I'm a new sailor, and have never had to set up the mainsail before. I want to be certain that the lines are properly placed before taking that first plunge. Can you offer any help? Pictures, books, or any literature that you can suggest will help too.
Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your question, and welcome to the sport. Setting up a mainsail on most kinds of boats isn't very complicated, but it's important to know how to do it properly so that the sail functions and performs the way it was intended to.
For some basic information, I'd suggest you have a look at the two graphic tutorials that we have here at SailNet. One will teach you about the parts of the boat and the behavior of the wind (Terminology), and the other concentrates on different points of sail (The Basics).
There are also a number of articles that we've published here at SailNet that can help you get started properly. Start with the series by Steve Colgate, particularly his Sailing Basics, and Sail Trim. Both of those articles will teach you about the different parts of a sail and how they're supposed to function.
After you've gotten what you need from those articles, you can have a look at a few others that discuss some of the less evident aspects of sails and sail trim. I'd suggest two pieces that I wrote about the various controls involved in a mainsail: Mainsail Controls for Performance (Parts I and II)."
Of course there are a number of good books out there that can be useful to you in getting to know more about the sport and its various idiosyncratic aspects. John Rousmaniere's "The Annapolis Book of Seamanship" is a good, comprehensive source that you can use throughout your sailing career. Peter Isler's "Sailing for Dummies" is also a good starting-out book. And "Start Sailing Right," published by US SAILING will help you understand boat parts, wind, and sailing maneuvers as well.
Here's hoping that you'll get a good, solid foundation in the sport by way of the above materials. Have fun along the way.