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Maybe it wasn't that bad over double-reefed topsail. That makes the t'gallant significantly lower, doesn't it?

Yes but the mast is still spindly, and it's a gale. 35 kts of wind is TWICE as much pressure as 25! I can only imagine they were saying 'look what I can do!' for the sake of the experiment.

Judging by the speed table it didn't help them much, but there is definitely something rakish in this.