a naval fleet consisting of sailing vessels. Permanent fleets appeared in the 17th century in Great Britain, France, and other Western European countries.
In Russia, a permanent regular sailing fleet was created in the early 18th century by Peter I. The first victory of the Russian fleet as won by Commander N. A. Seniavin’s squadron, which defeated a Swedish squadron in the battle of Ösel (1719). In the Russo-Turkish War of 1787–91 the Black Sea Fleet, under the command of F. F. Ushakov, gained major victories by the use of new tactics that were based on a combination of maneuvering and firing. Numerous important geographic discoveries were made by sailors of the Russian fleet. These include the discovery of the northwestern coast of North America in the 18th century, 42 circumnavigations and partial circumnavigations in the 19th century, and the voyage of F. F. Bellingshausen and M. P. Lazarev to Antarctica aboard the sloops Vostok and Mirnyi (1819–21).
In the mid-19th century all major countries began building steamships. The sailing fleet declined in importance, although sailing ships continued to constitute the nucleus of navies. The battle of Sinope in 1853 was the last battle fought by sailing fleets. After the Crimean War (1853–56), all countries began building fleets of ironclad steamships. In the latter part of the 19th century, propeller-driven steamships often continued to make use of sails but only in an auxiliary capacity.