A sloop in sailing, is a vessel with a fore-and-aft rig. A sloop carries a single mast stepped farther forward than that of a cutter. The sloop's fore-triangle is smaller than a cutter's. As such, the sloop usually bends only one headsail, though this distinction is not definitive. A cutter rig generally carries multiple headsails, however sloops such as the Friendship Sloop carry more than one headsail and are properly designated a sloop and not a cutter. Ultimately position of the mast is the most important factor.
The modern yachting sloop is known as the Marconi sloop (or "Bermuda sloop"), which is the optimal rig for upwind sailing; consequently sloops are popular with sport sailors and yachtsmen, and for racing. The rig is simple in its basic form, yet when tuned properly it is maneuverable and fast. The main disadvantage is the relatively large size of the sails, especially on larger vessels. It is also less successful sailing downwind; the addition of a spinnaker is necessary for reasonable downwind speed in all but the strongest winds, and the spinnaker is an intrinsically unstable sail requiring continual trimming.
Sloops were, and still are (in summer) very popular on the Bristol Channel coasts of Wales and the West Country, as they can land easily on Wales/West Country beaches regardless of the massive tidal range of the Bristol Channel. This enabled coal and limestone from, for example, Cardiff Bay to be taken to the beach resorts of North Cornwall such as Bude and Crackington Haven without worrying about the tide.
The Bermuda Sloop
The Bermuda sloop is a type of fore-and-aft rigged sailing vessel developed on the island of Bermuda in the 17th century. In its purest form, it is single-masted, although ships with such rigging were built with as many as three masts. Its original form had gaff rig, but evolved to use what is now known as Bermuda rig, making it the basis of nearly all modern sailing yachts. Although the Bermuda sloop is often described as a development of the narrower-beamed Jamaica sloop, which dates from the 1670s, the high, raked masts, and triangular sails of its Bermuda rig are rooted in a tradition of Bermudian boat design dating from the early 17th Century. Part of that tradition included long, horizontal bowsprits, and large jibs. Three jibs were commonly used on Bermudian ships. The Bermuda rig evolved from the Dutch bezaan, or leg-of-mutton rig.