Book Review: The Art and Science of Sails, Revised Edition

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When it first came out twenty-six years ago The Art and Science of Sails immediately established itself as the preeminent text on how sails are made and work, covering the length and breadth of modern-day sailmaking—including the latest on sail design and engineering, as well as how to choose the best sails for your own boat.

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Since that time, of course, a lot has happened—who would have guessed back then that the America’s Cup would someday be raced aboard flying boats with solid sails? So authors Tom Whidden (whose day job is working as the president of North Sails’ technology group) and Michael Levitt decided that an update was in order.

While parts of the book are quite technical, most of it is aimed at the weekend warrior who has a basic understanding of his sails, but needs to know more. (A modern sail is, after all, a complex bit of engineering, as are the processes used to build it.) As a reader, you will not only learn all of this, but perhaps more importantly, you will develop a better grasp of sail trim in the abstract, through a fuller understanding of terms like chord depth and twist, and how it all relates to your boat and the type of sailing you do. Sails are a big investment, not only in terms of money but also time if you want to make them work right. With that in mind, this book is a must-read for anyone who wants to make the most of their sailing.—Brian Hancock

Tom Whidden and Michael Levitt

North Sails Group, 2016 — 182 pp., $26.63

February 2017

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