Different Types of Sails

There are many different types of sails, and they vary depending on the boat and their use. Learning about all of the different types of sails can be a daunting task, but one that you will have to tackle if you plan to start sailing.
Mainsail - This is, as it sounds, the primary sail on a sailboat. The mainsail is the sail which helps your sailboat to move quickly in the water. If you only trim (adjust the angle of) one sail, it should be the mainsail. It is also the first sail that should be put up before you go out on the water.

  • Headsail - This is any sail which is set in front of the mast.
  • Staysail - A staysail is usually triangular and is set in front of the foremost mast. These types of staysails include jibs as well as other headsails or foresails.
  • Jib - The jib is the small, triangular sail in front of the mainsail on the mast. It is considered a headsail, like the spinnaker. When sailing, this is the sail you'll put up second.
  • Genoa - This is also a large sail and curved, and it overlaps the mainsail. It is usually the sailboat's secondary sail. The genoa is considered a headsail.The genoa is the sail which allows your sailboat to turn, tack and gybe.
  • Spinnaker - The spinnaker is a large balloon-shaped sail. It's in front of the mainsail when sailing before the wind. The spinnaker catches wind blowing from behind, which helps the sailboat to move.
  • Gennaker - The gennaker is similar to the spinnaker as well as the genoa. It is used when sailing downwind, although it can be sailed upwind if necessary. The gennaker is often found on racing boats, in part because they are very easy to deploy and are less expensive than spinnakers.
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