Asking Good Questions

The sailmaker's choice of fabric styles and weights are vast. How he uses them to his best advantage is equally infinite. The combinations are endless. It always comes down to the single most important part of the sailmaking process: an understanding between the sailmaker and customer. You need to be clear about what kind of sail you have in mind and how you plan to use it; you also need to be sure to give that information to the sailmaker even before he works up a quote. Otherwise, it's up to him to guess, which is why sailors often get different quotes from different sailmakers who recommend different sails and fabrics at vastly different prices. It's no wonder customers get confused if the sailmakers themselves are working in the dark. Below are some points to think about when talking with your sailmaker about a new sail.

• If both, what is the balance between racing and cruising?

• What is your level of expertise?

• Do you really know how to trim sails?

• Is longevity more important than performance?

• Is sail handling important or would you sacrifice that for performance?

• Do class rules limit the number of sails you can have on board?

• Are you planning on coastal cruising or are you going transoceanic?

• If you are going offshore how many people will be on board?

• Do you like to sail short-handed?

• Is stowage an issue on your boat?

• Will you be in an area where it's easy to get a sail repaired?

Armed with information and dozens of fabrics to choose from, the sailmaker can design and build you a custom sail that meets your needs. It's true that two sails built from two different fabrics with two different panel layouts can do the job for

"It always comes down to the single most important part of the sailmaking process: an understanding between the sailmaker and customer . . . It's true that two sails built from two different fabrics with two different panel layouts can do the job for you equally well. Sailmaking is an inexact science; there is still plenty of room forart and interpretation. But that doesn't mean that all sails will perform equally well for your style of sailing."

At the end of the day it still comes down to the skill of the helmsman and crew, but light, low-stretch sails can only help.

you equally well. Sailmaking is an inexact science; there is still plenty of room for art and interpretation. But that doesn't mean that all sails will perform equally well for your style of sailing.

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