The Sails

Parts Of A Sail

The winds energy captured by the sails is the moving force for any sailboat. Sails must be rigged so they can be trimmed to present the most effective wing shape, according to the direction you want to go. All sails have common names for their edges and corners. The luff is the sail’s front edge. The luff of the mainsail is usually hoisted up and attached to the mast. The luff of a jib is attached to the forestay. When a sail is trimmed correctly it acts as a wing and the wind flows smoothly across from the luff to the leech. The leech is the back edge of the sail. The bottom edge of a sail is called the foot. The tack is in the front corner, between the luff and the foot of the sail. When a sail is in use, the tack is securely attached to the boat. The head of the sail is the very top of the sail between the luff and the leech. This corner remains fixed and is supported by the mast and its rigging when the sail is working. The clew is the back corner, between the leech and foot of the sail. Control lines attached to the clew allow for making the most important adjustments to its trim. The leech of the mainsail is unsupported along its entire length, so sailmakers employ battens, solid slats or rods to help maintain their desired shape. The battens may extend partially or all the way across the sail from the leech to the luff. They are held in batten pockets and are stitched into the surface of the sail. Less often battens are also used on a jib.

 Basics   Orientation   Rigging