Sail making is among the oldest of maritime crafts, one that has evolved over the years. While you may have visions of sails in the past being stitched from canvas, using needles and raw leathers, the modern manufacturing materials and processes have evolved. Even though the eventual product remains functionally similar the craft of sail manufacture itself has progressed in recent times, benefiting from technological advancements.
Various skills go into creating sails so that craft can travel through the water at optimum speed. Creating sails is a combination of science, tailoring, carpentry, and the wisdom that comes with time and experience. The architectural skills involved are somewhat similar to what it takes to make kites and gliders. Fabrics have transformed over the years from older materials such as hemp, canvas and linen, and sail making has graduated to much more durable materials, where polyester blends, nylon and even carbon fibre or kevlar are now preferred materials. Woven fabrics have given way to laminated forms that guarantee less stretch in the material and higher resistance against variable weather conditions. Sails made today use advanced machinery as well as innovative compressing and heating technology, giving way to reinforced and film laminated sails.
Different Types of Sail Different dinghies, yachts, and ships use varying types of sails to suit their respective needs. Some of the common types of sails most boats will have present fall within the broad categories listed below:
The Mainsail The name says it all! This sail is the most important of them all. It is often triangular shaped in a style known as the Bermuda Rig on small to medium sailing craft. It does most of the work while sailing and demands huge efforts in trimming. Without the main sail, the sailing speed of the boat and overall control is bound to suffer.
The Headsail Ranking a close second to the mainsail, the Headsail will be the sail closest to the front (bow) of the boat. It may be referred to as the Genoa or Jib, depending on its configuration. If the sails foot is shorter that the distance from mast to the forestay it is known as a Jib, if longer it is a Genoa type.
The Spinnaker The Spinnaker is a large sail that can work on a broad reach, beam reach, and close haul. It looks like a parachute to some degree and can be deployed by merely pulling a rope. It is attached to the boat by using a pole and can be much larger than the other sails.
Storm Jib Its sail area is very small and is positioned at the bow in place of the headsail during storm conditions. Most beneficial during strong winds when the minimal amount of sail is required to just retain control.
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