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" I think that computers today allow us one last opportunity to provide something like a level playingfield in America."
- William Gibson

Solar Yacht  
  A space craft whose motive power is light pressure on a solar sail.  

But Merton knew better: though his body could feel no thrust, the instrument board told him that he was no accelerating at almost one thousandth of a gravity. For a rocket, that figure would have been ludicrous - but this was the first time any solar yacht had ever attained it...


(Sunjammer from Boy's Life)

From Sunjammer, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Boy's Life in 1964
Additional resources -

Here's a bit more:

...a solar flare.

The cloud of electrified gas would probably miss the Earth completely... Spaceships could protect themselves with their powerful magnetic screens; but the lightly built solar yachts, with their paper thin walls, were defenseless against such a menace...

The autopilot, tensioning the rigging like a busy little spider, kept the great sail trimmed to the Sun more accurately than any human pilot.

The idea for a solar yacht probably came from scientist JD Bernal, who wrote the following in 1929:

"A form of space sailing might be developed which used the repulsive effect of the Sun's rays instead of wind. A space vessel spreading its large, metallic wings, acres in extent, to the full, might be blown to the limit of Neptune's orbit. Then, to increase its speed, it would tack, close-hauled, down the gravitational field, spreading full sail again as it rushed past the Sun."

Earlier efforts to describe solar sailing in science fiction include the light sail from Jack Vance's 1962 short story Sail 25 (see this article for more on the subject) and the starlight sail from The Lady Who Sailed The Soul (1960) by Cordwainer Smith.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Sunjammer
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to Sunjammer
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

Solar Yacht-related news articles:
  - LightSail Solar Sail Deploys

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