Sailmaking Today

Modern sailmaking is still a multi-step program, but computers and laser cutters have eliminated some of the early steps, making things much easier and more precise. It all comes back to the sail designer now being able to work with stable fabrics and having a database of proven designs to build upon. For example, in the old days the sail had to be returned to the floor once it was stitched together to draw the luff, leech, and foot profiles. Both this second layout process and the first layout took up an extraordinary amount of space, and sail lofts had to be large enough to allow a sail to be spread out on the floor. These days with the help of computers, the exact shape of each individual panel can be precisely computed in advance instead of unrolling bolts of fabric on the loft floor, thereby eliminating the need for first layout. Since these panels already include the sail's precise luff, leech, and foot curves, there is no need for the second layout either. This applies to both radial and cross-cut sails.

Once the sail designer has created the design, with a click of his mouse he sends it to production where the production manager is ready to turn flat panels into a three-dimensional shape. Some lofts do not

Workers use a hydraulic press to install heavy rings in the corners of sails.

have laser cutters, and in these cases the design is drawn on the fabric with a plotting machine and the panels are cut out by hand. Laser cutters save that step, but they are expensive.

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