is more commonly embedded in the word engage ...
Naval Tactics In The Age Of Sail - Importance of The Weather Gage
... Holding the weather, or windward, gage conferred several important tactical advantages ... The admiral holding the weather gage held the tactical initiative, able to accept battle by bearing down on his opponent or to refuse it, by remaining upwind ... The fleet with the lee gage could avoid battle by withdrawing to leeward, but could not force action ...

Famous quotes containing the word weather:

    Haze, char, and the weather of All Souls:
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    Richard Wilbur (b. 1921)