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Sails and Rigging

All sorts of rig configurations are used on boats. Almost any of them will get you where you are going. The differences really come into play with ease of handling and performance.

The best rig for a given vessel depends on a variety of elements. First is boat the crew - its number, age, physical capabilities, and experience. Next comes the physical size of the vessel and the sail area required for adequate performance. Performance in light versus heavy airs is a major ingredient, and the final determinant in the form of reefing system to be adopted.

Under poor conditions, in heavy weather, shorthanded, you must be able to handle the vessel.

Any form of modern convenience such as roller furling or roller reefing is just that, a convenience.

Factoring in your own experience, physical condition, and inclination is a difficult equation. Without the experience to evaluate the situation, you're at the mercy of the "experts".


Sails go by different names at different lofts. There are literally hundreds of different types, classes and sizes of boats and many different sizes and types of sails in a variety of fabrics and weights.

Sails are made to fit your boat, for the kind of sailing you want to do, and the winds and waters you sail in.

Sailmakers will need to know the following: (from UK Sailmakers)

  1. What kind of boat do you have? We need the make and model. If you say a 40-foot Beneteau, we can't tell whether that's an Oceanis 400, a 40CC or a 40.7 — all different. So, be explicit.
  2. In what year was your boat built? Builders often make changes year by year.
  3. What rig does this have? Many builders offer standard and tall rigs. For example, the Catalina 30 comes either way and there is a very large difference between the two masts.
  4. Has the rig been modified? Owners occasionally lengthen their boom or add a short bowsprit to increase sail area on under-canvassed boats. Has a furler been added?
  5. Where do you sail? Sails cut for long ocean swells should have a different shape from those used in choppy waters. Some places have strong winds, others zephyrs.
  6. Do you race, cruise or do both? The choice of materials and features you should have will vary to suit your usage.
  7. What's the reason for buying a new sail? Are you replacing an old one, moving to different waters , heading off on a worldwide voyage, looking for more speed and/or durability?
  8. What key factors will influence your purchase? Can you rank factors such as price, performance, multi-purpose use, and durability

    Related links
  • Bainbridge International
  • Elliott Pattison Sailmakers
  • The Encyclopedia of Sails
  • Hood Sailmakers
  • Jacques Mertens on the Sprit Rig
  • J. M. Reineck & Son
  • Marlow Ropes
  • Mast Building for Beginners
  • Meissner Winches
  • Neil Pride Sails
  • North Sails
  • Optimum Rigging
  • Pineapple Sails'
  • PolySail
  • Rig-rite
  • Rooster Sails
  • Shop and Building Tips
  • Squeteague Sailmakers
  • Stateline Braiding
  • Tom Speer's Theoretical Boat Design Page
  • UK Sailmakers
  • Ultra Sails
  • Wingmast Aerodynamics
  • The Wooden Boatshop

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