You cannot have a sail boat without a sail. It was the sail grafted onto the boat that provided humans with a new means of getting around a faster way than rowing. A boat without a sail, therefore, was not a sail boat at all. It is simple mathematics: sail and boat equals sail boat.
The sail is the horse power, the wind snarer, the trap for the wind. That said it is all a question of how much wind to how much sail. Racing sail boats need more sail, cruisers, less. In sailing, the boats total sail area is a significan’t factor in ensuring the boat achieves it’s optimal performance.
It is sail and boat. It is also different kinds of sails and boats. There is the foresail or headsail, the Genoa (a large overlapping foresail), a headsail and a jib. These are arranged into what is called a sail plan in accordance to two competing forces: speed and convenience. A once simple matter of attaching a piece of material to a centre mast has become a more complex art as the boat shape and purpose varies.
The sail pattern varies in accordance with the boats purpose. Is the sail and boat to be part of a racer, cruiser or both? If you decide to cruise, is it for the day, week or longer. Are you sailing along the coast, entering blue water or sailing half way around the world? If you plan to race what class are you entering?
Will you be a Grand Prix contender, a weekend warrior or a club racer? These factors, as well as the size of your wallet, will dictate not only what types of sails you should have but suggest the material of which they should be made. Do you need extra durable sails? Must they be more sophisticated? Do you need more sails or less? And, what about size and number of sails?
Racing boats carry more sail than cruisers. Two is the considered a minimal amount for any boat. A sloop has one mainsail and one head sail on it’s mast. A cutters mast supports a smaller mainsail and two foresails called a forestaysail and a jib. On ketches there are two masts. The mainmast has a mainsail and either one or two headsails while the mizzenmast supports a smaller sail and a mizzen staysail. The rig for a yawl resembles the ketch and the two masts of a schooner support a large mainsail aft and the small sails forward.
This is to say nothing of sail cloth although it enters into the sail and boat equation. A person can spend hours debating the merit’s of light-weather polyester versus tightly woven polyester versus laminates. Again, it all depends upon the purpose of the sail and boat combination. Choose the Kylar, Mylar, Spectra combination for racing, the more traditional tightly woven polyester and lightweight rip-stop nylon for the sails of cruisers.