The first time the Constitution sailed in over 100 years in 1997 was truly remarkable. The question was exactly how to rig and sail her. No one alive had ever sailed her or anything similiar. The knowledge of how to sail a 50 gun heavy frigate had been lost
And the Constitution is no milk run "sail training ship" but a fast warship meant to chase down the most modern and sophisticated enemy ships of the time. The sails
are monsters - the largest over 3500 sq/ft and weighs 1000 pounds. No sail maker knew exactly how to sew these sails
. And the men
who sailed her in the 1800's had spent a lifetime learning
how to do it - starting as ships boys.
And as anyone who has ever restored an old sailboat can attest, the PO never does anything right. In the Constitution's case, several huge diagonal timbers were removed from the hull
in the late 1800's because no one knew their purpose. 100 years later, computer analysis showed that those timbers were critical to preventing "hogging" (bow and stern sag). The timbers removal
made a fast boat into a slow boat. New timbers were installed in 1995 and the ship sailed well again.
Constitution Sails Again...And Again?
And in a remarkable "history repeats itself" the Constitution's first action was against terrorism. The Barbary Pirates (centered in modern Libya) demanded that President Thomas Jefferson pay $3,543,500 in today's dollars to keep the pirates from attacking US shipping
(which involved taking the cargo and passengers - the passengers to be ransomed or sold as slaves). He refused and sent essentially the entire US Navy lead by the Constitution.